The Winter 2017 CARECEN Educational Exchange Trip to El Salvador application is now open! Participants will have the opportunity to explore immigration and indigenous studies in El Salvador with field visits in Mexico and Guatemala. The program will take place from December 26, 2017 to January 15, 2018. Participants will have the option to travel early or stay later than official program dates. It is open to individuals between the ages of 20-35, including: DACA recipients, TPS beneficiaries, permanent residents and U.S. citizens. The cost of the trip is $1950 which includes meals, lodging, transportation, and activities. Airfare and Advance Parole fee are not included. Scholarships are available to help cover advance parole fees. An information session will be held on June 28th at 7PM at CARECEN-LA office: 2845 W. 7th St. Los Angeles, CA 90005.
CARECEN began organizing educational exchange trips to El Salvador in 2014. The goal of the Educational Exchange program in El Salvador was to create travel opportunities for people who cannot traditionally participate in study abroad programs. Over 40 people have visited El Salvador through the CARECEN Educational Exchange program, which has resulted in increased awareness and knowledge about El Salvador's cultural context, history, government, economy and education system. Additional benefits of the CARECEN Educational Exchange Trip have been that participants have the opportunity to see family for the first time, travel for the first time, participate in transnational academic settings, and establish academic paths for future research.
Participants of the CARECEN Educational Exchange Trip have experienced personal, educational and professional growth that have impacted their lives in different ways. For some like Alma Lemus and Ana Miriam Barragan, having had the opportunity to leave the country through advance parole was a unique life experience. Alma had dreamed of studying abroad as an undergraduate student at USC, but her undocumented status prevented her from doing so. In an autobiographical account of her experience, "An Undocumented Journey", she writes about her experience of achieving her dream of studying abroad with the CARECEN Educational Exchange Trip using advance parole. Alma writes,
"[I gained] a learning experience from the Salvadoran community, its indigenous people, professors, and geography... it's an experience that almost felt like a dream that I did not want to wake up from. The food, the smells, its colorful people, and the cocoa trees are etched in my brain, finally a study abroad story that I can call my own."
Ana Miriam Barragan is a CSUN alumni who participated in the trip in 2016. Ana Miriam reflects on her experience traveling to El Salvador using advanced parole by saying,
"I was able to taste what freedom is. Just going to El Salvador allowed me to not just be undocumented and remember myself as a human being, who should be allowed to migrate and immigrate if I wanted to. It allowed me to grow personally."
For Rosa Salamanca and Allen Fonteyn, learning about El Salvador impacted their outlook on education. Rosa a participant and organizer of the trip says,
"Going out there is a way to see and experience firsthand instead of reading about it or looking at videos or pictures, or hearing other people's stories... it also brings knowledge because you're not reading it, and it's not necessarily scholar knowledge but it is knowledge about what the actual reality is".
Allen left the United States for the first time in 17 years in the CARECEN Educational Exchange Trip to El Salvador on January 2017. He describes the impact of the trip in his career and educational pursuits. Allen says,
"By having exposure to another country I was able to see the needs of other individuals which are directly tied in with the work that I do in non-profit work and the educational field. Seeing how I could help people has prompted me to going back to school sooner, to want to continue my work in genetics and medical schooling. I want to be able to go back to El Salvador and do some community work there".
For other participants like Karen Bobadilla and Miriam Martinez, acquiring authorized re-entry after returning from the CARECEN Educational Exchange Trip to El Salvador opened up the opportunity for adjusting their statuses. Karen, a participant of the trip from 2014, expresses the impact the CARECEN Educational Exchange trip to El Salvador has had on her life by saying,
"The advance parole trip to El Salvador trip gave my life a 360 spin; I am now a legal permanent resident and I see life with more prospect, and I owe this to CARECEN".
Miriam participated in the January 2017 trip. After adjusting her status, Miriam visited her mother in Mexico whom she hadn't seen since she was 5 years old. Univision documented Miriam's and her mother's touching reunion in the article, "The cry of a mother when she reunited with her immigrant daughter after 25 years" ("El llanto de una madre al reencontrase con su hija inmigranted tras 25 años"), with an emotionally charged video of the moment Miriam and her mom saw each other again for the first time after 25 years.
CARECEN continues to strive to achieve their goal of making travel opportunities more accessible to people who cannot participate in traditional study abroad program. For the 5th educational exchange trip, CARECEN has put together a tri-country experience where participants will have the opportunity to explore the topic of immigration in a global context and gain a consciousness about the indigenous communities in El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico.
Meet the Organizers
Rosa Salamanca has been organizing with the immigrants' rights movements since 2009. Currently, she is a legal assistant at CARECEN. She graduated from California State University of Northridge with a double major in Psychology and Central American Studies. Rosa returned to El Salvador for the first time since she was 15 years old through the 2nd CARECEN Educational Exchange Trip in 2015. After graduating from her undergraduate education, Rosa began working at CARECEN as a Legal Assistant. Upon her time working with CARECEN she has helped organize and plan the 3rd, 4th, and 5th educational exchange trips to El Salvador. She has also conducted ethnographic research on transnational Salvadoran immigrant communities.
Julie Mitchell has been active in the immigrants’ rights movement in Los Angeles throughout her professional and educational careers. She is currently a managing attorney at CARECEN. She has an M.A. in Latin American Studies from California State University, Los Angeles and a J.D. from Loyola Law School. Julie started organizing CARECEN’s Educational Exchange trips to El Salvador in 2014. Her primary educational and research interests involve the social ramifications of immigration laws in Central American communities in the United States.