Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Welcome New Board Member Margaret Miller!

Margaret Miller Bio

I was born in New York and migrated across the country growing up, as my father took a position at Northwestern University then finally at Stanford University when I was in high school. My love for other cultures began when I was a teenager - which is why I majored in Spanish and also earned a SpanishTeaching Credential at the University of the Pacific. I then went on to get a M.A. in Education and a Bilingual/ Cross Cultural Specialist Credential. I began teaching high school in San Francisco at a Catholic girls’ high school and have continued in Catholic education for the last 34 years. I have been passionate about photography and travel and learning about people around the world since as long as I can remember.

Working with teens in Catholic education is a gift. I have been at Saint Francis High School since 1982. I arrived as a full-time Spanish teacher. I’ve been the Dean of Students for about 16 years now and still teach one Spanish class. If you’re in trouble at school, you arrive late to class, you can’t figure out where to park, you want to discuss what you did to “earn” Saturday detention, or you’d like to hear about Emergency Planning, I’m the person you go to! I also create programs for parent education especially those focusing on parenting in this crazy digital world. To keep my sanity, I make jewelry, have become obsessed with taking and teaching Zumba classes, and spend my time traveling to new destinations around the world in the summer.

My passion for “all things Guarjila, Tamarindo, and El Salvador” began eight years ago when Sal Chávez, Director of Campus Ministry at Saint Francis, and I took our first Campus Ministry Immersion Program trip to El Salvador. Before that trip I had lead 12 student tours with an educational company to different countries in Europe, Costa Rica, and Cuba. The program to El Salvador was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I still look forward to each trip – with the same anticipation I had when I first set foot in Guarjila. I look forward to spending time with the Tamarindo community and John and feel blessed to have the opportunity to travel there each year. Guarjila is truly my second home. I am always anxious to catch up with the families in the Tamarindo, talk about the politics of Guarjila and El Salvador with John and Maria, find out the news from the women who are leaders in theTamarindo, and take advantage of a week of Bety’s good cooking (those pupusas are unreal!). Seeing El Salvador through the eyes of a new group of students each year is invigorating. Our students are transformed by their experience, and I look forward to finding new ways to have all of our students give back to the community in El Salvador.

I am also always in awe watching Tamarindos and John in a good game of hockey in the “Garden.” John has transformed so many young people through sports and all of the other programs that build community.

Each summer we become sports fans in the warm summer night. We surround the walls of the court, poke our fingers through the fencing, cheer on the players, and listening to the loud beat of Credence Cleerwater Revival.

I was honored to be selected to serve on the Tamarindo Foundation Board. I will do anything possible to support the work of the Foundation to benefit John’s work and look forward to contributing to future programs in a variety of ways.

I have a husband, Chris Bradford, who teaches English and Photography at Saint Francis School and two children. My daughter Jenny is 26 and works for Google in New York City. My son Josh is 22 and is will graduate from the University of South Carolina in May. He and I traveled to Guarjila in December of 2011. He has become passionate about the Tamarindos and will work with us on the planning of John’s August 2012 bike tour across the United States.

Welcome New Board Member Joe Albers!

Joe Albers Bio

I was born and raised in San Jose, California. I was privileged to attend Catholic schools where I was exposed to social justice values which I did not start taking seriously until my junior year of high school. That was when I attended an immersion trip to Tijuana, Mexico to build houses over spring break. At that point, my values changed drastically and I became dedicated to addressing social justice issues especially related to Latin America and poverty.

I chose to attend Santa Clara University because of its mission for social justice. In my sophomore year, I got involved in a student-run community service and activism group called Santa Clara Community Action Program. I served as the leader of a program serving breakfast on Saturday mornings. I had a goal to start the same immersion trip I went on in high school. During that year, I led 40 students down to Tijuana to build houses. Both of those experiences increased my commitment to social justice.

Also as a sophomore at SCU, I had learned about the history of El Salvador in my Central American History course and developed a desire to travel there. My friend, Kristin Simms (now Byrnes), introduced me to the Tamarindo youth group where she participated in the summer internship “program”. John Giuliano came for a visit and I became enamored with the mission of the group. He explained that the experience of going for the summer was living in solidarity in the place of doing service and I was hooked.

That summer of 2000, I went to Guarjila for the first time. I still remember the trip in from the airport and arriving into a adobe walled, dirt floor meeting place/ boxing ring. I walked in, ducking my head through the door, with music blaring to see teenagers lifting weights and admiring their muscles. I immediately questioned why I traveled so far for this crazy boxing ring. After a few days of being with the group and living with my host family, however, I fell in love with the community and became a Tamarindo. To me that meant always being committed to the Guarjilan community. At 6 feet 2 inches and weighing 145 pounds, I earned the nickname “Petaca” which translates to pot belly. Even though I was skinny as a rail, I still had a little tiny belly. The name has stuck ever since.

Upon returning to Santa Clara, Kristin and I started an immersion trip to Guarjila in the Spring. I was so excited to share that experience with 10 of my classmates at SCU. I then committed to return to live there for a year after I graduated in 2002. I worked for the Tamarindo full time and at the local high school teaching English part time. My commitment to the group only grew deeper and I found my favorite activity in the simplicity of visiting houses.

Since I left in 2003, I have returned probably about 10 times for visits where I go from house to house visiting my close friends and spending time at the Tamarindo. I always enjoy the hospitality and the relationships that still stay the same in the face of great distance and drastically different day to day lifestyles.

SInce settling in San Jose, I have been teaching full time high school in low-income Latino communities. My commitments remain the same and I deeply enjoy pushing students to do their best. I currently work at Overfelt High School and coordinate a program called AVID, which prepares first generation students for college. I have earned my Master’s degree in Education Administration and teaching credential from Santa Clara University.

I married my wonderful wife, Karen Dazols, in 2006 here in San Jose, but we had a second wedding celebration in Guarjila where the discoteca was rolled in for a mega party in the Tamarindo. John proved to perhaps have a second career option in wedding planning as it was a fantastic night. We have welcomed into our family our sweet and wild little girl Alicia, who just turned one.

This past year, I have rekindled my connection to the group by starting the Jon Cortina Solidarity Scholarship Program through the Tamarindo Foundation. I had a dream of starting a formal scholarship program to help Guarjilan youth continue their education at universities since I had worked at the local high school in Guarjila. I watched almost all of the talented graduates who could work to improve their community emigrate to the USA.

With the work of Luis Lopez, John, and the support of the foundation, we have managed to fund 4 scholarships for students to study at universities this fall. Applicants needed to not only demonstrate academic success, but more importantly, a commitment to the Guarjilan community. All four students are doing well with their studies and have begun their community service projects. In establishing this program I began working closely with the foundation and was invited to be a board member this year. I was thrilled at the opportunity to be a part of the foundation, continuing my commitment as a Tamarindo.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

University Students' Thank You Letters, December 2011

From Wilber Lopez- Attending National University in San Salvador- Journalism
Guarjila, Chalatenango, El Salvador

I wish you warm greetings and hope that your days are filled with success and good health. After the short greeting, I want to go ahead and thank you very much for how happy you have made me by giving the opportunity to be one of the beneficiaries of the scholarships that you are offering the young people of Guarjila. Know that my family and I appreciate your support greatly. It is a huge opportunity for me to be able to study for the career I have chosen for myself and enjoy very much, which is to be a journalist. One of my biggest goals in life is to be a journalist in order to help my family and my community.

I hope to be very successful in my studies with all of the effort and great care that I can give and more than anything else place myself in the hands of God, knowing that he will never abandon me. I, again, want to tell you how much I appreciate your donation to my university scholarship, which has given me great happiness and motivated me to make all the sacrifice possible to do the best in my studies. I wish you good luck, and again thank you so much.

May God bless you,
Wilber Alexander López Sosa

From Sonia Palma- attending Monsenor Romero University- Chalatenango- Science Education

Dear wonderful scholarship donors:
Warm greetings from Sonia Maritza and all of my family. I wish you happiness and joy with your friends and family this season. I want you to know that for me it is an honor to be able to write you and tell you how incredibly grateful I am that you have donated to my scholarship that will allow me to study at the university and achieve my dreams and the dreams of my family.

I very much enjoy the major I have chosen: Science Education. I think that education contributes greatly to the productive development of society and at the same time I like to share my education and my gifts with the community. I will be enrolling this month in December to take my orientation course so that I can start by degree in January in the University of Monsenor Oscar Romero. I will dedicate myself fully to my studies to be very successful.

I want to thank you again so much for your support before I say farewell.
May God bless you and with all my heart I wish you a Merry Christmas,
Sonia Maritza Navarro Palma

From Yesica Amaya- attending Andres Bellow University in Chalatenango- Accounting

Warm greetings!

I hope this letter finds you in good health and surrounded by your family.

I am writing to thank all of you who have donated to my scholarship. Thanks to you I will be able to start one of my dreams, which I hope to complete successfully. The news that I received the scholarship filled me with so much joy. I did not know what to say, the happiness had invaded me completely. Moreover, I was sleeping when I got the call and my dreams left quickly. I did not think I was going to get this great news so quickly and it has been the best Christmas gift that I could ever receive. My parents also shared in my joy and are so happy to know that I will start my studies this year.

I know that I have taken on a big responsibility and commitment to each one of you. Thank you for believing in me and granting me the opportunity to improve my life, I will always be grateful with all of my heart. I wish you, the people who have believed that the youth can improve their lives, many blessings especially in this time of year. May God fill your life with blessings and a happy new year. It has been a pleasure writing you. Well, take care of yourselves and may God bless you.

With much love,
Yesica Dinora Amaya

From Rosa Lopez- attending Chalatenango Institute of Technology- Marketing

December 19, 2011
Guarjila, Chalatenango El Salvador

Dear new friends from the United States,

I wish you warm greetings for my dear International friends from Rosa Estela Vasquez Lopez and family. I hope that this letter finds you well surrounded by your loved ones. I feel very happy to have friends that I can write to and greet you with so much pride.

I want to tell you how I infinitely appreciate that you have donated towards my scholarship. With this support I will be able to continue my post-secondary education and realize my dreams, which is to study in order to work to provide a good living. Moreover, I want to help my family and contribute to the betterment of my community with the knowledge that I gain from my studies.

I also thank God for allowing people who show as much solidarity as you helping us improve our lives professionally. In our community, there are not many opportunities like this that you have offered us. I want to let you know that I will begin studying in January of next year and my family is very happy that I will be able to do so. Also my family is very appreciative of you all. I know that it took a lot of effort and work for you to give me this help and for that reason I promise to be a very good student and put all of my effort into having good grades to not disappoint you all.

With these few simple words, I will say farewell from you my esteemed friends, wishing you a merry Christmas and a new year filled with many blessings. May God take care of you with great health and peace in your households.

Rosa Estela Vasquez Lopez

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Delegation Visits

A typical week with a U.S. student group
- by Louis Lopez

The first day of a group's arrival in Guarjila is the welcoming and group presentations. The American students pair off and then meet and move into the Tamarindo family's house that they will stay at for the week. That night there is a bonfire and everyone circles around for introductions. We spend a couple of hours telling stories and getting to know each other over dinner and games.

The second day we give them a tour of Guarjila, visiting the places and projects that are important to our way of life, so that the students get a better idea of where they are and can familiarize themselves with the area. This day is really about sharing our community with them. The afternoon is usually spent at either the elementary or high school and visiting older family members of the Tamarindos who love to share their stories.

The rest of the days vary from group to group but usually include - a night of camping at the Sumpul River (where Salvadorans were massacred trying to escape into Honduras); traveling to the martyr sites throughout the country (including those of the U.S. churchwomen, Romero, Rutilio Grande, the Jesuits, the museum in Morazan, the massacre of Mozote, among others); trips to historical and significant places during the war; competitive game nights; soccer, softball, and kickball games; retreat and reflection nights; and then to wrap up the week, everyone participates by planning a community mass.

The time we spend with each group is so memorable that we end up telling stories of delegation visits long after groups have left. I believe that both sides benefit from the immersion experience and it is important to continue these relationships long into the future.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas 2011 Appeal Letter



It will soon be Christmas. As I write to you, cool, dry winds are blowing in from the North, making Guarjila a dust bowl. My Ebenezer Scrooge is working hard on me - Christmas parties... Christmas stockings... Christmas events... Christmas kids... and a thousand Christmas questions. There are Christmas letters to be read and Christmas appeals to be written. I think to myself, not this again! Christmas. Christmas. Christmas. “BAH HUMBUG!”

Then, as I’m ready to toss Christmas out the window (even before the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade begins), my daughter, Rose, reminds me, “Dad, it’s the Tamarindo... it's the Tamarindo that gives... the Tamarindo gives Christmas.”

So I stop, breathe, and realize - the Tamarindo is a place that gives, not only on Christmas, but every day of the year.

I begin by reflecting on my own life and who I would be without the Tamarindo. This place and these people have been my education, inspiration, and direction since we began in 1992. They continue to feed and challenge my life. "It’s the Tamarindo that gives."

There are hundreds of students from around the world that can say the same thing - that the Tamarindo has changed their lives in profound ways. For St.Mary’s, St. Francis, Archbishop Mitty, Bishop Chatard, St. Pius X, DePauw, Xavier, Stanford, Lewis and Clarke, Creighton, UCLA, Harvard, Boston College, Notre Dame, Yale, Arizona State, Cal, Santa Clara (forgive me If I didn’t mention all the schools), the Tamarindo has been your living classroom. It was in that broken down, termite infested and sometimes leaky building in Guarjila where you began to think differently. It was there that you began to consider your own vocations and question your world. “It’s the Tamarindo that gives.”

How many of you were inspired here to change your course of study? How many vocational dreams were launched in your time living with the Tamarindos? Many of you took elements and principles learned in the Tamarindo back to your communities, bringing with you new energy and understanding to face the problems of poverty, ignorance and injustice. "It’s the Tamarindo that gives."

For parents, how many of you have written to thank the Tamarindo for the ways in which your children grew and changed while here? We have received so many notes thanking us for the gifts that your children took from here to become kinder, gentler, and more generous people. "It’s the Tamarindo that gives."

How many of you encountered a living faith in Guarjila for the first time? Was it here you first came to sit before the cross? Was it here in “community” during the breaking of the bread (or pupusa) where you began to consider God, church and hope for a better world? Was it amongst the campesinos (Gio, Jenni, Luis, Rosibel, Noemi) that you came to know the stories of the Jesuit martyrs, Archbishop Romero, and men and women of faith? "It's the Tamarindo that gives."

And I write for all the Tamarindos on this end - those that went to school or found a job. For those that learned to ride a bike... learned to read... learned to pray... learned to hit a slap shot... learned to think critically... learned to dream... learned to say thank you... learned how beautiful they truly are. "It's the Tamarindo that gives."

For all those that came on hard times and have needed a hand, the Tamarindo has been there. For the countless requests for medical consults, building materials, food, shoes, clothes or any needs – the Tamarindo door has always been open. "It's the Tamarindo that gives."

For all of us that have given of our time, money and inspiration to see that the Tamarindo continues to thrive - we know we have been given something back, something very special. Call it grace, joy or just a richer, fuller life, we are so grateful. “It’s the Tamarindo that gives.”

So now as we approach Christmas, I would like to invite you to take some time from your busy lives and reflect on the gift that the Tamarindo has been to you. I then hope you will consider giving a gift to the Tamarindo Foundation that will allow us to keep giving. Without you, nothing is possible.

Please make us part of your holiday.

On behalf of all of us here at the Tamarindo, thank you with all our hearts.

Wishing you a blessed Christmas and holiday season,


P.O. Box 90404 Indianapolis, IN 46290-0404

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Tamarindo

A day in the life of a tamarindo –

Sundays consist of a community service project out in Guarjila and then mass is attended by the group. The evenings are reserved for a group meal, where the servers and those served switch off. Discussions and Reflections happen this evening, too.

Monday evening is IN HOUSE Service - work that needs done in the Tamarindo “Shop” (center) and the Tamarindo Garden, where necessary repairs and maintenance to make things last as long as possible are made.

Tuesday is spirituality night. The Gospel passage for the upcoming week is read and discussed or a talk about a particular Feast Day or saint is given.

Wednesday is a flex night to be used as needed.

Thursday is News Analysis (current events) and Sport night. The News Analysis program is where the smaller groups meet and choose an article from one of 3 newspapers and each group is required to lead a discussion with the entire Tamarindo Community. They all rotate through so each has its turn in presenting.

Friday Night is the long running Mandatory Organizational Meeting: This is where weekly goals are set and previous week’s goals are discussed. Often times there are critical topics that are relevant to the town that are discussed.

Saturday is a fun recreation night and might consist of games in the Tamarindo Garden or a group movie.

In addition, every day after school the “Shop” is flooded with kids looking to play and many others who need tutoring and help with homework.

Other times at the center include cultural event planning (each Easter the Tamarindo produces the Stations of the Cross for the Town and in it they highlight the social problems the town has faced in the past 12 months), workshops and seminars about problems the town is facing, individual leadership programs and health programs for women and the elderly. They also hold special events like karate classes, art classes and even gymnastics.

The Tamarindo Center is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A member of the council (made up of 6 tamarindo leaders) spends the night there every night so that it is available to people in the community who need to seek shelter in a safe and secure place. It requires the daily participation of the youth that keep it running every day. This place is living, breathing, teaching and always adapting to the ever-changing needs of Guarjila and the Tamarindos.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mike Qualters' Ironman Campaign Results

By Tamarindo Foundation President, Mike Qualters

Even though the recent Ironman race has come and gone, your generosity will benefit the Tamarindo for months to come.

As many of you know, I participated in my first Ironman Distance Triathlon on August 28, 2011, in Louisville, Kentucky. While I've been doing Tri's for many years, this particular distance was a new challenge. The Ironman consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run. I was happy to dedicate the training, preparation and the race to the Tamarindos, a group who know a thing or two about hard work, difficult circumstances and perseverance.

A week before the race, an on-line campaign was created and advertised via e-mail and on the Tamarindo Foundation FaceBook Page - the race was on. In a little over 3 weeks, $6600 was raised.

Race day was amazing and I can't thank you enough for your support. The response to the fundraiser was tremendous and the number of you who followed my progress on-line throughout the race, and those who e-mailed, texted and called with well wishes, were all really appreciated.

A special thanks to a friend, Rich Doppelfeld, who followed me around the course and supplied updates and pictures to John Guiliano in El Salvador, who, while following along on-line, also created updates for everyone on FaceBook. I also wanted to give a big thank you to another friend, Steve Klipsch, who so generously donated a matching gift for the money raised; and finally, to the Tamarindos, who participated in their own Endurance Day in Guarjila and were with me in solidarity for all 140.6 miles. Thank you for inspiring me everyday.

Thank you again for all for your support in this event!