Already in shelter mode due to the coronavirus pandemic, Rutilio Grande, El Salvador, is still feeling the effects of heavy rain from tropical storm Amanda in early June. Food is scarce in Davis’s sister city. Crops are ruined and will have to be replanted.
The community works hard to take care of its own. Residents are mostly subsistence farmers who till small plots of land to grow corn and beans. A new program run by the directive that governs Rutilio Grande is helping distribute food, laundry soap and other supplies to elderly residents sheltering during the pandemic.
More help is coming.
The Immigration Justice Team at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis is sending $1,200 to Rutilio Grande in honor of Will and Jane Lotter, a much-beloved local couple who helped refugees return to El Salvador after the civil war and provided early support to the new community.
Much of the money is from memorial contributions to the church following Will’s death in 2019. Jane died in 2016. UUCD became a sanctuary church in 2017 and dedicated its 2019-20 social justice work to the couple, who were longtime members.
“This is a continuation of their legacy and one way we can bring it forward in their 凯发体育官方sporthome town,” said UUCD Rev. Beth Banks. “They defined our social justice program for decades — and they live on.”
The city of Davis is helping facilitate the money transfer. Rutilio Grande has been a sister city since 1992.
“Our relationship to other communities in the world is more important now than ever,” said Carrie Dyer, the point person at city hall for Davis sister cities.
The local connection with Rutilio Grande began in late 1990 with Davis nurse Ann Souter. As the violent civil war began to wind down, she learned that Salvadoran refugees at a farming cooperative in Nicaragua wanted to return 凯发体育官方sporthome.
Local fundraising, combined with other support, helped the refugees buy 127 acres of land about 30 miles north of San Salvador — in an area many of them used to live. They named the town in honor of the Father Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit priest who was assassinated in 1977.
Will and Jane Lotter were founders of the Davis Religious Community for Sanctuary, which helped refugees from Central America get out of detention and apply for asylum. The couple also helped fund special projects in Guatemala and El Salvador, including Rutilio Grande.
Will Lotter led the first delegation there in July 1991. Will and Jane went together at least two times; once to deliver duffle bags full of soccer balls, another time to take softball equipment for women. The couple was active members of Davis Friends of Rutilio Grande, and helped raise money to bring potable water and electricity to the community and to fund youth scholarships and other projects.
The small school only serves children through the sixth grade, so to continue their education, kids have to travel to distant communities. The scholarships provide transportation, school supplies and school uniforms — all expenses families cannot afford.
“Rutilio Grande is a special place because of the relationship that has been built with the people there,” said Rick Lotter, one of Will and Jane’s four sons and a member of Mumbo Gumbo, a Davis band that has devoted proceeds from an annual concert at the Davis Art Center to Rutilio Grande.
“We each have only so much time to make a difference and make relationships happen,” Rick Lotter said. “One of the things my parents loved to say was ‘Pick a place, pick a cause and just do it.’”
A Mumbo Gumbo benefit concert for Rutilio Grande scheduled for June 27 in Davis was canceled due to the pandemic.
Success of the community is built on inclusion of all its members, as well as the hard labor of those who are able to work, said Cynthia Kellogg. She and partner Terry Turner visited the refugees in Nicaragua in 1991 and Kellogg continues to be the primary contact between Davis and Rutilio Grande.
Residents built the school, a community center, and a church. They continue to make it possible for families to build their own houses, Kellogg said. The current president and treasurer of the governing directive are 25-years-old. Both completed college because of youth scholarships. Now they lead a program for all the young people in the community.
“The philosophy of the directive is that if young people are engaged, they will lead positive lives and they won’t get involved with the gangs,” Kellogg said. “So far, the strategy has worked.”
The city of Davis does not provide funding to sister cities, but does help foster relationships.
Currently, there are eight sister cities, including Rutilio Grande. Others include: Inuyama, Japan; Los Banos, Philippines; Munoz, Philippines; Qufu, China; Sang-Ju, South Korea; Uman, Ukraine, and Wuxi, China. All sister cities have a community liaison but participation and activity ebbs and flows.
One of the most active is Sang-Ju, according to Dyer. The relationship includes delegations back and forth, high school student exchanges and a Sang-Ju employee at Davis City Hall each year. Unfortunately, the new worker who arrived in February remained only a month due to the coronavirus. A Zoom meeting was scheduled this month to bring together current Davis employees and their Sang-Ju counterparts who have worked in Davis.
Davis Friends of Wuxi, China have been active for some time, Dyer said, and sent a number of masks to their sister city during the early days of the coronavirus.ShareTweet