Isla Cordoncillo (El Salvador)
El Salvador, the smallest country in Central America with the highest population density, is emerging from 12 years of civil war and a devastating earthquake in 2001. Isla Cordoncillo is an island in Estero Jaltepeque, an extensive mangrove estuary reaching from Costa del Sol on the coast to the west, to the mouth of the River Lempa to the east. The island has no water or electricity and most islanders are fishermen, laborers or pangeros who run water taxis; most earn $6 - $10 per day. Isla Cordoncillo is nearby the bocana or entrance to the estuary and just north of the peninsula Costa del Sol, site of some tourist development. Cruising yachts have begun to visit Estero Jaltepeque and anchor off Hotel Bahia Del Sol that has served as the gathering point for over nearly seventy yachts in 2005.
Isla Cordoncillo was also identified as the site of a needy school. Outreach meetings between cruisers and teachers and the principal (island resident with four children in the school) determined that the most profound need for the school was to replace the kindergarten/preschool room. The current structure, built as a lean-to off the two room school building, has a dirt floor that floods when it rains, leaking walls and roof and little to no light or ventilation. Fourteen children currently occupy the room, twenty are expected next year.
Crews from cruising yachts at Bahia Del Sol in concert with Colette and Murray Barrett (a couple who have recently built a home on the island) and islanders, proposed to raze the lean-to and build a small, free standing kindergarten of steel, on a concrete pad. A nearby school was used as an example of appropriate design. Thanks to the generosity of many, the project was completed in less than two months for about $2500 including furnishings, dozens of books and learning tools and items for creative play.