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.

Week 1: Berta Gets a New Set of Wheels

05 Jun

LSN has kept me extremely busy this week by taking me to sit in on organizing meetings, trainings, and visits to the homes of survivors. Although it’s only been a week, I feel as if I have been there for years already. The events that I have viewed this week have opened my eyes to the extraordinary work that LSN is doing to protect and advance the rights of people with disabilities.

The Week’s Recap: On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I accompanied 3/8 Outreach Workders (OWs) to their respective regions. This involves our driver, Oscar, ferrying us from meeting to meeting outside of San Salvador. To give you a better idea of the layout of EL Salvador, see the following map: The map shows the departmental and zonal distinctions that divide the country.

This week, I have visited Ilobasco (in the Department of Cabanas, in the North), San Pablo Tacachico (in the Department of La Libertad-South), and a hospital in San Salvador. At the meetings, or ‘reunions’, as they are called, the OWs invite people with disabilities to come to the meeting to discuss their disability, how LSN might help them, and how they are able to help themselves. The type of disability-related injuries I viewed were numerous: motor accidents; amputations due to the civil war; diabetes; and malpractice, among others. The survivors are encouraged to invite other people with disabilities to the meetings as well. LSN, however, addresses the needs of individuals with physical disabilities, not mental disabilities.

The video here is a visit to the home of a survivor just outside Ilobasco: [youtube]cLBraiAoMCw[/youtube]

I attended an all-day small business training on Friday in Tacachico, in the Department of La Libertad in the South. The training gave survivors the basics to either begin planning how to run a small business or to strengthen their current business; most attendees belonged in the second camp. I was amazed at just how attentive and interested the attendees were, leaning forward in their chairs in earnest to better understand how to produce a product; how to sell better produce; how to navigate the business of selling and marketing chickens for the holidays; and learning more sustainable ways to manage their farms (the majority of the attendees had businesses in agriculture or fishing, especially of Tilapia). The mantra repeated throughout the training was “anyone can run a successful business-you just need confidence, a positive attitude, and the right tools to do so.” At the beginning of the training, the survivors were split into 3 groups of 3, and chose their own names: “The Survivors”, “The Veterans” and “The Honest Ones.”

I joined the team “Survivors” for the day and received my own diploma from LSN for completing the training. It was a momentous occasion. Now I have the tools to start planning my own agricola (agriculture) business…

Posted By Larissa Hotra

Posted Jun 5th, 2008

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