Country Spotlight: El Salvador–Kenia Dreams of Shoes

For our next installment of this month’s focus on El Salvador, we’d like you to meet Kenia.

Kenia lives with her parents and her six siblings. The children range in age from nineteen to one—and at age nine, Kenia is right in the middle. Her father has a job, but not a steady one—as a bricklayer, he may earn about $75 a month. Kenia’s oldest sister also works cleaning homes, and brings in a little more than that.

It’s not much for a family of nine. But through luck, hard work and resourcefulness, they make it work. They live together in a small adobe, bamboo and plastic house that’s been in their family for fifty years. The house has electricity but no running water, which means Kenia’s mother spends untold hours hauling water for the household each day. Kenia has one pair of shoes, a pair of synthetic leather shoes donated by the government. She only wears them for school—they’ll last longer that way.

Kenia’s parents are able to put basic meals on the table. But these meals don’t always have the nutrition that Kenia and her siblings need to be healthy in body and mind. Breakfast might be tortillas with beans, or eggs if they’re available. Lunch is often a soup based on seasonal leaves and berries foraged near the home—spinach, blackberries, or chipilin, a legume common in Central America. Dinner is tortillas with salt and lemon, or beans again.

“My mom used to be very sad every day because my sisters, brothers and me didn’t have enough food to eat three times a day,” Kenia says. It made Kenia feel weak not to have enough food in her belly.

Kenia’s story is common in El Salvador. Overall, the national percentage of malnutrition is 19%, but the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that some areas of El Salvador have malnutrition rates approaching 50%.

Thankfully, Kenia and her school-age siblings benefit from a Feed the Children feeding center at her school. It was ten years ago that this partnership began with a group of mothers whom Feed the Children helped mobilize to provide a nutrient-rich hot meal every school day. Today the mothers continue to be the backbone of the program, coming together to prepare and serve meals to some 100 children.

The community also benefits from a community greenhouse that helps provide vegetables to cook in the feeding center, which saves money. Feed the Children brings in medical personnel to the community each year so people can receive annual checkups. And children older than 6 years of age receive medicine to prevent intestinal parasites.

Kenia with her favorite toy, a teddy bear named Daniel
Kenia with her favorite toy, a teddy bear named Daniel

With the support of Feed the Children, and the community development work Feed the Children has fostered, Kenia and her peers can grow and thrive. Kenia dreams of working in an office someday, perhaps as a secretary. After getting by with one pair of shoes for so long, she wants to have enough money to buy “pretty shoes.” For some, that might see like a modest dream. But for Kenia, it’s a sign of success and a better life.

Thanks to everyone who supports Feed the Children—through your donations, children like Kenia can dream their dreams and work to achieve them. With your help, hunger has an expiration date. Learn more about our work and how you can be involved.