CESTA is working with 37 schools in San Marcos, where youth are at risk of gang recruitment. To prevent this, CESTA is engaging youth in activities dealing with healthy food and school gardens. When Kenoli visited Ignacio Pacheo Castro school, the whole school assembly was there to meet us, including their band, dancers and the ecology club. There was a student food fair and the students had many samples of delicious food. We were impressed that they knew the nutrient value of the foods that they had prepared.
Even more impressive was the school garden that they had built on cement. Because the school has no surrounding land, the students had built a greenhouse in a small cemented area and used a variety of containers to grow the food. They had beautifully painted the interior. The principal told us this program is very important to teach about health and environment, and also build responsibility and self-esteem in the youth, so that they are not susceptible to gang recruitment.
Through CESTA’s advocacy, the Salvadorian Congress approved a law in 2020 encouraging the use of bicycles as a mean of transportation to reduce pollution. The state is now required to provide funds for bike routes for the safety of riders on main thoroughfares. CESTA expects that other Central American countries will follow El Salvador.