This video tells the story of Epilogos Charities, Inc., and captures an exciting week in the town of San José Villanueva, El Salvador.
Many thousands of people in El Salvador and around the world have been touched by Epilogos Charities Inc. since its beginnings in 2002. So how did our organization start? We’ll tell you the story in two parts, as shown below, and you see the Epilogos Charities Inc. video above.
The story may actually start back on October 14, 1960 when a then-candidate for the U.S. Presidency, John F. Kennedy, addressed 10,000 students at a rally at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He issued a challenge to the students there -- how many of them would be willing to serve their country and the cause of peace by living and working in the developing world?
As is well known, Mr. Kennedy became President soon after and established the international volunteer organization known at the Peace Corps in 1961, which has seen more than 210,000 plus Americans serve as volunteers.
Just a few years later, two young volunteers, Susan Mater and Michael Jenkins met during their Peace Corps training in Puerto Rico, and developed a strong friendship. After four months, they were assigned to different villages in El Salvador, where for the next year they served, falling in love with the people of El Salvador. Little by little, ‘Susie’ working in the town of Tacuba, and ‘Mike’ working in the town of San José Villanueva, also fell in love with each other. Mike says he had to take four buses through three rivers without bridges and a mule to visit Susie.
While still in the Peace Corps they were married in 1966 by Archbishop Rivera y Damas who came to San José Villanueva for the “wedding of weddings” that spurred interest across El Salvador. The wedding was unprecedented at the time. Julio Rivera, the El Salvadoran President at the time, and his wife, attended, and were honorary best man and bridesmaid. The church was packed with guests, including the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Raúl H. Castro, and other high-ranking embassy officials, most Cabinet members of the Salvadoran government, the Peace Corps Director and fellow Peace Corps volunteers, and the 2,000 people in the village! Soon after, Mike & Susie’s time of Peace Corps service ended and they returned to the U.S. to start their careers and family for the next 35+ years. But for all those years, Susie & Mike never forgot the faces of their friends in El Salvador.
Jumping to the year 2000, Mike & Susie decided to go back and re-visit their beloved village San José Villanueva in El Salvador to see how things were going during a Peace Corps reunion trip. While there, they also renewed their wedding vows and rekindled friendships with the villagers. It was a momentous reunion.
Mike & Susie, now with two grown children, Jennifer and Michael, and nearing retirement, wondered about the possibilities going forward. Mike was serving as Executive Director of New Hampshire’s Governor’s Commission on Disability. Susie was coordinating adult tutorial programs and classes for foreign visitors, refugees, and immigrants in a “English as a Second Language” program. Both of their career paths had found ways to empower others to become more self-reliant through education and community advocacy.
Their retirement decision became an easy one. They would finish out their careers and move back to San José Villanueva, finding ways to help their neighbors help themselves.
The Jenkins shared this news with their longtime Peace Corps co-worker and friend, Denny Williams, who had already founded a non-profit organization (NGO) based in Michigan called ‘Epilogos Charities’ helping the people of Guatemala and other charities. Denny asked if Epilogos could also help Mike & Susie in their work in El Salvador too, and soon a new working partnership was formed when Mike & Susie returned to again live and work in San José Villanueva in 2002.
Denny Williams had created the name Epilogos… meaning an epilogue to a Peace Corp volunteer’s career, or the next chapter after retirement. The El Salvador need grew year after year, and in 2007, the Epilogos domicile was moved to Mike & Susie’s home state, New Hampshire, and the group was reorganized as a new NGO entity called “Epilogos Charities Inc.”
Today the mission of Epilogos Charities Inc. is to improve the lives of the impoverished people in the town of San José Villanueva by engaging in community development. This means improving the quality of life in many areas, including health, education, housing, employment, water issues, energy, and public sanitation.
Mike and Susie now live full time in New Hampshire, but they continue their active involvement in Epilogos Charities as Ambassadors. They return to San José Villanueva for visits several times each year.