Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Jean E. Manes at the Launch of the Project for the Protection and Quality of Care for Children
November 13, 2018
Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
It is a real honor for me to be here this morning at the launch of a truly unique project for U.S. cooperation with El Salvador. Although we have supported the protection Salvadoran children for a long time, this is the first time that the United States Government has supported a project specifically focused on this critical development problem.
I would like to share with you a little anecdote about a little boy named Samuel. Samuel’s family sold wood. And one day young Samuel played with up a steel wedge that his father used to cut down trees and got it stuck in a young walnut tree. Instead of retrieving the wedge, as he should have done, he left it between the tender branches of a young walnut growing in his garden. Many years passed and Samuel the child became Samuel the man. And the walnut tree grew into a large tree.
Then, one night there was a storm. It was not a very strong storm, but to Samuel’s surprise, the next day he saw that the huge walnut tree had split in two. He was surprised when, on closer inspection, he saw how in the part where the trunk had been separated there was the metal wedge that years ago he had left forgotten. The trunk of the walnut had grown around the wedge and, as a consequence, the fibers of the trunk were not able to form with the necessary strength to support the heavy branches of the walnut tree. When the storm came, the structure of the trunk gave way and the weight of the branches did the rest.
The walnut split in two.
This project that we launch today with Whole Child International directly supports the Salvadoran Institute for the Integral Development of Children and Adolescents, ISNA, to help children and adolescents under their care overcome the difficult situations that, just like the walnut, have left weak wedges in them. However, the past of these children does not have to define their future.It is our obligation as representatives of our governments, as adults, to help them in the delicate path of recovery.
We know that proper , early childhood care has an impact that extends to all facets of personal development, including educational attainment, greater economic productivity and greater capacity for long-term planning and more constructive ways of problem solving.
What we are doing with this program goes beyond addressing the difficulties of individuals. It is changing the social fabric in the long term, because the integrity of that fabric depends on the integrity of each individual thread that makes it up. These children are important threads in the fabric of Salvadoran society. They face immense challenges and deserve our best effort to ensure that traumatic childhood experiences do not define their future. Supporting the emotional development of children so that they become healthy adults is an essential component in breaking the cycle of violence.
Returning to the anecdote, yes, we have to work on taking out the wedges, but with a long-term vision of avoiding that these wedges exist in the first place.
That is prevention.
Crime prevention is not a single initiative, it is a vision that requires a systematic approach to build strong and secure communities, and it is a strategy that must begin very early in a child’s life. That is why, through our United States Agency for International Development, USAID, we are supporting this initiative with $4.9 million dollars toward training and capacity building.
The considerable experience of Whole Child in the implementation of child care practices based on evidence and adapted to the needs of El Salvador has already demonstrated the positive impact that these relationships can have on the development of children. ISNA’s commitment to institutionalize these practices and systems in its care centers and assistance to vulnerable families demonstrates the fundamental importance of this activity.
We remain committed to supporting Salvadoran efforts to build a society in which Salvadorans have economic stability and feel secure in having a life in El Salvador. We consider our support as a direct investment in families, children and the future of El Salvador. A safer, healthier and more peaceful future for Salvadoran children and families here at home.
This translation is provided as a courtesy, only the original remarks delivered in Spanish should be considered authoritative.