There has been a lot of critique of student loans in the US recently, but the overwhelming consensus is that the US student loan scheme needs to be overhauled. We are all in agreement that access to student loans needs to exist. Can you imagine a world where access to student loans was virtually non-existent? That is the reality in El Salvador.
A bachelor’s degree in El Salvador consists of six years of schooling. The current cost to send a student is about $1,000 per semester. This includes tuition, books and transportation. The vast majority of students live at home and commute to classes. Compared to US tuition prices, $12,000 for a bachelor’s degree sounds like an incredibly good deal. Unfortunately, college education remains out of reach for the majority of Salvadoran families.
Bridging International Communities (BIC) works to provide loans for college study to the youth of Haciendita Uno, a rural community outside of Suchitoto, El Salvador. We have observed over the years that a college education is the fastest and surest route out of poverty. This is likely to remain the case for a long time to come. As El Salvador continues to develop economically, more and more trained professionals will be needed in the workforce. Our loan program is structured such that the students pay the loans back to a community account so that the funds can be loaned out to a new student. We are constantly in need of donors willing to support these hard-working students.
BIC also works to address other issues that result from rural poverty in El Salvador. I recently spent nine months living with the community and working on another BIC project – the development of a low-cost aquaponics system called “The Oasis,” which is a current finalist in the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge. Aquaponics is a way to grow vegetables and fish in a recirculating biofilter based system. Our goal is to create a system which is cheap enough for even the poorest families to afford. With such a system, families could produce healthy food to eat but also to sell. Our dream for the future includes a landscape dotted with aquaponics systems – a land where everyone has enough to eat.
Bridging International Communities collaborates with communities in need around the world by sharing resources and professional expertise to create sustainable communities through the implementation and evaluation of economic, educational and health focused programs. We seek to build long-term partnerships that result in mutual respect and shared responsibility by listening to and standing in solidarity with our partner communities. Together with other non-profits like Programa Velasco, we hope to make an impact on the future of El Salvador.