Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Home Again Home Again Lickety Split

Yes, this post is a tad overdue.

I've been home for about a week and change. That strange title you see above is a darling phrase of my mother's. For the first time in a year, I can use it and no one looks at me like I'm a crackpot. Ok, that's not true. But fewer people look at me like I'm a crackpot.

Rather than postpone the inevitable, waiting for some lightning of inspiration or insight to strike and perfectly sum up my YASC year into a Nobel-worthy oration of Hemingway proportions, I have finally succumbed to the basic fact that such a thing does not exist. And whatever I write will just have to do (it is September for goodness sakes).

Also, SPOILER ALERT. I'm staying a second year. I return on October 20th to San Salvador, and until then, I am making the most hodgepodge route across both coasts sharing Cristosal's work (on a map it looks like very enthuasiastic but very drunk hopscotch).

So, how was it? That's like asking how it was to be a teenager. So if I give you a deer-in-the-headlights expression, it's not you, it's me. Because it is very difficult to sum up what has so far been the greatest and, I would say, most influential experience of my life, not because of one pivotal moment, but because the whole is greater than the sum of each individual part. And you don't realize that until you land in the United States, and like the Millennium Falcoln dropping you off on your home planet, after the rush of wind and debris, you look at your surroundings and think, well that was sweet.

Unfortunately, I suppose sweet isn't a great summary, nor does it do jutice to Cristosal, my friends, or even to me. The grand moral of the story is I left to be a concrete part of, participant in, and contributor to global justice. And I wanted, at the end of my year, to have a far mor specific and personal understanding of just what this "global justice" thing really is.

And I feel deeply blessed to have found that place. I fill a role in Cristosal that allows me to engage with, contribute to, and to be taught by a truly unique group of individuals that are, in many ways singlehandedly, reshaping the way we think about mission and citizen engagement in Central and North America. Though Noah (Exec. Director boss-man) warned me we would fail 9 times out of 10, I showed up just in time to witness that elusive number #10, Edison's 2,000th try at the carbonized cotton filament lightbulb.

When the child migrant crisis hit, I like most North Americans had that deep blow to the intestine somewhere above the belly button that went something like this, "How aful! What do we do? Someone tell me what to do!" In moments of crisis, we need people with that very rare combination of skill, experience, vision, connections, and a stubborn-bar-nothing will to never give up. In my own unbiased way, I say that is exactly what Cristosal represents. The ability to transform first-hand experiences with victims of violence in El Salvador to a regional strategy with the potential to save lives and demand good governance, all the while empowering state actors rather than take center stage... this is an art form, a dance both carefully choreographed and oxymoronically (yes it's a word) open to improvisation, and I have a VIP pass. No scratch that, I get to be on stage too. 

That's what sweet means. (If you want to learn more about Cristosal's strategy to address the child migrant crisis, please email me at hperls.cristosal@gmail.com, check out our website at www.cristosal.org and sign up for the monthly newsletter).

Another thing you can do is... drum roll... DONATE! As you might have guessed, second year with the Young Adult Service Corps = fundraising. But there's good news! Only $8,000 this year, to pay for stipend (food and liquids), safety considerations, housing, flights... you know the drill. 

In all seriousness, and with as much humility as possible, I am asking you to consider giving to support my second YASC year, and another 365 days with Cristosal. The last 365 days have given me a deep and inescapable love for El Salvador, which at the end of the day, I think is more valuable than any amount of correctly conjugated verbs or points on a resume. Because I now know how to be in El Salvador, how to speak to someone in such a way tthat hey feel respected, honored, and comfortable enough to work with me as an equal, and not just a crazy volunteer gringa.

If you donated last year, please consider giving the same amount (plus $25 for you over-achievers). If you did not give last year, there’s no time like the present! Please visit Cristosal’s website at www.cristosal.org/donate (your gift will be designated to support me) or mail a check to:

Foundation Cristosal
Memo: Hannah Perls YASC
9641 Carousel Center Drive
Syracuse, NY 13290
USA

As they say in El Salvador, "Thank you for reading me."

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