Larissa Hotra

Larissa Hotra (Survivor Corps in El Salvador): Larissa graduated from the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources in 2004. She worked at the nonprofit SafeHouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan as a legal advocate and as an environmental science educator to high school students. She then served as the Midwest campaign coordinator for Global Impact, a nonprofit that raises money for international humanitarian organizations. By night, she worked as the Political Affairs Editor for a Ukrainian Internet Newsletter, e-POSHTA. Throughout her time in Chicago she dabbled in everything that the city had to offer: producing a story for Chicago Public Radio on the Ukrainian diaspora; organizing and working with the Ukrainian diaspora through PLAST – a Ukrainian youth scouting; attending free cultural and musical events; practicing her Spanish language skills in Latino immigrant neighborhoods; and trying to play soccer on every piece of green space in the city. At the time of her fellowship, Larissa was in the first year of a Master’s program at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.



Marinating in El Salvador, human rights research, outreach, and travel logistics…Only 3 weeks left till I am officially pickled…

21 May

I think that I may have found a soul mate. Or, one of them, for that matter. Why? Because I am beginning to believe that this fellowship with Survivor Corps-El Salvador (formerly the Landmine Survivors Network) was just meant to be. I would be remiss if I didn’t pay attention to the coincidences that Mapquest and Google Earth mapped out for me following the fellowship offer – and the fact that all of the directions point South- and share them with the readers of my blog…

In short, it all started with a love letter that I found on the street while going for a run in early March. I have saved it for just such an occasion. It is written in a bright green pen on a 5×7 sheet of lined paper, and literally reads as the following:
________________________________________________
Hola David (name changed for confidentiality),

Como estas Espero que Bien quiero decirte que tu me gustas y soy unas de tus almiradoras secreto tu me gusta. Y pues si me quieres conocer solo pone un papel escrito para ber a donde los bemos en el locker bye mi amor.

Cuidate mucho
Principe
TE AMO MI AMOR.

Mercedes
***(readers: there is a purple alien on the bottom right-hand side of the letter)

(Translation: Hello David. How are you I am well I want to tell you that I like you and am one of your secret admirers. And if you want to get to know me by myself put a note in my locker about where you want to see me bye my love.

Take care, I love you my love,
Mercedes.)
________________________________________________
The love letter not only reminded me to practice my Spanish, but inside of me it stirred a nostalgia for the beauty of simplicity, the basic human right to love, be, and do whatever you want, and the hilarity of pre-teen and teenage angst.

Soon thereafter, I received my fellowship offer to go to El Salvador to advocate on behalf of landmine survivors, and I knew it was love at first sight. However, I wasn’t sure just how long the beginning love would last, until I found out that my boss (brand new at the end of March) used to be on the LSN Board of Directors; and that I live in Mt. Pleasant, home to an extremely large El Salvadoran community, (and to one of my favorite El Salvadoran restaurants, Marlenas); and that the Mt. Pleasant fire that left over 200 people, mostly immigrant latinos, homeless had once housed my closest friend in graduate school and half of El Salvador; and that last Thursday at the DC United soccer game I reunited with an old friend from Chicago whose boss is ALSO (currently) on the LSN /Survivor Corps Board; and the fact that every person I talked to “knows somebody in El Salvador”; and the first place one of my closest friends, Hannah, traveled to in the new job she started with CARE in February was El Salvador; And that during a friend’s wedding, in discussing a bike ride organized by CISPES (The Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador) found out that the person I was talking to works with them; and the list seems to go on and on and on and on. But I will not bore you with the esoteric details of my “love life”/reasoning to go to El Salvador. Instead, I would like to use this blog as an opportunity to introduce you to Survivor Corps-ES: the people I will be working with, the issues I will be dealing with, and my thoughts on it all.

As some of you may know, I will have the opportunity to assist Survivor Corps-ES this summer in implementing an awareness campaign to educate and train institutions and the public on the Disability Rights Convention and the new Salvadoran Disability Rights Laws. I will also help the organization create a communications and media strategy, advance the organization’s advertising campaign, and help to create a website, among other initiatives. During my own time, I plan to conduct independent research on human rights abuses in El Salvador, the San Salvadoran/El Salvadoran perception of human rights abuses in their country and their role in decreasing violence, and the El Salvadoran meaning of ‘human rights.” The information I gather through my personal research will be used for an article to be published in the next academic year and/or outreach to human rights organizations through talks and presentations.

Soon, I will attempt to give you a more comprehensive background on the landmine situation in El Salvador. Here is a quick summary (per the Survivor Corps-LSN website, http://www.landminesurvivors.org/where_elsalvador.php): “When El Salvador’s twelve-year civil war ended in December 1992, an estimated 20,000 landmines were in the ground. The war left many people in the country disabled and in need of continuing medical, psychological/social care, and rehabilitation. People with disabilities are generally treated within the national health care system, although access to medical care and rehabilitation can be quite limited, particularly in rural villages and poor urban areas.

To date, more than 647 landmine survivors and amputees have been assisted by LSN-El Salvador Outreach Workers. Peer support includes home and hospital visits, employment training, small business training and advocacy and human rights training…”

Please feel free to add comments or opinions on my entries. For now, I thank you for taking the time to read and encourage you to stay tuned!

Posted By Larissa Hotra

Posted May 21st, 2008

1 Comment

  • Alex

    June 2, 2008

     

    Great stuff you’re doing! Can’t wait to read about some of the stories.

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