San José Villanueva, El Salvador for Epilogos

by Ian Maclellan

I spent the last week traveling around San José Villanueva filming a documentary with Casey Atkins for Epilogos Charities. I did a trip 10 years ago with Epilogos and it was really interesting to return to the same families and streets after so much time has passed. The biggest difference has been the drastic increase in gang violence all around El Salvador and it’s now considered the “the homicide capital of the world.” We had armed guards with us much of the time and when we went near the borders of rival gangs the mayor sent along local police and federal military to ensure our safety. Ten years ago, I was able to wander around by myself.

Epilogos was founded by Mike + Susie Jenkins, a truly wonderful couple that met and married while in Peace Corps in El Salvador 50 years ago. Their wedding was a huge deal with the El Salvadoran President and US Ambassador in attendance. After working in New Hampshire, they retired 14 years ago and moved back to San José Villanueva. People still remembered their wedding from 36 years prior and they quickly got to work starting Epilogos and rebuilding friendships and connections in the town. Working with the local community, government, and catholic church, their non-profit weaves its way into every part of the community including: electricity, education, health, dental, clean water, clean stoves, arts, and small business projects. We were there filming their story as they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in the same church they were married in.

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