Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad (CIS)

Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad (CIS)

About

The CIS is a multi-faceted grassroots organization with many programs supporting education, organizing, and social justice. We are looking for people committed to solidarity and social justice to participate in our programs.

We have a Spanish School, an English School, and grassroots programs such as: Access to clean water, Scholarship and Youth Formation, Women's Small businesses, A Fair Trade Store and Election Observation.

Founded
1993
Headquarters

United States

Reviews

Default avatar
Hailey
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I came to Central America to learn some Spanish and gain teaching experience. I just finished my undergraduate in international business and entrepreneurship in December, so I planned to have more international experience before settling down into a real job in the States.

Initially I felt the website was a little sketchy and was weary of a scheme to get me out of $100, so I e-mailed and talked to the staff a little bit before filling out the application. I loved that CIS has language exchange and works with local entrepreneurs and took the risk. I am generally against paying to volunteer and CIS allows the freedom to pay for housing/meals on your own, so I appreciate that. I'm glad I found this program, and would have not preferred it any other way. I have made great friends here, gotten a little bit of a tan, and have accomplished what I came here to do.

Teaching has been a great learning experience. I am always nervous speaking in front of groups, but I have grown close to my students and have enjoyed conversing about social issues with them. I spend an hour or two prepping each class and 3 evenings teaching a week.

Overall this experience has been wonderful! Everything has exceeded my expectations. I have been able to live in El Salvador for a lot less than if I were still in Oklahoma, the discounted Spanish course is great. I'm in a class with only one other student. The weather here (in Jan-Mar at least) is perfect with no humidity. There are beaches, volcanoes, bars, and good food to stay entertained while here. The group goes on many excursions which are around $20-30 a weekend for the ones further away.

What would you improve about this program?
I would have preferred a little more structure or guidance on what to teach, but the program is working on this.
Default avatar
Dulany
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I loved having classes that focused on learning about what's happening here today. Having current events be the core of language instruction was terrific: I could take my questions about El Salvador to class, and I could take what I learned in class and use it outside of school - watching TV, in the news, visiting other parts of the country and talking with Salvadorans.

I studied Spanish in the mornings and taught English 3 evenings a week. A couple of afternoons a week were set aside for field trips to places in or near San Salvador, led by a faculty member. Several weekends had optional excursions to more distant parts of El SAlvador, so there was a lot of opportunity to get to know El Salvador more.

What would you improve about this program?
It was great to be so immersed, but at the same time I could have used a little more free time during the week to do my own wandering. Next time, I'll leave a little space at the end of my stay to do just that.
Default avatar
Maria
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I travelled to El Salvador to study Spanish spring of 2013. It was amazing, the people will always have a place in my heart as they are the kindest I've met. The instruction is top notch and gives you such a good understanding of not only the language but the country itself. At CIS I never felt unsafe, and I made some amazing friends while in the country so I never had a moment of boredom. I would recommend the program to anyone.

What would you improve about this program?
there really isn't one thing that stands out to me that I would change. I loved the classes, the cultural program in the afternoons, and the people at CIS.
Default avatar
Katy
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I’ve been back in Upstate New York for seven months, and not a day goes by where I don’t think about El Salvador. My stay was five weeks, and split between an internship with Foundation Cristosal and Spanish language classes at the CIS. Just last week, one of my graduate courses assigned me to bring an “object that represents climate to you” to class that describes a place where the work climate was very positive and the leadership was strong. I brought my backpack I purchased at the CIS because I can think of no other organization I’ve been involved with that so strongly values its mission (solidarity and exchange) and the experience each individual has there. For starters, the CIS staff is unbelievably dedicated. My teacher Wilmer spent a week riding miles on his bike just to get to our class (for which at that point, I was his only student) when the public transit system was shut down in a paro forzado. Everyone was so welcoming, patient, and kind at the CIS. On my final day, they even had a going away party with snacks, certificates and gifts! When I tell people about the CIS, I often say that I learned more Spanish in five weeks there than I did in six years of language classes in the United States. If you want to learn Spanish quickly and correctly, look no further than the CIS!
Additionally, the host family the CIS connected me with was absolutely wonderful. Roberto, Ivonne, and their children made me feel so welcome, fed me the most delicious food, and made sure that if I was feeling under the weather that I was comfortable. I still keep in touch with them, and really appreciated having a family to stay with that made me feel so welcome in their home.
Outside of the classes, highlights of my time with the CIS included the trip to the University of El Salvador when we were learning about the massacre of 1975, and a trip to Cinquera. The trip to UES was really special because it allowed me to see what college life is like in El Salvador compared to my own experience, and learn about how passionate the students at this institution still are about social justice. It was really amazing to be there on the anniversary date of the massacre and participate in the activities (performances, poetry readings, and art displays) the students put on. The trip to Cinquera was a weekend trip that included a hike in the cloud forest, visits to an iguana farm and artisan jeweler’s shop, and a trip to a nearby town to commemorate the 1984 massacre that happened there. On the anniversary of the massacre, our group, along with several dozen townspeople, marched on the main road to the town chanting, singing, and holding candles. To me, Cinquera was the perfect representation of solidarity and taught me so much more about the history of El Salvador, its politics, the Civil War, and the true compassion Salvadorans have for their country, ancestors, and one another.
So needless to say, I’m pretty passionate about El Salvador because of my experience with the CIS. When I encourage friends to go, one of the first responses I always get is nervousness about the security situation in the country. I can say with complete confidence that I never felt in danger in my time there. I simply did as I was told by the Salvadorans who live there – try not to travel alone, don’t travel with valuables, don’t wear flashy jewelry, use taxis at night…etc. - the same safety precautions I use at home. I know that reading the news can definitely make you anxious to go (I know it did for myself and my family before I got there) but missing out on such an enriching experience for something that won’t be an issue if you adhere to the guidelines would be a huge loss. The CIS makes sure that you are safe, have a good experience, and learn a lot about this amazing and beautiful country. I can’t wait for my next opportunity to return to El Salvador and work with the wonderful people at the CIS!

Default avatar
Dulany
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I loved having classes that focused on learning about what's happening here today. Having current events be the core of language instruction was terrific: I could take my questions about El Salvador to class, and I could take what I learned in class and use it outside of school - watching TV, in the news, visiting other parts of the country and talking with Salvadorans.

I studied Spanish in the mornings and taught English 3 evenings a week. A couple of afternoons a week were set aside for field trips to places in or near San Salvador, led by a faculty member. Several weekends had optional excursions to more distant parts of El Salvador, so there was a lot of opportunity to get to know El Salvador more.

What would you improve about this program?
It was great to be so immersed, but at the same time I could have used a little more free time during the week to do my own wandering. Next time, I'll leave a little space at the end of my stay to do just that.

Programs

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Vicenta Liliana Martinez

Job Title
Spanish School Coordinator and Teacher
I have 20 years of experience in teaching, 10 of those years teaching Spanish. I like history, politics, environmental topics and I promote and run workshops in creating products out of recycled materials.
woman in el salvador in garden

What is your favorite travel memory?

I love to visit the archaeological sites in El Salvador. El Tazumal is my favorite because I learned lots about the indigenous culture in El Salvador, how they lived, and their economic relationship with other indigenous groups in Guatemala and Mexico.

Which destination is most underrated? Conversely, which is most overrated?

Most underrated destination: Visiting towns which still conserve indigenous traditions and values in El Salvador such as Panchimalco or Izalco. Most overrated destination: I can't think of any!

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

I think the biggest factor at the CIS, is our experience. We have over 20 years experience as a school teaching Spanish. We also work directly with rural communities in El Salvador which helps us to better understand the current reality of people and share that with our students.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

We use Popular Education techniques in classes, which requires both students and teachers to learn together at the same time. This means we are continuously improving our culture of solidarity across borders and cultures.

What unique qualities does your company possess?

Our class format allows us to be flexible to students' needs and wants. We can adjust classes to include certain social or grammar topics that students want to learn. We also offer an afternoon program which takes students out of the classroom in the afternoon to important cultural and historical sites. This allows true immersion of students in Salvadoran culture and language.

Describe a time when you felt especially proud to be part of your current team.

I feel proud every time I see a student communicate better with others. I also feel proud when I see people have increased their consciousness regarding El Salvador and social justice. I get to see people change their opinions and grow as human beings.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

Laura was a Spanish student who came a few years ago. She knew a little about El Salvador through her roommate in college. She wanted to know more and studied Spanish and taught English as a volunteer. She was very smart and learned quickly, always wanting to learn more about life in rural El Salvador. When she could communicate better in Spanish, she started to visit more communities in the department called La Paz and build friendships with these communities. The following year she returned again to create a NGO and continue studying Spanish. The NGO helps improve access to clean water in these communities. She was inspiring and it was fun to watch her learn and grow.