This year, after 12 years of increasing our Network of Organizations as well as developing our own project, Pacheco Community, we continued working towards our mission and vision.
Founded in 2006 by Valeria and Armin, Voluntario Global works towards strengthening local development in the communities of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Initially we assisted in just one school support project, yet gradually other organizations contacted us and were added to our Network. Today we work with 17 different projects in Buenos Aires, and have founded two Cooperatives of our own: Su Lavanderia, in 2008, and Pacheco Community Center, in 2014. As a large network of volunteers, institutions and organisations, Voluntario Global aims to generate awareness, knowledge and tolerance through cultural exchange and reflective analysis, to enhance our understanding of the tools required for the social transformation that we seek: ultimately, an economic, social and cultural system that isn't based on self-interest or predation but rather on ties of cooperation, friendship and acceptance.
In 2017, we have seen an average of 7 foreigners each month come to Buenos Aires to volunteer with us. Most of them came from United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany. They worked in various projects, from Teaching English to helping in a Soup Kitchen, most of them visited our own project Pacheco Community Center and got involved in the activities we regularly organize with young people from the local areas. At the beginning of the year, we welcomed our first volunteers in Pacheco, Constanza and Melina.
At Pacheco Community Center, we work toward local development and try to reach sustainability in its three dimensions: environmental, social and economic. We believe that by creating more community experiences, we empower people, youth especially, so they can build their own future and have a better life. We focus on training. We help young people build new capacities by offering a variety of activities such as language courses, music and arts workshops. Not only can they learn about gardening, landscaping and begin an immersion in agroecology philosophy, but also, as the Pacheco Community Center has a greenhouse, students are encouraged to plant fruits and vegetables, which they will be able to sell and generate their own income. Additionally, the students enrolled in the classes we teach have access to many gardening tools so that they don’t have to buy their own.
Our first group of students graduated in 2016. From that first group, we selected 2 students, Lorena and Luz, who are now the main coordinators of the Center and are also in charge of promoting and organizing the new courses. Our second cohort graduated in December 2017, a class of 11 students between 17 and 25 years old.
For the past 12 years we have been renewing our commitment with all the organizations that are part of our Network. Working together with them and, more specifically, being the promoters and coordinators of this Network, imposes on Global Volunteer the challenge of learning how to listen to each organization, their needs, their dreams, their struggles, and the development of strategies to help them solve their problems, understand and use their potential to carry out their social activities in the best way possible.
Beyond the commitment of Global Volunteer with each organization, we believe that a network is a link that strengthens them when they meet and exchange. For this reason, another of our goals for 2017 was to organize a minimum of 4 meetings to remind everyone that they are not alone in difficult times and that sharing our experiences can be enriching and educational for all. So this year we were able to accomplish this.
For the first meeting, in July, the idea was to promote critical thinking starting from the premise that social organizations can build on top of the reality that surrounds them. We set out to think about the realities of each organization and reflected together. Thus, through exchange, we built an idea of how, in daily practice, we exercise critical thinking and how we can pass on that skill to others. In the second meeting, in August, we discussed social organizations as an active piece of democracy in Argentina, because participatory democracy results from people coming together, organizing themselves and fighting to be heard. Our third meeting took place in October and revolved around education and the idea of naturalizing concepts, what we usually see as normal in our lives, what we sometimes think is the only way to do things without giving them too much thought. For example, we think that having a job will allow us to cover for our basic needs, that the school is the only place where we learn, that ownership corresponds only to who can buy it or that doctors are the only ones who know and can decide about our health. In this way and through critical thinking we elaborated a general idea of the most important social issues for which organizations and their communities can build alternatives to the naturalized order.
And for our last meeting, which was organized in Pacheco Community Center, we analyzed the different ideas and activities that were established in the previous meetings and we agreed on the need to build alternatives from a participatory democracy, where education, economics and communication are common places for discussion, where everyone can and should participate in order to achieve a more just and equitable society.
All in all, we believe these meetings foster critical thinking, serve to strengthen our bonds and to meet other people who work like us, in and for the community, and it is very important for us all to talk about our communities’ issues and our daily life at work. All organizations agreed the meeting were a much needed practice for those who work with social issues, they valued the time there because it was enriching, educational and important to strengthen their bonds and feel they are not alone in their fight.
To Voluntario Global, each meeting was an opportunity to reinforce the idea that community is built by people who have a real interest in making this world a better place, people who fight for their dreams no matter what, people who deeply care for others. We are very happy with the achievements made this year and we feel stronger in our vision to connect and empower local organizations in order to take a unified approach to community development. After all, we are community builders.
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