Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Trip to El Salvador helps locals connect to roots - Gazette

Gandhi Brigade makes documentary to spread understanding of country

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009

Douglas Ceron-Reyes knew his trip to El Salvador with the Gandhi Brigade youth group would help him learn more about his family's Salvadoran roots.

But when Ceron-Reyes interviewed Salvadoran female soldiers for a short film about their fighting in the country's long, bloody civil war, he didn't realize how close to home their experiences would be.

"My mother was going to fight in the civil war," Ceron-Reyes, a Montgomery College student, said Saturday, just a few days after several members of the Gandhi Brigade returned from a 10-day trip to El Salvador. "Instead, she left for the U.S. to live with my grandfather and her brother."

"I didn't know any of this until I got back from El Salvador."

Like many other Salvadorans, Ceron-Reyes' mother fled El Salvador during the war, which began in 1980 and ended in 1992. The war killed an estimated 75,000 people. Through videos they shot with the help of Salvadoran youth groups, the Gandhi Brigade members quickly saw the stranglehold the war still has on the country.

"It's a huge scar on the country that they are still coming to terms with," said Gandhi Brigade Executive Director Richard Jaeggi, adding that he hopes to bring Salvadoran groups to the United States next year.

Eight youth members of the Gandhi Brigade made the trip, from Aug. 1 to Aug. 11, along with several of the Silver Spring-based organization's employees. The trip was funded by the California-based Chino Cienega Foundation and almost $10,000 raised through fundraising events and private donations over the past four months.

The Gandhi Brigade is a Silver Spring-based nonprofit that provides media training to middle school, high school and college students who then promote peace and nonviolence in the community. The El Salvador trip was dubbed a "media exchange" where the Gandhi Brigade youth taught two similar Salvadoran youth groups how to use media to promote their message.

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