The videos are short –3 minutes at a maximum –because smaller files are easier to share over the WhatsApp phone messaging service. The fact that technology limits the length of each video doesn’t bother the ESPERA team, though: the brevity of the clips doesn’t matter, as long as ESPERA women receive the messages of our new emotional wellness programming.
The 12-week Co-escucha (co-listening) program was designed and created by Abigail Martínez Lopez, a Salvadoran psychologist, to help women cope with the pandemic by encouraging them to discuss their feelings with one another. Each week features several videos on a specific topic as well as guided meditations and stories to reflect on.
The first week’s messaging covers the themes of prosperity and abundance, with an emphasis on the natural right of all humans to both. The second week addresses the world of emotions: how to identify them, listen to what they’re telling us, and express them in a healthy way. Abigail explains that emotions are an inner response to changes we undergo or experience in our lives, and are trying to provide us with advice. The theme of the third week is collectivity and collaboration between women, and how to sustain sorority during difficult times. Abigail advises the ESPERA women to hit the pause button on pre-existing conflicts between women in order to prioritize the problems confronting the whole group in common.
As useful and wise as her words are, Abigail doesn’t want to do all of the talking. The goal of Co-escucha is not to dispense advice: it’s to provide a space where women can talk to each other about how the pandemic is making them feel. The videos include guidelines for making those conversations welcoming and validating, such as not offering critique or advice and using “I” statements.
ESPERA women have found the programming useful and informative. Iris Alas, a member of the San Rafael Cedros ESPERA group in El Salvador, said: “I want to thank you for the space that you’ve provided for us on What’s App. I hadn’t seen these types of topics before, but I’m understanding more of the terms that Abigail uses. Thank you very much for the initiative.”
Mary’s Pence is also sharing the Co-escucha materials with Centro de Recursos Educativos para Adultos (Center for Educational Resources for Adults), a former grantee based in New York.
Important ESPERA update: The first tropical storm of the season, Tropical Storm Amanda, has caused much flooding in El Salvador, driving people out of or destroying their homes. The storm began affecting the country on Friday, May 29th and made landfall on Sunday, May 31st. Officials say that at least 11 people died from the flooding and President Nayib Bukele has declared a 15-day state of emergency. Neighboring countries are also experiencing damage from Amanda, especially Guatemala.