El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America but it is also among the most violent.
“The scariest place in my village is the bar and the surrounding area. The fights frighten me,” says 6-year-old Sofia.
Social problems affect children
Many children in the country do not attend school due to financial or geographic reasons. Instead, they often start working from an early age doing domestic or agricultural work in order to support their families. For young people there are very few opportunities and alcoholism is common among men.
For a village in San Cristobal, many of these social problems are keenly felt. Although the village does not have major gang related problems, community members often feel unsafe.
Samuel, 14, hopes that gang culture will not spread to his village. “Currently, gangs are not such a big problem as in many other Salvadoran villages.”
However, children and young people’s lives are often difficult here, there are no playgrounds or safe spaces for them to spend their free time and the local school does not have basic facilities like good toilets.
Children call for change
To learn more about children’s lives and listen to their opinions on how their community can be improved, Plan International held a workshop to allow children from the village to share their suggestions on improving their quality of life.
During the workshop, the children were given the task of drawing maps of their village showing the places where they feel insecure and the places where they feel happy.
The bar is highlighted on the maps as one of the biggest risk areas and is cited by most of the children as a dangerous place.
Simple solutions for a safer community
Some of the suggestions the children made for improvements are simple. Karla, 7, says: “I would like to have playgrounds in the village and want my school to have decent toilet facilities.”
Seventeen-year-old Rolando says: “I hope to have a library in the village, it is impossible to obtain books.”
Based on their proposals, Plan International is working with the community to develop the village, so children and young people have a safer place to grow up.