Sister Parish

San Bartolome Arcatao, El Salvador

Providing Hope through Education

As we approach our 28th year in relationship with San Bartolomé Parish in El Salvador, our sister parish committees continue to build bonds between our communities. One area we are focusing on addresses some of the root issues of poverty and the problem of emigration to the United States.

After high school, the vast majority of youth in El Salvador are too poor to attend college. With few options for employment beyond working in the fields, many youth have no choice but to embark on the dangerous journey to the United States. This emigration wave wreaks havoc on the family members left behind, in addition to hurting the longevity of the community. At the current rate of migration, small villages like Arcatao will barely exist in 30 years.

In an effort to stem this tide of loss, in 2002 Padre Donald Balinger and members of San Bartolomé formed a scholarship program called DHP (desarollo humano popular), loosely meaning "Popular Human Development". DHP was formed to raise funds to send youth to college and vocational schools.

DHP is more than a scholarship

The project has several goals. First, DHP provides hope for young people. Many youth get frustrated and discouraged since their way of life is rooted in systemic poverty. In their villages, they have little chance to rise above their circumstances. With a DHP scholarship, however, through hard work they can receive an education and an opportunity for a job beyond the fields. Second, providing this education and potential for a better life in El Salvador gets to the root of the migration problem. The youth are much less likely to leave for the United States if they have an education and opportunity to work in their country. Third, The DHP scholarship is meant for the community as much as the student. The students are required to bring their knowledge back to help improve their community in the form of 100 hours of community service, particularly in their field of learning.

Students are Held Accountable

The program is more than just receiving funds for an education. It includes tuition, room and board, transportation, books and study materials, and tutoring. Each student is assigned a program manager that monitors their participation in DHP. Furthermore, the students are required to achieve a 3.0 or better grade point average. Once they are employed, they agree to donate 5% of their income for five years back to the DHP scholarship fund. Finally, recipients are encouraged to participate on the DHP committee for two years after graduation. If the student leaves the program before graduation, they are required to pay back the entire scholarship received.

Small Budget, Big Impact

DHP accomplishes much with a relatively small budget. Education in El Salvador is dramatically less expensive that that the cost of education in the United States. For example, tuition at the University of El Salvador (UES) for one year is about $500. Vocational schools are even less. In 2012, DHP provided education, housing, and services for 39 students attending college with a total budget of $35,466. That's an average of $909 per student per year!

Demand for DHP

Scholarship: The DHP committee receives three times as many applications as they can accept. To ensure the best candidates for the few scholarship openings, students complete a three page application, detailing why they want an education and how they will improve their community with it. Grades and participation are extensively reviewed. Parents and teachers are interviewed to ensure they are the best fit to complete their education. In 12 years, DHP has helped more than 220 students receive an education. The vast majority have returned to their local communities, with degrees such as education, architecture, and agronomy. Due to inconsistent funding sources, the DHP committee survives "hand-to-mouth". Some years their budget is as low as $20,000 and thus fewer students will receive support.

Get Involved 

If you’d like to get involved or learn more about the Sister Parish relationship, please contact Daniel Stoner at sisterparish@ or join us for our next Sister Parish Committee Gathering. Meetings are quarterly following the 5:30pm Mass (6:45pm) in the Parish Center.



Presentation on El Salvador