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Facing social problems with action (Part 2)

Picture: María Cruz

My friend Victoria (on the right)

Last time, I wrote about a co-worker and activist named Juan. Now I want to turn to my life-long friend Victoria. As I said before, she couldn’t be more different than Juan: She disagrees with the political party in charge of the administration, and sees no point in political action. She is, however, very much involved with her church community, and, in particular, with Manos a la Obra (which means ‘Shoulders to the wheel!’), a project that was started by a college preaching group in Mendoza (a province in the west of Argentina). Since 2008, it has also been held in San Isidro, the neighborhood in the Greater Buenos Aires Area where Vicky lives. The movement draws inspiration from the Christian faith, and it tries to alleviate the effects of extreme poverty.
‘To me Manos is more than simple solidarity; it’s an experience that helps me develop as a professional and as a person,” she told me.

Picture: María Cruz

Victoria and her friends from Manos a la Obra

The project was conceived with an eye to university students who could offer their professional skills to communities in need. Victoria described to me the four pillars of the project: there’s the task, which each volunteer plans out according to their specialty; there’s training, since they need to be personally prepared in order to help others; spirituality comes next, and it is part of working in the community because participants offer their projects to Jesus in prayer and mass; and, finally, leisure time, when volunteers and hosts play games and share the day’s experiences together over mate or tea. The projects the volunteers carry out are designed according to the needs of a given community, and the projects are held once or twice a year.

“Some months before we start, we visit the place and the people. We get in touch with the community in order to acknowledge the needs in situ. It is from this perspective that each individual task (developed in the project) is born. We don’t impose something simply because it is our profession, we always try to offer something that the community needs,” Victoria described.

The faith-based group offers many things: school support, classroom painting, and medical care, among others. My friend often gave dental aid and provided information on hygiene. Victoria said that there is nothing better than volunteering and being able to do what you know best.

Date

June 11, 2012 | 11:05 am

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