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Archive for the ‘Argentina’ Category

solitarioc-1For almost seven weeks, I have had the privilege of spending every day with the women of Mi Perrito Cooperative in Villa Elisa, Argentina. Through my internship, I have had the ability to see the trials and tribulations that face start up business in impoverished communities. I have also witnessed the power of community support as the women of the cooperative have tried to create a successful project with the hope of providing not only for their families, but for the improvement of their neighborhood.

The sewing cooperative was started two years ago by a couple of mothers whose children attended Arco Iris, a community center that provides educational and social development as well as nutritional meals to over 70 children in the neighborhood. Before I arrived, the group had focused solely on the production of dog clothing. This endeavor had been fairly profitable, but the group had reached a plateau in sales. Also, this past February, a terrible flood hit the area, wiping out a significant portion of their stock, as well as forcing them to spend much of their budget on the repairing of their sewing machines. A few months previous to the start of my internship, though, they received a contract from a fair trade association based in La Plata called Otro Mercado to make baby clothing.

solitarioc-2Within my first few days, representatives from Otro Mercado came to the cooperative to bring the necessary materials to carryout the order, including a professional fabric cutter. After two or three days of use, it was obvious that this machine would become a lifesaver for the group. Work that used to take them and hour now took ten minutes, as they were able to cut multiple layers of fabric at once. In turn, the project I ultimately decided to pursue was the purchase of a fabric cutter and other organizational materials that would turn the workspace into a sewing shop. I realized that what the cooperative was lacking was neither skill nor initiative to further their production capacity, but simply capital. The women were fully capable of creating higher quality products, yet without the necessary tools, they were forced to rely on dull scissors and faulty machines and to work in a cluttered room that doubled as a closet for the center.

One of the women, Isidora, corroborated my discovery as she recounted her history with the cooperative. She told me that when she first started with the group, she imagined what it would be like if one day they could have professional sewing machines and a workshop that no longer used second hand tools. There is no way to completely recreate how her eyes lit up as she described her pride and excitement when, after only a few months, the new sewing machines the group had bought with a loan arrived. She had always dreamed of running this cooperative as an actual business, but the women had never been given the opportunity to utilize high quality capital.

solitarioc-3The aspirations of all the women are as equally apparent as those of Isidora. When their children run into the workshop to see what “Mom” is working on, they have a great deal of pride as they show them the newest design or technique they are using. At the end of the day, all of their work is done so that their children will have better opportunities. However, they don’t even realize their most significant impact, though it is apparent to all those around them. No matter what financial gains they make for their family, the most important aspect of their work is the example they have set for all the children of the neighborhood as female entrepreneurs, succeeding even despite their poor odds because of their location in an impoverished community.

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Once on of the ten richest countries in the world, recurring political corruption and an economic crisis in 2001 has greatly impacted the economic stability of the country.

The Argentine “comedor” is a mixture of a soup kitchen and community forum depending on the location. Generally comedor’s provide one daily meal for people living in the community. These meals are either eaten at the comedor, or taken home to eat. Some comedors even act as a daycare or after school program where kids can come to do homework or other activities.

koehlerj-1My name is Jacquelyn, I am from Kansas City, Kansas. I graduated in 2006 with an economics degree and was unsatisfied in my job. Wanting to enter the world of microfinance, I felt hands on experience working for a microenterprise would be essential in getting a feel for how microloans effect a community. In June 2008, I came to Argentina to work with a comedor and the baking cooperative they wanted to implement.

La Estrategia de Caracol is located on a dirt street and is a light green building thanks to a fresh coat of paint. The neighborhood is referred to as an “ausentimiento” or essentially privately owned property that was usurped by people moving to the area after the 2001 economic crisis. Houses in the area are precarious built using any materials they could find, cardboard, tin, wood boards, bricks, concrete. The street running past the comedor is not paved (as a majority are not in the area), which also means that no services pass by, including trash trucks, so people have taken it upon themselves to throw their waste in the street. Just the other day I noticed a tennis shoe embedded in the dirt road…

koehlerj-3The building consists of two rooms, one for the comedor and one for a Panadería. The comedor side is slightly older and has a tin roof speckled with holes left by a hail storm last fall. (Eventually they will lay a thin layer of tar over the roof to prevent the leaking every time it rains.) During the week, a couple women come each morning to cook lunch for the community. Community members come with their own containers in order to take the food to their homes.

However, the kitchen is lacking various basic cooking utensils. The knives in the comedor are comparable to steak knives. These small knives are used to cut hard vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, and butternut squash, not an easy task – I have blisters to prove it! They did not have a can opener and one day I used a wooden stick to pound a broken knife blade and into 15 cans opening them inch by inch. After telling my host mom this, she immediately donated a small manual can opener which they have made good use of since. Old wooden cutting boards and stirring spoons are used, whose potential hazard for bacteria prevents me from eating the food as much as possible. The same three dirty, grungy dish towels are used over and I have never seen anything disinfected or a table washed with soap.

koehlerj-4This prompted me to raise funds from friends and family members in the U.S. in order to buy some of these kitchen supplies that you and I take for granted. Thanks to their great philanthropic spirits, over $400 was raised to buy these materials. In my final week here I will be buying the supplies for the comedor. I will also be holding a “hygiene” workshop to talk about proper cleaning and disinfecting procedures.

I accepted this internship to get experience working with a microenterprise. La Estrategia de Caracol started the idea of a panadería or bread baking cooperative early 2008 spurred by the construction of a mixed material oven due to the help of another local NGO, Biosfera, and the previous intern, Arvil. Thanks to a grant received by Arvil, they were able to buy many of the materials to realize the baking cooperative, including a 30 kilogram industrial mixer. However, when I arrived in Argentina, the baking cooperative had not yet been fully realized. The comedor provided a room in which the cooperative could be housed, but it need various repairs, including fully sealing the room (large cracks were left between the ceiling and walls), routing water and electricity from the other side of the comedor and adding locks and sufficient security to protect the expensive equipment. Many of the materials to do the repairs had already been bought with the previously received grant, the man power is what was needed. Marta’s husband, Daniel, was fully capable of doing most of the repairs, but was very busy with his job, so most of the work was put on hold.

My seeds fund grant was used to pay for some of the work to be done. My host dad, Claudio came and installed all the electric work (using both volunteered time and materials). Daniel installed the sink (though as of today water had not yet been installed.) The lock has been bought for the door. Once the lock is installed, materials can be moved to the panadería and the women in the community can start their business. Hopefully I will see some movement toward this by the time my internship ends next week.

koehlerj-5Working with the comedor and panadería has been quite an experience. It has taught me that expectation are not always met, and just because they are not met as intended does not mean that outcomes will not have an impact. It has been difficult for me to see work that is being done that I feel does not meet my “American” standards, but I have had to learn that what is acceptable for me and what is acceptable for them are two different things. They are making the best they can out of their limited resources. Whatever assistance I or other interns can give them along the way is greatly appreciated by them. We are then repaid with the satisfaction of knowing that the work we have done has hopefully helped them take another step towards a more sustainable future.

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On the first day of my internship with CEPAC, my supervisor, Dr. Saúl Yustón Demarchi, took me to a barrio called Tolosa, which is located about half an hour from the center of La Plata, to show me how the organization addresses health needs in marginalized communities and to explain a concept I have been curiously exploring since that day, health politics. Dr. Yustón began by stating that ‘in order to have optimal health, you need good politics; that is, good economic politics for good health politics.’ Now it would seem like common sense to see that governmental investments are necessary to provide “beneficiencia” – the same opportunity to health for all – but lack of funds and political corruption here in Argentina has consistently shown that achieving “beneficiencia” is far from real. In the consultorio (small neighborhood health clinic) of Abasto, where I work, I have witnessed how past political exploitation has led community members to become skeptical of outside interventions, even NGOs. Last year, CEPAC conducted a health needs assessment study in Abasto to present to the government program ARCOS, which then provided the funds to establish the consultorio and pay a few doctors to serve there. Unfortunately, in the past six months, political conflicts have stalled aid going to public health programs such as ARCOS. As a result, doctors’ salaries were cut in half and medicines and medical equipment have been slow at arriving. Speaking with Dr. Yustón, Dr. Liliana Alberino (the general practitioner at the consultortio), and some of the community members of Abasto, I have become more familiar with the idea of health politics and what happens when it fails.

When the consultorio was established last year, the people of Abasto were excited to finally have a place to go for their primary care needs; before, many were going to the hospital, where they would have to wait for hours before they could be attended to. The consultorio was promised to be equipped with essential medical instruments and a monthly supply of medicines. The medical equipment has yet to arrive and medicines are low in stock, if they haven’t run out already. Dr. Alberino described the situation in the following way: ‘The medical equipment I use at the consultorio I bought with my own money; if anything breaks, I can’t afford to buy a replacement nor can I expect anyone [the government] to supply me with one anytime soon.’ Last week, due to state funding constraints, her salary was cut in half, forcing her to cut down her hours at the consultorio in order to work at the hospital to earn a salary she can live off of.

Dr. Yustón explained to me that when investments are made to provide communities with essential resources, such as health clinics, many times they are made with the motives of receiving national recognition for such actions – this is known as “principio de descrecionalidad.” In the case of Abasto, a consultorio was established and funded with government money. People were grateful and saw the action as a good sign from the political end. Unfortunately, assistance to the facility has not been consistent since the new government changes (six months ago). Today, the same pink building [consultorio] sits on the grounds of Abasto, but inside, things are slowly disappearing – from medicines to doctors. In the end, the ones who suffer the most are the community members. One Uruguayan woman described the situation with a story: when her four year old child suffered a dangerously high fever, she had to take him in her arms and walk three hours to the nearest hospital because she didn’t have a peso to take the bus and it was the closest place to her that had doctors and the medicines to help.

When economic politics are unstable, health politics suffer, and the consequences are felt by all, doctors and community members alike. It has been a true learning experience for me to witness first-hand the realities of health politics in Argentina. I have been exposed to much of what I had only read in books on community development, particularly, on how the third sector (civil associations) addresses community needs when all else fails, including politics.

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“Promocionar y desarrollar integralmente al hombre, generando igualdad de accesos y oportunidades.” This is the central mission of Fundación Pro Humanae Vitae, a group of dedicated volunteers tied together by overpowering belief in the equal development of the human person in every sense of the word – economic, social, cultural, political, moral. Founded by Sra. Graciela Sánchez in 1995, the Fundación supports numerous community development programs in the La Plata- Buenos Aires locale, working alongside universities, businesses, and municipal-provincial governments to develop and realize public initiatives. Within my first few days as a member of the FPHV family, I came to the realization of how ample the field of human rights work truly is. FPHV is not an organization that focuses solely on the well-being of one particular demographic, in one particular place or time. It is, rather, an institution dedicated to serve the needs of the community, whether in the form of organizing conferences for university students, workshops for small-business owners, Christmas recitals for children, outdoor programs for incarcerated persons, or exhibition fairs for local artisans. Even after 6 weeks at the Fundación, I still do not fully grasp the immense community reach of this great organization and its university, business, and governmental counterparts.

During my second week at FPHV, I traveled with my supervisor Rafael Velázquez and my co-worker Marcelo Fernández to Santa Maria Magdalena, a neighborhood comedor located on the outskirts of the city. There we met with the director of the comedor, a woman by the name of Graciela de Cabañas. Graciela told us of the constant struggle to meet with the demands of the neighborhood, balancing the everyday nutritional and social schedules of some 100 children with limited resources. Together, we decided to undertake the construction and realization of a sewing workshop in the backyard of the comedor so as to achieve some measure of self-sufficiency. With such an undertaking, as I was told by Graciela Sánchez, “the comedor would not have to be so dependent on government donations. The people are poor because the government dependence keeps them poor. They need change. They need something sustainable.”

To this effect, I am currently working my co-workers to organize a benefit tea, the proceeds from which will go to the construction of the Maria Magdalena clothing workshop and the purchase of sewing machines. With the help of local businesses and government entities including Universitas, a group of culinary students, and the Commercial Center of La Plata, as well as with the charity of all those invited, we hope to raise sufficient funds to help our friends at the comedor achieve some level of self-realization. During my most recent visit to the comedor, Graciela de Cabañas related to me the story of five local boys, abandoned by the state after their mother was taken to jail to complete her sentence. These boys have no guidance, no direction in their life. They subsist only on the nourishment provided by the comedor. I am hoping, through FPHV’s charity drive, to indirectly touch upon the lives of these boys. By providing more for the comedor in terms of self-sufficiency, we give each community member who benefits from the comedor something more as well.

In addition to my work with the benefit tea, I attend weekly meetings with the other FPHV volunteers to discuss the organization’s grandest undertaking, the renovation of an abandoned community building into a new cultural, social, and educational center. The realization of this large project, rightfully called Vitae Polis, will be the paradigm of the Fundación’s mission, the exemplar of its focused efforts. With the help and support of other institutions, FPHV will continue in its goal of providing for others the access and opportunities they deserve as fellow brothers and sisters. And it will do so in an organized, unified, dedicated, modest fashion. As Graciela Sánchez once told me, “La improvisación es solamente para las mentes bien preparadas.”

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Living in the United States we are constantly wired—communicating with our friends via instant messenger, using the wealth of information that Wikipedia provides to research some unknown person, event, or place, or even reading articles from newspapers and magazines across the globe—all tools readily available with basic internet. Technology plays such an important role in our lives now that most of us cannot imagine a day during which we don’t check our email at least once, and we cringe at the thought of denial to such access. In a society with such a high rate of digital literacy, we often take for granted the conveniences that technology provides—complaining if a website loads too slowly or of the difficulty of formatting a document in Microsoft Word. It’s all too easy to lose sight of the marvel of the internet, or, even on a more basic level, of word processing programs.


For the past month, I have been working in the heart of La Plata, Argentina at a comedor called Asociación Civil El Roble. El Roble is a non-profit after-school program that supports thirty-five children living below the national poverty line by teaching important social development skills and offering supplementary educational programs. Although I assist in many different daily activities, my main responsibility has been as the computer teacher for the youth there. The Argentine public education system is drastically underfunded, and, as such, these children do not have access to computer technology at school, much less at home.

Recently, however, El Roble won a grant to purchase two new computers and also received several donations of used computers from friends of the organization. I have been working to get all of the computers up and running, and now El Roble has a working computer lab with five functioning computers. It is a true joy to see the genuine excitement and enthusiasm the children have about their new computer lab. Every day, after arriving at El Roble, the first thing they want to know is who will comprise the initial group to be in the computer lab that day. One boy, Marcelo, even tries to arrive as soon as the center opens—as early as possible in order to be able to use the computers before anyone else is here.

Before this experience, I would not have considered myself particularly skilled with computers (I still wouldn’t now, but my expertise has increased dramatically); however, for this reason, I have enjoyed the opportunity to learn more. So far, we have only been working on basic skills, trying to achieve a general familiarity with the mouse, keyboard, and essential programs like Microsoft Paint, Word, and PowerPoint. Nevertheless, the children have such an eagerness and interest in learning such programs, that I have been reminded of the same wonder I had towards computers when I was younger, just learning to use the mouse and type.

Because many of the children have never been exposed to computer technology before, during the first classes all the information I offered was completely new for them—how to save a file, how to delete text, how to double click. However, due to their subsequent experimentation with these basic programs, they have learned tricks even I didn’t know before. For example, now, thanks to the help of Ernesto, I can now make an eraser in Paint the size of the entire screen. It’s something small, but still exciting—it reflects their independent thinking and desire to share knowledge. We are hoping to install internet in the coming weeks to introduce them to the infinite wonder of the web.

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Over the past 6 months I have worked with Centro de Entrenamiento para la Producción (CEP). They are an NGO established to assist small and medium sized businesses (PYMES) through technological development and business training. The Argentine government recently created subsidies and tax credits aimed at increasing the competitiveness of Argentine PYMES. CEP acts as a window for these programs by assisting in paperwork and requirement fulfillment. They also manage the government sponsored training programs, by designing course content and allocating in-house instructors. Another side project at CEP involves supporting two new inventions to market, including a novel suspension system for cars or machinery, recently patented in the Europe and U.S., as well as, a new energy efficient windmill, still in the design and prototype construction stage.

My greatest accomplishment with this organization was built around a personal idea utilizing their resources to create a consulting and training project within the marginalized areas of the local community. It allowed me to directly work with and help at least 20 individuals while truly left a legacy in Argentina! For about 2 months I networked, sympathized and analyzed a mountain of information with a large number of people all over the city from social movements and cooperatives to entrepreneurial assistance groups. Through this research, I was able to write and win a grant proposal for a consulting project working with a few local comedors in Buenos Aires province leading workshops in social entrepreneurship for cooperatives. The project was a pilot program aimed specifically at social cooperatives in local comedors1.

These cooperatives formed out of a need for resources in the comedors as well as a desire by local women for respectable work close to home. One of the participating cooperatives was still in the organization stage buying start-up materials for their bakery through a grant received by another FSD intern and were in need of a how-to business plan. The other participating cooperative is a sewing group which began a little over one year ago. They were dependent on NGO support and lacked organization, management and sales volume. Through the information gathered in the needs assessment as well as assistance from CEP and other NGO specialist organizations, five strategic workshops were designed in team building, accounting, marketing, costs and operations.

Most of these “entrepreneurs” had low levels of formal education and a few were illiterate, making the design and substance challenging. To my great surprise, after utilizing a few comic strips, pictures, diagrams and role play examples, the women participated comfortably and discussed a lot of interesting ideas and opportunities.

The final workshop was a small discussion group, bringing together the two cooperatives with another well known cooperative group in the local area. During this workshop they not only shared experiences of best practices, challenges faced and advice, but they networked together and will now sell to one another. As a special guest, two men from La Obra de Padre Cajade shared their experiences. The Obra is a well known and very large social entrepreneurial group in the province. All of the cooperative groups chatted back and forth sharing stories and asking interesting questions about the others work. It was the perfect networking session as I really think they learned from each other. At the end of the workshop, they even coordinated to work with and buy from each other! The sewing cooperative and bakery found a new client in Padre Cajade. As a supplement to the classes, I created a 50 page manual in Spanish and using many pictures and examples. The manual goes into a bit more in depth on all of the subjects covered in the workshops and includes a section on common mistakes and general advice. I assembled an appendix providing extra entrepreneurial and community resources as well as a section of fair trade national and international organizations. The manuals were distributed to each of the participating women and to the representatives of the Obra. Copies were also given to various NGOs with hopes of further distributing to those in need of the information.

During the final discussion, my co-workers from the other departments of CEP began discussing the project. My direct boss proudly told them of all my hard work and showed them a copy of the comprehensive manual. Through this connection, all areas of CEP jointly expressed interest that future FSD interns will continue the workshops to reach more cooperatives as part of a community outreach program for the NGO!!!

In the end and all of my hard work, multiple marathon miles of walking and hours of planning and writing paid off. The manual is my pride and joy and will help many people even after I am gone. By giving personal attention to each cooperative and working directly to help shape their individual business models, I was able to teach them practical skills increasing their organizational desires, personal work ethic and a more dynamic understanding of their companies and themselves. They in turn, taught me a great deal about bravery, flexibility and tenacity.

Amid both success and challenge, I became incredibly humbled and found a sense of irony in the ultimate simplicity of it all. Some of the women could not read or write and most never finished primary school, but all shared their experiences and learned from one another. This manner of collaboration and education has laid the groundwork for a network of social commerce services. These lasting memories are a true sense of pride and fulfillment that can only come by teaching and learning from others.

Information about the groups this project was able to directly reach:

Estrategia & MTD

This link is a video explaining the MTD movement. For those that cannot understand the Spanish, the pictures explain a lot.

Estrategia is one of the Comedor cooperatives involved in the training workshops. They are a part of the MTD movement as explained in the link above. This movement basically fights for the rights of unemployed workers. I was able to sit in on a members meeting, where as activists they discussed not only “lobbying” options, but also an array of community support activities. Estrategia is part of the community service arm of MTD, officially a separate community comedor. As mentioned previously, another FSD inter, Arvil Antonio Gonzales was able to help assemble a local bakery business to not only support the comedor but the local community and many excited local women bakers. They received a mixed material oven from another NGO, which can use anything as fuel, including old newspapers or wood scraps mixed with grass and weeds. This business is ideal because of its location within the villa or township area of the city and the needs of the community for local commerce. Their bread is made from a Bolivian recipe, which is reflective of the heredity of the neighborhoods residents. Not only this buy the bread can be cheaply made and has a unique exceptional flavor. Yum!

Arco Iris, Working World and Otro Mercado
http://www.theworkingworld.org/?action=market&subsection=Pet%20clothes

Arco Iris already had a relatively structured business system in place and new infrastructure. This sewing cooperative specializes in dog clothing but has been able to accommodate special orders, such as messenger bags and babies clothing. Through a micro finance loan, they purchased beautiful new high-tech sewing machines, on which they have all been trained, significantly increasing the quality of their products! This cooperative lacks a bit of direction and organizational structure as well as consistent sales. They also seem to have a high reliance on outside NGO assistance and I believe the workshops have brought them closer to independence.

Working world also known as “La Base,” is a micro finance organization which provided the loan for the new sewing machines and works closely with them offering advices and acting as a middleman, selling their products online. The link above shows their line of dog clothing, which is of fairly high quality. I was impressed by their attention to detail and concern for quality control. Their outfits come in both polar fleece and cotton and vary in styles. They are extremely cute and well-made so if you have a small dog click on the link above and buy some!!

The cooperative is currently in the process of connecting with the international fair trade movement through an Italian company called, Otro Mercado, who happens to have a retail store in downtown La Plata. This provided the opportunity to cover the fair trade objectives in the operations workshop as well as the final discussion. Many resources to this movement were provided in the appendix of the manual as a very strong and secure option for many social cooperatives.

Obra de Padre Cajade
obradelpadrecajade.org.ar

This organization was started by a priest who left an amazing legacy and a strong system of community support to continue his work. The Obra is very well-known and a very large social entrepreneurial presence in the province of Buenos Aires. It includes three orphanages hosting various ages of children and five social businesses. The amazing concept of these businesses is that they are used as a form of apprenticeship teaching above the education they receive in the orphanage. The profits from these businesses are all reinvested into the orphanages to create more opportunities for the children. Definitely check out their website, although it’s only in Spanish but if you can read it, you cannot help but be impressed! Representatives attended the final discussion and shared insight based on their past experiences.
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1 Comedors are NGO community assistance programs located in the most impoverished areas of the country, which provide food, education and other support activities for the community.

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Since the end of January, I have been working as an FSD intern in the community of Villa Elisa, a small neighborhood on the outskirts of La Plata, Argentina. While Villa Elisa is a vibrant community full of culture, it is also a perfect example of the challenges that Argentina faces today. On my walk to work I pass wealthy, gated communities that give way to rows of makeshift homes on trash-lined streets. The lack of opportunity leaves most members of the community rooted in their current socioeconomic position.

Woman working in sewing cooperative at Arco IrisI am currently working for the Arco Iris Community Center located in the heart of Villa Elisa. I assist the center with everything from teaching, mentoring, and fundraising to serving the children lunch. This community center provides daily meals and activities for over 90 children, ages 2 to 14. They also support microenterprise development for parents and young adults, and capacity-building workshops that give individuals the skills they need to pull their families out of poverty. A source of hope, inspiration, and opportunities, Arco Iris makes the best of limited resources while facing constant challenges.

Grounds outside Arco IrisRecently, heavy rains plagued La Plata and resulted in a series of flash floods throughout the surrounding communities. Villa Elisa, with a low relative elevation, dirt floor houses, and no drainage system, suffered the worst. In many areas, the water level reached chest-high and homes were evacuated while the water washed away and destroyed possessions. I arrived at Arco Iris the morning after the floods to find the entire facility covered in a 3-inch layer of dark black mud, the refrigerators and freezers broken, the boxes of recently donated clothing soaked in muddy water, the sewing equipment damaged, and the majority of the books and art supplies completely ruined. Alongside the teachers and community members I spent the next two days cleaning out the entire facility. Families slept in the community center for the next week while they tried to salvage what was left of their homes.

Both the government and the press were slow to respond. Coverage of the floods was restricted to the city center and the government offered no assistance to the poorer neighborhoods. The people of Villa Elisa reacted by taking to the streets. They used road blocks and bonfires to cut off the two major roads that connect La Plata to Buenos Aires, effectively choking a major artery (I was forced to walk the 4 miles to Arco Iris). There was no satisfying conclusion to the incident. The roadblocks disbanded and mattresses were eventually distributed to the area, but Villa Elisa is still recovering and the people still feel unfairly neglected.

Besides natural catastrophes, Arco Iris´ lack of security remains the principal challenge that hinders its growth and expansion. Located in a marginalized neighborhood where drug use and theft are common, the community center is exposed to thieves and vandalism. At night, youth drink and participate in high-risk activities in the unprotected, trash-filled, and weed-infested yard; during the day, overgrown grass hides broken beer bottles and drug paraphernalia. Dogs roam the area where the children play, bringing in garbage and disease. Underutilized, contaminated, and dangerous, Arco Iris’ yard exists as a constant reminder that the center currently lacks the infrastructure and resources to serve the community to the best of its ability.

Children playing at Arco Iris.Along with Anne DeLessio-Parson, an FSD field director, we have designed a project to construct an enclosure – a protective, secure fence – that will allow Arco Iris to improve and expand the activities it offers. Surrounded by a well-constructed fence, Arco Iris will be able to (1) create a garden that would supply the children with fresh produce and make the center less reliant on other sources, (2) construct a playground and soccer field for the 90-plus children served, and (3) ensure security for the valuable baking and sewing equipment. A fence, while simple, is an important step for a rural community to build a more sustainable future.

To see pictures, a thorough breakdown of the project’s goals, and ways in which to donate to Arco Iris please visit the blog at: http://arcoirisproject.blogspot.com/. We are still short of reaching our necessary funding so please feel free to send the link to anyone you think might be interested in donating. Thank you!!!

Elliot Watson
elliwat@gmail.com

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