El Salvador

Population facets: 

Partner Organization:  FUSAL (Fundacion Salvadorena Para La Salud y el Desarrollo Humano)

Location:  La Libertad, El Salvador

Number of Students:  2 students

Dates:  Flexible but must also factor availability and schedule of site mentor.  Typical U.S. departure has been during the third or fourth week of May.

In person opportunities summer 2021: Yes

Virtual opportunities summer 2021: To be determined

Participation Requirements:

  • Language & Proficiency Requirement:  Proficiency in Spanish required
  • Gender Requirement:  None
  • Required Experience:  Interest in public health and healthcare necessary.  Experience in basic medical skills (i.e. EMT certified, blood pressures, vital signs, measurements, etc.) is recommended but not necessary. 
  • Major Requirement:  Open to ALPP or SCPP pre-med, science majors, or healthcare related majors (public health, nutrition, etc.)
  • Student Minimum Age:  None
  • Special Requirements:  Interest in the history of El Salvador and Central America especially the political and religious dimensions including memory and martyrdom.
  • Other:  Interest in the history of El Salvador and Central America especially the political and religious dimensions including memory and martyrdom.

Special Training Required Prior to Summer Deployment: (The following sessions and workshops will be organized and provided by the ISSLP during the spring semester. Additional training sessions may be added as needed)

  • Red Cross Certification
  • Self Defense

Site Description:  

See the official FUSAL website: www.fusal.org

FUSAL is a non-governmental organization dedicated to supporting human development programs with active community participation aiming to improve the quality of life of all Salvadorans through health care and education.  Their aim is to improve the quality of life for poor Salvadorans through health education and the provision of medical material aid to over 250 partner health outposts, clinics, and hospitals.

Scope of Work & Responsibilities:

Notice: Scope of work may have some changes based on the needs of the partner organizations at the time of student arrival/engagement. 

This site will be in person for summer 2021. Virtual opportunities are still being determined.

Students generally begin their ISSLP in the capital city of San Salvador for a few days of orientation on Salvadoran history and culture with an American journalist who has been residing in El Salvador for decades and serves as the program’s site mentor.  

ISSLP students have worked in the past in two projects, Libras de Amor and CASSA (Campañia Azucarera Salvadoreña – a private entity that works in conjunction with FUSAL). Libras de Amor is a nutrition program that works with children under 5 years old and pregnant women.  Located in 6 different locations in El Salvador and continuing to expand, Libras de Amor provides basic nutrition education and food assistance to rural and poverty-stricken communities.  ISSLP students accompany the Salvadoran medical teams (consisting of a doctor, nurses, nutritionists, and social workers) to outlying villages and assist in their daily routine which includes loading and unloading the supplies; transcribing attendance lists; filling, explaining, administering prescriptions provided by the medical professionals; assist in basic examination procedures (vital signs; blood pressures; height, weight, cephalic measurements; listening to internal sounds, etc.); plotting and completing growth charts; shadow during prenatal and postnatal checkups and nutritional analyses; and contribute to discussions with the mothers about public health topics.  Moreover, students assist in the educational activities of the team, which include dynamic games and information sessions, and organize the distribution of medicine and food supplies to the families.  

Students may also accompany medical team members on house calls, nutritional visits, organization-wide events such as conferences and health fairs, and help to administer public health surveys.    

From 2011 to 2014, ISSLP students worked with CASSA healthcare teams (contracted by FUSAL) where they assisted in physical examinations, shadowing doctors and nurses, writing prescriptions, measuring and recording children’s height and weight, cooking demonstrations and health education, distributing micronutrients, assessing and referring patients to the doctor or nutritionist, interviewing patients and filling out medical forms, organizing community volunteers, and generally assisting patients with their needs.  During the summer 2015 students performed similar work with Libras de Amor health team in San Julian and attended some home visits and follow ups with families.

ISSLP students in 2017 worked with Libras de Amor in Arambala (Morazan) and in 2018 & 2019 at La Cordillera (La Libertad.) As part of the Libras de Amor team, students were responsible for measuring children’s height and weight to track their monthly progress, conducting mental stimulation exercises with mothers and children, testing for anemia, providing nutrition consultations for mothers whose children are at risk, and prescribing iron and vitamins. They also had the opportunity to get involved in the “Escuelas de Campo”, which is a sustainable agriculture initiative developed by FUSAL to work towards the goal of sustainable nutrition. Some of the activities in which the students worked were building green houses, teaching community members how to grow and care for plants, and developing strategies on selling and using the products they harvest. In the summer 2021 ISSLP students will perform similar work with Libras de Amor in a rural area of El Salvador.

In 2020, one student worked remotely updating contact information of all the ISSLP participants who completed their ISSLP in El Salvador with FUSAL.

Aside from the public health aspect, students also spend every other weekend with the program’s site mentor, Gene Palumbo, an American journalist who has been living in El Salvador for more than 30 years.  He and his wife, Guadalupe, provide the students with the historical, economic, and political background of the country by setting up several visits with individuals and communities who have been affected by poverty due to current social and political issues.  

Housing & Lodging Information:

Students live with the Libras de Amor team members in one of the FUSAL facilities in the country. All the FUSAL buildings are gated and have bedrooms, offices, a meeting room, living and dining rooms, and a large kitchen. Students are expected to share a room and bathroom with one other team member. Grocery shopping and cooking meals are the responsibility of the students, although they will often share these responsibilities with the team. The FUSAL staff members usually travel to visit their families during the weekends.  ISSLP students usually spend 4-5 weekends in San Salvador with Gene Palumbo. The remaining weekends students stay in the assigned location at the FUSAL building, which is an opportunity for them to better know and interact more with the community members. Often times, during these weekends, the students get invitations to visit some of the FUSAL member’s families.

Over the weekends spent with Palumbo in San Salvador, students typically stay at the Centro Loyola retreat house.  Students can take meals at the retreat house or choose to eat out.  Some lunches are provided when visiting communities.

For More Information:

Visit the official FUSAL website: www.fusal.org

Libras de Amor web site: http://www.fusal.org/programas/librasdeamor

Former ISSLP Participants:


Notice: Certain sites may be canceled and other sites added at any point during the selection and orientation process.


upd 09.03.20
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