This month we begin a new feature on our blog, Country Spotlight. In addition to our general blog content, each month we will be sharing a series of articles about one of our ten partner countries. We hope our Country Spotlight will give readers a deeper picture of the work we do around the world.
We kick things off with a focus on El Salvador and an interview with Country Director Ricardo Alcides Candray Menendez, who joined Feed the Children in 1991. Special thanks to Mayra Humphrey and Meylin Quan for conducting the interview.
How did you first get into this work? Why focus on children specifically? The opportunity arrived at the right time. I was called for an interview and found out this was my true calling. I decided to focus on children, first of all because I have children of my own. I have never had to see them go through hard times—so the passion started thanks to my children. But I also feel whole when I see the smiles on the faces of the children we serve, because I know that at least they had a decent meal on that day.
What motivates you in your work? Is there a person, story or statistic that gets you out of bed in the morning and keeps you going? What motivates me is being able to help children, mothers, families and communities. There is a child that I met a long time ago. His name is Edwin, from the community of El Refugio. His father suffered from alcoholism, so he looked up to me as a father figure. Edwin is now all grown up, because we gave him an opportunity [to grow and thrive]. So every child I meet in a community reminds me of Edwin.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing children and families in El Salvador, and how does Feed the Children address those challenges? Some of the biggest challenges are poverty, hunger, unemployment and health. Feed the Children’s four-pillar approach helps address these challenges. In fact we do much more than provide food—we teach and empower children, parents, care providers, and their communities to reverse malnutrition and defeat hunger. The four pillars of our child-focused community-development program are Food & Nutrition, Health & Water, Education, and Livelihoods.
Is there a recent story you can share about the work being done in El Salvador on behalf of children? We recently have been receiving donations from Vitamin Angels. Now children below the ages of 5 are receiving Vitamin-A supplementation, and the mothers that are pregnant are also receiving prenatal vitamins, which makes me really happy because this vitamin helps with vision, particularly in low light. Chronic deficiency can cause blindness.
What’s one misconception people in the United States might have about El Salvador? What would you want us to know about this country? The most common misconception is that only delinquents and gangs live in this country. We would like for people to know Salvadorians are nice, responsible and hardworking people. Not all the population are wrongdoers. Millions of Salvadorians love their country and believe in God.
Just for fun:
Interests and hobbies: Soccer
Favorite vacation destination: United States
Favorite restaurant: “Mariscos Beto” ( Beto’s Shrimp)
Favorite scripture: Philippians 4:13
Favorite American city: Pasadena
Favorite song/artist: Marcos Witt
What did you want to be when you were 6 years old?: Teacher
Top 3 on your bucket list: Go to Africa; Get involved in a mission to help evangelize people; That all of my family is converted to believing in God and Jesus Christ.
Your favorite day at Feed the Children so far? In October 2013 when we received a donation to build our new feeding center in the community of La Labor.