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Dear friends,

This report captures a snapshot of the work we have accomplished during 2020-2021, The Covid Years. As the most recent surge passes and we think, again, about what a new normal will be, we are also keenly aware of the trauma that we all carry from this pandemic. Not just because of COVID-19, but the glaring inequities that it has revealed. In the USA, we face increased community violence, cries for racial reckoning and rethinking of policing and justice, and heightened awareness of long-established inequities. In Central America, we confront fragile democracies, constant migration and family separation, and the legacy of colonization and marginalization. 

Trauma has become a buzzword, but also has become key to understanding how each of us is surviving the uncertainty, inconsistency, and isolation of this moment that has been two years long. It’s a lens to better understand the individuals and communities that ConTextos has always served⎯youth and adults at the margins, those whose stories and experiences are often excluded and ignored.

At ConTextos, we’ve been using a trauma-informed lens long before COVID. Now, our work has renewed urgency because we all understand how paralyzing trauma can be, and the hurt that is inflicted and exacerbated by institutions and routines we used to trust. In this report, you will read about how our trauma-sensitive approaches respond to the roots and fruits of trauma in order to help reduce harm, foster healing, and promote self-actualization.

With your support we have humbly been able to accompany those who bear the greatest wounds at a time of so much hurt for all of us.

With love and gratitude,

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Letter from Founder
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In this report, we look back at 2020-2021, the Pandemic Years, describing our programs according to how they address the fruits of trauma, but trauma is complex and so are our engagements⎯no program responds to just a single reaction of trauma, even if that’s how we explain them in this digital report. 

This 2-year report aims to describe ConTextos work through a trauma-informed lens, to understand how we use the power of narrative, story, literature and dialogue to address the complex roots and fruits of trauma. It’s also the first time we are presenting our results as a transnational organization, not separated by site. The numbers we reach are such a limited way to view our impact. As you scroll through, we emphasize only some of the dozens of initiatives we’ve led during the pandemic using the lens of practice and not the timeline of the pandemic. 


ConTextos got two new homes, in Utila, Santa Tecla in El Salvador and, thanks to a visionary funder, at 2240 S Michigan in Chicago’s historic Motor Row.

We also expanded our impact to reach young across the region! 

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Trauma & Adversity
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Not “What’s wrong with you?” but
"What happened to you?"

We know that seemingly senseless behavior is not random. Personal and community history shape current and future behavior. At ConTextos, we guide individuals and communities to make meaning of their histories and redefine their present.


Research shows us that trauma splits life into two. Before, there is wholeness; after, there is fracture. Before, there was a sense of connection, safety, dignity. After, there is fear, grief and despair.


ConTextos' work aims to excavate the roots of our trauma by learning to articulate what we have experienced. Where there is isolation, we build connection. Where there is despair, we foster hope. Where there is grief, we promote healing. When traumatic experience hardens identity and cements resilience, we provide support to bring softness and vulnerability.

All of Contextos programs respond to the different ways that individuals experience trauma and other forms of significant adversities. We explore, not only the consequences of these traumatic experiences, but also their roots and means of perpetuating themselves. We foster the necessary emotional safety so that this level of deep reflective exploration can be done courageously. The vast majority of those we work with have been victims of violent trauma. Some have also perpetuated acts of violence. Our job is to remind those we serve and ourselves as facilitators, that violence does not have to define us, though it may transform us. We channel the pain into purpose

“I think of the healing of trauma as a dynamic process which affects up and down the intergenerational line,” explains Dr. Selena Sermeño, psychologist and expert on trauma and restorative practices. “Growing new roots and claiming elements of our past helps us survive and thrive.”

Our programming directly addresses these issues. 

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PROGRAMS IN 2020-2021

Trauma Creates Isolation.

Our work creates connection.  

Circles set the stage for intimate, vulnerable sharing and build group trust as participants agree to engage in respectful dialogue. 

Our pioneer program Authors Circle / Soy Autor continues to grow and expand and, during shelter-in-place, served as a template to create broader connections when we were all most isolated. Traditionally, Authors Circle targets those who bear the greatest burdens of generational trauma, building trust and vulnerability as participants draft, revise and publish the stories of their lives. This process of excavating our unfinished business helps recognize and reconcile the past in order to lay a foundation for a new future; sharing our experiences builds community and connection

Authors to date




22 Authors Circles
497 Authors
To Date: 983 Authors

El Salvador


14 Authors Circles
276 Authors
To date: 1,091 Authors

Scroll left or right to see more.

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2020-2021 DONORS


Foundation, Corporate, and Government Funders

  • Alcaldia Municipal de San Martin

  • Albert Pick, Jr. Fund

  • Apple, Inc. 

  • Arts Work Fund for Professional Development

  • Asher, Gittler & D'Alba Ltd.

  • Banco Davivienda Salvadoreño S.A

  • Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo

  • Benevity Community Impact Fund

  • BLP Abogados

  • The Carrot Concept

  • Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies

  • City of Chicago Biz Strong Grant

  • The Chicago Community Trust

  • Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events

  • Chi-Ron Foundation

  • Cinemark El Salvador Ltda. De C.V

  • Colegio Internacional de San Salvador, S.A.

  • Creative Associates International, Inc.

  • The David and Reva Logan Foundation

  • Echoing Green

  • Fidelity Charitable

  • FLACSO El Salvador

  • Focus on Health

  • Focus Central America

  • Fondo de las Naciones Unidas para la Infancia

  • Fundación Aldea Infantil Pestalozzi

  • Fundación Caoba

  • Fundación Gloria de Kriete

  • Fundación Calleja

  • Fundación Herberth De Sola

  • Fundación Izote

  • Fundación Jóvenes por una América Solidaria

  • Fundación De Sola

  • Fundación POMA

  • Greenhouse Group, LLC

  • Hábitat para la Humanidad El Salvador

  • Heestand Foundation Inc.

  • Illinois Arts Council Agency

  • Illinois Department of Human Services-Healing Illinois

  • Illinois Humanities

  • JP Morgan Chase & Co.

  • Kovler Family Foundation

  • The MacArthur Fund for Culture, Equity, and the Arts at Prince

  • Ministerio de Educación, Ciencia y Tecnología

  • Patricia Price Peterson Foundation

  • The Poetry Foundation

  • Polk Bros. Foundation, Inc.

  • PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Ltda. De C.V.

  • Prince Charitable Trusts

  • Resurrection Lutheran Church

  • Ross Family Foundation

  • Ruca Foundation

  • Schwab Charitable

  • El Tamarindo, S.A. De C.V.

  • The Strachan Foundation

  • Tengelsen Family Foundation, Inc.

  • Tutta Bella, S.A De C.V

  • United Way Metropolitan Chicago

  • The Whitehead Foundation

  • The Winters Group Fund to Promote Diversity & Inclusion at Rochester Area Community Foundation

  • The Zemurray Foundation

  • 2V Trading El Salvador, S.A De C.V

Individual Donors

  • Abby Agnew

  • Adria Aguado

  • Javier Alfaro and Minina de Alfaro

  • Diane Altkorn

  • Eduardo Alvarenga

  • Maria Elena de Alvarez

  • Anna Amato

  • Ben Amchin

  • Elizia Artis

  • Nelson Iván Lara Asunción

  • Richard Badger

  • Betsy Banks

  • Andrew Barash

  • Anthony Barash and Terri Hanson

  • Matt Barash

  • Alison Bean

  • Ronald Beer

  • Tanya Beer

  • Raul Benitez

  • Edwin H and Andrea F Benn

  • Martin Berger

  • Andrew Blanco and Sharyl Wong

  • Maria Pilar Blanco and Conor Power

  • Daniel Blumenthal

  • Julian Blumenthal

  • Maria Carolina Bodewig

  • José Raúl Trujillo Bonilla

  • Marigny Bostock

  • Lisa Brosig

  • Timothy Buckley and Kelly Marie Leroux

  • Maria Calzadilla

  • Gabriel Cardenal

  • Dori Caruso

  • Duane Castaldi

  • Ricardo Cevallos

  • Rabbi and Ms. Adam and AJ Chalom

  • Alexandra Chamorro

  • Mary Helen Chappetto

  • Chhamthyda Chhuan

  • Kate Cohn

  • Edward Cooper and Patricia De Biasi

  • Juliette Cordova

  • Jennifer Coreas

  • Jenna Craig

  • Kathleen Davin

  • Mary Drout

  • Gloria and Pete Dusenberry

  • Rahm Emanuel and Amy Rule

  • Emily Ente

  • David and Deborah Epstein

  • Michael Erdman

  • Rachel Erdman

  • Julie Ertz

  • Robin Fellers

  • Jason Fenster

  • Joyce Feuer

  • James Flynn

  • Larry Ford

  • Paul Francis

  • Deborah Franczek

  • Daisy Gamboa

  • Concepción Eugenia Ghiringnello

  • Gina Marta Ghiringnello

  • Rebecca Ginsburg

  • Carol Gittler

  • Debra Gittler

  • Pamela Gittler

  • Irene Glasner

  • Lindsay Goldner

  • Leah Graham

  • Marilynn and Ron Grais

  • Dan Grant

  • Andy Greene

  • Charles and Jill Gross

  • Monika Gude

  • María Marta de Gutierrez 

  • Stephen Hagan

  • Joshua Hahn

  • Edward Hamburg

  • Anne Hand

  • Pati Heestand

  • Katie Hill

  • Marvin Hoffman

  • Kathleen Hogan

  • Tracey Horwich

  • Lisa Hurwitz

  • Eric Iwamoto

  • Jenny Eva Jacobs

  • Francesca Jessup

  • Nancy Jones

  • Ianna Kachoris

  • Thea Kachoris-Flores

  • Cathy Kahn

  • Eleanor Kahn

  • Ethan Kahn

  • Suzy Kahn Weinberg

  • Arnold and Carol Kanter

  • Meg Katz

  • Carri Kaufman

  • Hal Kaufman

  • Leonard Kazmerski

  • David Kelly

  • Michiko Kobayashi

  • Molly Bett Kolver

  • Robert Lawson

  • Jonathan Ledsky

  • Molly Lee

  • Jerrica Liao

  • Elidia Margarita Lindo

  • Wai Ling

  • Catherine Luchins

  • Gabrielle Lyon

  • Pavan and Thyda Makhija

  • Suzanne Malec-McKenna

  • Alan Martin

  • Florence Mathies

  • Darlene McCampbell

  • Paul McCarthy

  • Max Mearsheimer

  • Alejandra Mejia

  • Miguel Armando Paniagua Melendez

  • David and Carol Mersky

  • Abby Meyer

  • David Minkus

  • Kristie Monast

  • Miss Georgia Murphy

  • Elizabeth Murphy Barash and Art Murphy

  • Joel Newton

  • Eleanor O'Donnell and Mr. Matt Webber

  • Michelle Oberman

  • Gail Okin

  • Carroll Oynes

  • Jimena Paredes

  • Jose Paredes Piñeda

  • Gwyneth Parmar

  • Saleem Hue Penny

  • Adan Perez

  • Gabriela Poma

  • Karina Provost

  • Daniela Raffo

  • Richard Ramsay

  • Gloria Raskosky

  • Douglas and Mikele Rauch

  • Amelia Rayno

  • Jon Reid

  • Katarina de Regalado

  • Maria-Paula Regalado 

  • Miguel Regalado

  • Eduardo Reyes

  • Keisa Reynolds

  • Zoila Elizabeth Recinos Rivas

  • Art Robinson

  • Daniel Robinson

  • Vera Lee Robinson

  • Sara Rodríguez

  • Kristin Rosekrans

  • Carlos Palacios

  • Ginger Romero Pardlo

  • Lorna Paredes

  • Gloria Raskosky

  • Lucía Raskosky

  • Ariel Rudolph

  • Anne Ruelle

  • Reyna Santillan Santillan

  • Kyla Saphir

  • Rebecca Scharf

  • Donna Schatt

  • Elizabeth Schonenberg

  • Dr. Katy Scrogin

  • Steven Scudder and Donna Palley

  • Selena E Sermeno

  • Priya Shah

  • Meghan Shehorn

  • Barbara and Michael Simon

  • Laura Singer

  • Barbara Sitrin

  • Deborah Sitrin

  • Tracy Slutzky

  • Amena and Philip Smith

  • Sara Sol

  • Glen Spear and Myra Wagner

  • Sherri Spear

  • Scott Stiffle

  • Susan Stone

  • Verna Stovall

  • Siri Striar

  • Nick Summers

  • Linda Swift

  • Karyn Karyn Taeyaerts

  • Wade Thomson

  • Martha Trueheart

  • Harald Uhlig

  • Lisa Vahey

  • Victoria Varney

  • Ryan Volsen

  • Merrilee Waldron

  • Patricia Washington

  • Mary Wasmer

  • Eleanor Weber

  • Mallory Weber

  • Marisa Wexler

  • Sandy Wilder

  • Joe Yuan

  • Mike Zee


ConTextos Chicago

2240 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60616

ConTextos El Salvador

Final 8a. Calle Ote. #38 Colonia Utila, Santa Tecla, El Salvador

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