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Growing up in a Civil War

The children who lived to tell these stories, have now grown and can tell them with a laugh. These are the kind personal histories a Kiva Fellow can hear as one begins his work with PADECOMSM Credito, Kiva’s newest field partner in El Salvador. PADECOMSM’s strength has come from supporting areas most affected by the civil war.

On a good day, the baker’s children could sell their sweet bread to the army in the morning, and in the afternoon they would be selling the bread to the guerrillas. It was not unusual to ask the young bakers how things were on the other side. Both sides would pay for their bread – perhaps both knew that they might steal the bread once, but there would be no more bread afterward; or perhaps the fighters were ordinary men flung into wars they did not mean to fight. For the young bakers, terms with either side were friendly; both sides would sometimes borrow the bakers’ old truck to run certain errands.

On a bad day, the curfew would restrict all movement from one’s home. Business was impossible, entertainment was negligible. The days were never ending. On the really bad days, the army and the guerrilla would both have shoot outs in the village. No matter how many times it had happened in the past, – out of the blue or out of the dark night – it was sudden, unpredictable, and utterly terrifying. It had been happening for years, for how many more years would it go on? Each time pandemonium broke loose, a merciless stray bullet could hit a mother, a brother, or a friend in another part of town – and there would be no hospital to treat the wound.

In the eastern part of El Salvador, and especially in the state of Morazan, it is easy to find people who had to run for their lives as they are caught under gun fire between the army and the guerrillas. How to forget the running of a mother holding her three day old baby on one hand, and tightly gripping her three small children on other side, while making them desperately wave white flags?

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Carlos Pierre, KF11

About the author

Carlos Pierre

Carlos is a Manager for Kiva's Strategic Initiatives. He is helping push the Kiva's model to go beyond micro-finance institutions to work with universities, agricultural coops, solar power distributors, fair trade companies and other types of social enterprises that can benefit from the use of credit. He covers all the regions except Africa. Born and raised among the blatant inequalities of Mexico City, Carlos graduated from Brown University with a degree focus on development. He has studied in China, Mexico and Japan. For eight years he worked in Tokyo, London and New York as derivatives trader specializing in Emerging Markets at Deutsche Bank and Citi. Carlos also worked as a Kiva Fellow in El Salvador. He is determined to push social change via market mechanisms and wants to help bridge the financing gaps faced by social enterprises.