Amid COVID-19, dozens of talented teen musicians from Compassion centres across El Salvador are using their musical gifts as a tool to find community during the lonely time of isolation.

The group came together virtually to cover the song, “Days of Elijah”, led by their conductor and dressed in their best clothes, recording individually from inside their bedrooms or outside their homes.

Take a listen to their beautiful cover!

The group is part of Compassion El Salvador’s official orchestra, made up of 115 teenagers from 17 different Compassion centres. The orchestra is a way to develop the skills of local teens and give them an outlet to explore ideas and emotions safely.

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Meet the Musicians

Name: Enmanuel

Instrument: Saxophone

A teen boy is playing a tenor saxophone

17-year-old Enmanuel is a saxophonist in the Compassion orchestra. He describes himself as a young boy with hope, who loves life and music. Living in a lower-income community known for its constant soldier presence due to gang violence, Enmanuel finds solace in his music.

“Playing music is a way to escape from the reality where I live. When I play my sax, I feel free from my reality and that makes me happy,” he says.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, every rehearsal and performance with the orchestra brought Enmanuel happiness. Now, the group still has the opportunity to meet in virtual classes and practice individually at their home, which keeps Enmanual full of hope.

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Name: Jennifer

Instrument: Voice and Guitar

Young teen girl stands and smiles wearing a purple dress.

This photo was taken before the COVID-19 lockdown.

A Compassion-sponsored child since she was just four, Jennifer’s passion for making music started when her centre director took her to attend the Compassion orchestra concerts.

“Every presentation was magic. The sound of the music and voices made me feel chills and filled me with happiness.”

Jennifer waited and prayed for years before being accepted to join the orchestra. Through music, she’s refined her musical gift and grown in confidence. During the pandemic, Jennifer has had the opportunity to improve her vocal ability and guitar skills.

“The isolation gives me time to learn songs on the guitar and also reinforce my vocal technique,” says Jennifer. “Listening and making music lifts up my spirit.”

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Name: David

Instrument: Trombone

A teen boy poses with his trombone

During the pandemic, David invests one hour a day into personal rehearsal time. Music has helped him develop and grow in many areas of his life.

“When the teacher teaches music to us, we need to be very disciplined to get the correct interpretation of a song. This same discipline is one I have had to apply in many aspects of my life, and that has helped me give my best in every situation,” he says.

Members of the orchestra pose together at a gala event

Members of the Compassion El Salvador Orchestra pose together at an event. This photo was taken before the COVID-19 lockdown.

Before the pandemic, the orchestra gave local teens new opportunities to play in national theatres, exclusive hotels and amphitheatres. Though they look forward to the day these opportunities continue, each member has found great hope in being a part of the orchestra virtually through the pandemic. Thanks to the creative leadership of their centre directors, their online experiences together continue to lift their young spirits and give them a feeling of being part of a family, even in isolation.

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Safe Shelter after Tropical Storm Amanda 

One of the homes that was destroyed by Tropical Storm Amanda.

As the sun rose on the morning of May 31st, Tropical Storm Amandaa short but destructive tropical cyclone that caused flooding and landslides across Central America and Mexico took the citizens of El Salvador by surprise. In the torrential flood of mud and water, many Compassion-assisted families, like Transisto’s, lost their homes and belongings.

Transisto, her husband and their grandson, who they have been raising since he was five months old.

“While I packed some clothes for my boy in a backpack, I felt scared. I was crying, and I said to my boy, ‘For sure, the brothers of the Compassion centre are already coming for us.’ They always help us when we need help. And thanks to the Lord, when we finally were able to get out of the house, they were there and took us to the shelter,” says Transisto.

A safe place to rest

Before Tropical Storm Amanda hit, Compassion’s church partners had already planned out how to house families amid the pandemic. Many of the public shelters were hosting people who had been diagnosed with COVID-19, so staff decided to prepare their church buildings to host families in a safe environment.

Families find shelter at a local Compassion centre.

In the aftermath of the storm, church partners were ready to support families by providing shelter. One of these churches is Family Congregation of God Assembly who, following social distancing protocol, is sheltering 16 families—a total of 76 people.

Feeling like home

Along with counselling and spiritual care at the shelter, each person receives a biosafety and personal hygiene kit, a mattress, blankets, towels, clothes, food, medicine, face masks, toys and gel sanitizer.

Each family also receives three full meals a day, plus two snacks. In many cases, this is more food than the family normally can afford.

“This colourful blanket with a flower print is one of my favourite things that I received in this shelter because it is soft and warm,” says eight-year-old Angelo.

Today, these families have a safe place to stay until the government declares it safe to return to their houses. Despite their fears and loss, these families have felt the deep care and support from Compassion’s church partners and are relieved to know they will continue to be supported, even after the crisis.

Here are some prayer requests from our Compassion El Salvador team:

  • Pray for the children, staff, volunteers and their families’ safety and health while they are at home. May God give them peace and faith during this crisis.
  • Pray for the national office. May God bring them the best strategies to continue to respond to this pandemic.
  • Pray for El Salvador, that the government’s ongoing preventive measures see results and stop the spread of COVID-19.

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You can help families affected by COVID-19 through our disaster relief fund.

Make a donation 

For our most up-to-date information on COVID-19, please visit our updates page.

Words by Alejandra Zuniga and Laura Phillips

Written by: Compassion Canada