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Central America

“I never thought that we, as regular citizens, could have face-to-face meetings with high public officials, and bring them into our public actions to get their commitment to work with us in solving our community issues.  Knowing how to do research meetings has led to very productive outcomes, and we are learning how to build strong relationships.”  


Recent News

The time-tested PICO leadership development method is successful building leaders among low income people in El Salvador and Guatemala in their parishes and communities. Check out the latest news from Central America.

History & Methodology

PICO Central America is the first international project of the PICO Network. In 2002, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez, Honduras, reached out to PICO to explore his vision of developing grassroots leadership among ordinary people through the Central American Catholic Church.  He saw PICO’s leadership development method as an important tool that complemented efforts by the church to fight poverty in all six Central American countries. Introductory trainings took place across the region over the next few years, and in 2008, Salvadoran grassroots leaders came together to launch their own organization, Comunidades de fe Organizadas para Accion (COFOA). A group of the bishops who invited PICO to Central America continue to support the development of Central American organizing work and the eventual building of organizations in each country.

PICO Central America builds the capacity of ordinary people to become leaders, demonstrating self-reliance and self-sufficiency, and bringing their faith values into the public arena to transform their communities into better places to live, where community members experience justice, dignity and equal opportunities.  As grassroots leaders gain confidence and skills in negotiating with public officials, civic participation is strengthened and together they find solutions to community needs.

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Key Accomplishments

Over the years, COFOA leaders have gotten nearly 12 million dollars of public funding to repair road, bridges, and parks; re-open a community health clinic; improve access to clean water and establish new public safety measures. Over 1,000 grassroots leaders and clergy have been trained across El Salvador since 2008. Currently a core group of 200 leaders work in coaliton with groups across El Salvador to address issues of violence and access to water.  Thousands of people have been reached through listening campaigns to surface their concerns, and over 15,000 have attended large public actions over this time period. 

Violence Reduction Campaign

COFOA leaders took local campaigns against violence from rural villages to the national and international stage. For the three years, thousands of people have marched to say “Stop the Violence”. In April they joined the Caravan for Peace, Life and Justice to march from El Salvador to the United Nations to say, “End the war on drugs”. Leaders met with US Congressional leaders to push for investment in prevention strategies, advocating for a public health and harm reduction approaches to drugs and violence. The also participated in activities at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on International Drug Policy.

Santiago Nonualco

In Santiago Nonualco, 8.5 km of road has been paved between San Antonio Abajo, San Antonio Arriba, and Santa Cruz, valued at $1.5 million. In San Luis Joponita, 1km of road has been repaired valued at $300,000.

Water Rights Campaign

COFOA leaders participate in the “Foro de Agua” and the “Cuidemos la Casa de Todos” national coalitions for the past five years, pressing national legislators for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing water as a basic human right and legislation that prevents privatization and insure access to quality water for every Salvadoran.


In Cuyultitan, the city park in front of the church was repaired and a street in front of the school was paved – together valued at $50,000. A first of its kind alcohol abatement ordinance was enacted and resulted in the closing of bars and illegal alcohol sales. This year a youth organizing committee has been formed.

San Pedro Nonualco

In San Pedro Nonualco, an alcohol abatement ordinance was enacted as well. A clean up campaign netted two dump trucks of trash and raised environmental awareness. A safety campaign resulted in formation of six neighborhood watch groups for public safety to deal with escalating violence.

San Juan Tepezontes

In San Juan Tepezontes, leaders continue to organize a “dialogue and strategy table” where community come together with public officials  to support youth and engage residents in conversation and decisions to build a safe, healthy community free of violence. Another action resulted in the delivery of clean water to the town three times a week as opposed to often contaminated water delivered once or twice a month.


In Zacatecoluca, 350 youth launched the “More Employment and Less Violence” campaign. After sharing stories about these issues, they turned to political leaders from the La Paz to sign a pledge of support. The Mayor of Zacatecoluca promised to support thier efforts. In 2017, they provided resume and interview skills in preparation for a job fair attended by over 100 youth. Organizing is now being initiated in two gang troubled neighborhoods.


In Barahona, leaders have been successful in reopening Casa de Salud, a community health clinic. They have lead the fight for community policing, providing a space for substation and meeting monthly to insure accountability.

El Rosario

In El Rosario, fifty leaders gathered on the main street of the small neighborhood of Galillee to press public officials to make sure they actually own the land they live on. They have secured commitments to advance national legislation providing clear title on properties valued at $1.6 million for more than 100 residents.

San Marcos Lempa, Usulutan

In the Lower Lempa River valley, hundreds of residents have organized meetings and public demonstrations to press public officials including the governor, legislators, the mayor, city council and the Minister of Public Works to improve roads and construct the long promised bridge over Rio Roldan. Road improvements have been completed and construction of the bridge is promised for 2018.

San Miguel Tepezontes

In San Miguel Tepezontes, COFOA leaders are responding to threat of the Zika virus with a public health campaign. One hundred fifty youth and adults kicked off the campaign with a cleanup of the Calvary neighborhood.

San Salvador University Leaders

Student leaders from four Universities in San Salvador are conducting workshops to inform faith, NGO and university leadership about existing drug laws. Following their involvement in the Caravan for Peace through Central America and Mexico to the United Nations Special Assembly on Drug Policy, COFOA leaders continue to press the need to challenge the failed “War against Drugs”.

Santa Teresa

In Santa Teresa, leaders have pressed for road improvement for more than a year. In 2017, they secured a commitment of $300,000 and construction has begun this year. This project employs ten local residents. The community recognized the mayor and celebrated with at Sunday mass and a community breakfast. Women in Santa Teresa have also started a small cooperative to manufacture soap and other products.