Bruce Bergeron began our program by reflecting on his trip to El Salvador as a part of an Epilogos Charities work team to do a house build. He hopes we can organize another trip in the future. It was one of those life changing experiences.

He then introduced former Lebanon-Riverside Rotarian, Ed Warren who is the president of Epilogos charities. Ed talked about meeting Epilogos Charities founders, Mike and Susie Jenkins who came to a Rotary meeting to talk about the charity. They talked about the inability of many kids to be educated beyond 9th grade as many parents could not afford the $150 tuition. Ed thought at a minimum he could sponsor a child. This then led to him volunteering to do an eye clinic in San Jose Villanueva. He was then hooked and wholeheartedly supports the work being done by Epilogos. Ed then turned the meeting over to Brooke Finnell, US Executive Director of Epilogos Charities.

Brooke reviewed the history of Epilogos.  Mike and Susie Jenkins met as Peace Corp workers in San Jose Villanueva, fell in loved and married there. They also fell in love with the people who lived in San Jose Villanueva. After their peace corp service, they returned to the USA to raise their children and work in the USA.  As they approached retirement, they made a decision to return to San Jose Villanueva to visit in 2000 , and returned and stayed in 2002 for many years. They formed the Charity with with the help of Denny Williams. The name comes from the Spanish word for epilogue.  This was the epilogue to Mike and Susie’s time in San Jose Villanueva as peace corp workers…  To read more about the history of Epologos, click here.

Epilogos has three areas of focus:
  • Education
  • Casa Dignas
  • Community Support
Education: They support children with their educational needs from Kindergarten to through College.  To-date they have helped educate over 2000 children.  In 2023, the supported 77 kids from Kindergarten to grade 9; 58 high school students; and 17 children with special needs (one of there newest programs).  In 2024, they have a waiting list for children waiting for help to start school. School enrollment is up 30%.
In order to keep ongoing support, children must must maintain good grades, and participate in school and community activities. Funds are used to support tuition, uniforms, books and sport equipment.  The special needs program started in 2017 with 3 students, and has grown to 17 students.  They are now looking for a second teacher to suppor t the program. Currently, they have 6 students attending collage, studying secondary education, nursing, accounting and computer technology.  A recent graduate has completed additional education to become an attorney.
Education helps children get good paying jobs. Brooke reflected that as they return to El Salvador and people learn she is a part of Epilogos, she learns that individuals she meets tell her they got their education thanks to epilogos.  Many students have stayed in San Jose Villanueva.
Another program they support is Adopt a Classroom.  Funds that are donated support specific requests from teachers in the classroom. To-date, 41 classrooms have been adopted.
Epilogos helps support home builds that engage the owner in the process.  The cost is approx. $8,000/home. Now almost 200 cement block homes have been constructed for the “working poor” who can manage minimal monthly payments.  A defining feature of the homes is that they all have strong locking structures that keeps belonging safe when the family is away from home working, and going to school; have electricity; and our structurally sound and safe. Payments for homes then are reinvested into the next home. New homes can only be built if the family can show clear title to the land. All builds are done by hand.
Brooks is very proud of the Big Friend/Little Friends program.  An older student works and mentors a younger student biweekly for 6 months. For both student it helps  them to gain confidence and stronger self esteem. It help keep both motivated to do better in school.
Brooke stated that under the new president, marshall law was imposed, and many gang members (approx. 75,000) have been arrested and incarcerated.  This has made the country a must safer place to visit, and help keeps citizens in El Salvador.
In the San Jose Villanueva, the new office we helped fund, is now open and thriving.  It is run by Graciela Martinez, the in country executive director, and a staff of 5 individuals.
We were invited to consider making a service trip to San Jose Villanueva/  Of you go, you would be housed in the Ayagualo Retreat Center that is 20 minutes from the town of 10,000.  In addition to the immersive work experience you get to go to San Salvador to see part of the city, and will learn about Oscar Romero.