Maria discovered her voice and purpose in ArtCorps’ workshops. She now serves on a national committee for community development, applying her leadership and creativity to improve living conditions in rural El Salvador.
In 2013, Maria del Carmen attended the leadership school for rural women leaders (“Escuela Rural”) with 19 other microcredit organizers. The facilitator, ArtCorps Artist Miguel Zepeda Santos, recalls that she was embarrassed to speak in front of the group and only responded to a question when asked directly during the first few months. However, despite her obvious discomfort, she never refused to participate in the creative expression exercises, and her participation gradually improved as she engaged in conversation more often and interacted more with the other women leaders.
One day, she shared that her town planned to form a volunteer committee and that she was thinking about participating. The group encouraged her to be part of this effort, as an opportunity both for personal growth and to serve her community. And she joined.
In our workshops, we continued to work on self-esteem, communication and conflict transformation, using role play and other creative methods. A noticeable shift had taken place in Maria—her shyness was a thing of the past and her ambition to keep learning took the forefront.
The next month, Maria told us that she had been selected as a departmental (state) representative for the rural progress committee she served on. She was chosen based on her communication skills, ability to express herself and strong interest in improving the living conditions of her people. Maria credited the creative leadership workshops with helping her become a better leader for her community, and we congratulated her on the significant progress she had shown.
In our last meeting of the year, as we celebrated the group’s progress, Maria surprised us yet again with remarkable news. This time she had been appointed to the national committee for rural progress.
As part of a collective assessment of our work, Maria gave the following testimonial: “If I had never participated in ArtCorps’ workshops, I would never have discovered my abilities…. Now my public service is recognized by many people. Not only am I a part of the town committee for progress, but I was also elected to represent my district at the state level and, most recently, I have also become our national representative. I meet with public figures and government officials, with the President’s staff, and we come up with projects to benefit [rural communities].”
This project was carried out in collaboration with Servicio Jesuita para el Desarrollo and Oxfam America.