Preserving natural resources and improving local infrastructure
Chalatenango, El Salvador
GIIP fellow Gail Chadwin spent Summer and Fall quarter in Chalatenango, El Salvador, helping a local NGO preserve natural resources and improve the local infrastructure and economy. Working with the Intermunicipal Technical Unit (UTI) of the Association of Municipalities Mancomunidad La Montañona (MLM), Gail’s project focused on enhancing the UTI’s organizational capacity.
Some of Gail’s most exciting work improved the UTI’s utilization of information technology. She first created a database of possible grants and foundations to which the organization could apply for funding. Finding the right foundations proved difficult, but Gail’s final database included several promising opportunities. She also observed how the UTI used technology over several months, and wrote an extensive assessment on how they could increase their technical capacity.
Near the end of her stay, Gail took charge of improving the municipalities’ internet presence as well. Looking to improve the local economy, the MLM wanted to attract tourists, but was having trouble marketing on a wide scale. Gail’s solution was to write Wikipedia pages for each municipality. When their original contractors didn’t come through, she also picked up the task of creating a website for the UTI. “I eventually grew tired of waiting and, with the support of the rest of the staff, completed a design and wrote content for the site in both English and Spanish… I taught two of the staff members how to update it, using Joomla!, a Content Management System, during my last week of work.”
In addition to her technical work, Gail got involved in the UTI’s community projects. She was the organization’s representative at the Intersectorial Committee for the Rescue of the Tamulasco River, and was able to meet with community members, representatives of nonprofits, and local government officials, including the mayor of Las Vueltas. She also taught English at the local school and to forest rangers who needed to be able to communicate with tourists.
“My work with the Mancomunidad was overall very rewarding.” she says, “I enjoyed working on all of the technology and other projects and learned a lot through my work.” Gail was able to use the skills she learned from GIIP throughout her project for the technical assessment, the grants database, and in creating a Joomla! site. Hopefully, the work I completed will help to improve the organizational capacity of the Unidad Técnica and the staff.”