América Solidaria officially presented its work in Uruguay in an event held on September 2 in the Centro Cultural de España. It included the participation of the former president of Uruguay, José Mujica; the former president of the Inter-American Development Bank and General Secretary of SEGIB, Cr. Enrique Iglesias; representative for Luis Almagro, Secretary General of OAS, Ec. Luis Porto; other international organisms and government authorities and the founder of América Solidaria, Benito Baranda.
The launch was moderated by journalist Jaime Clara, who opened the event and announced Cr. Enrique Iglesias. Iglesias stressed the importance of the commitment of civil society, as there are voids “that are very hard to fill from the public sphere”. Subsequently, Analía Bettoni, president of América Solidaria Uruguay, took the stage and shared the history of the foundation, its objectives and challenges: “América Solidaria works to intervene to improve the quality of life of people,” said Bettoni.
Next, Jaime Clara invited José Mujica and Benito Baranda to join him on stage. Former president Mujica emphasized the role of volunteerism and solidarity in the current social context: “If we are surrounded with egoism on all sides, then we are going to create more egocentric people. If we show openness and solidarity in our practices and relationships, we are going to create a different kind of person,” said Mujica. He concluded that “throughout history, solidarity has built much more than altruism.”
The president and founder of América Solidaria International, Benito Baranda spoke of the commitment of young people in the Americas and the construction of a social conscience, which is built on an awareness of the realities of the most vulnerable communities: “when you get to know these places in neighboring countries, you start to change your vision of the ‘other’. It is the only way to sustain our democracies,” said Baranda. He affirmed that “young people tend to show courage and heroism in the face of the egoism” that pervades our societies. “We want to tilt the scales a bit the other way, and if we don’t work together, it will be very difficult,” ensured Baranda.
For Mujica, volunteerism “is a direct way to facilitate government action, and not limit it.” Regarding América Solidaria, Mujica said: “What it does, the seeds it plants, what it can reap …it is very positive.”
Finally, Ec. Luis Porto, in representation of Luis Almagro stated that “civil society is critical for any society and for the Organization of American States (OAS), because it can be an early warning sign of institutional failure; it facilitates dialog between the majority and the minority; it supports the implementation of joint policies, programs and projects in these same minority groups, because it has access, proximity and capital.”
América Solidaria began its operations in Uruguay towards the end of 2012 when a group of professionals accepted the challenge of pushing forward the principles of the organization. This launch event coincided with the arrival of the first two foreign volunteer professionals (Chilean educational psychologist Carolina Vidal and Peruvian psychologist George Auccaille) who are working on an educational project in El Dorado, a town defined as one of the main social emergency zones by the Department of Social Development in 2013.
Uruguayan Volunteers Abroad
Last year, five Uruguayan professionals were chosen to work as volunteers in projects to overcome child and youth poverty in Ecuador, Haiti, Colombia and Chile.
Laura Magallanes was the first Uruguayan professional to participate. She worked in a project to prevent child labor and family violence in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Since September 2014, Nicolás Iglesias has worked in a program to strengthen teacher training in early education centers in Port au Prince, Haití.
Since March 2015, two new Uruguayan volunteers are participating in different projects with children: Pedro Nugué works in an informal education project for adolescents who drop out of the formal education system in Santiago, Chile, and Mercedes Castro works in a project to develop social skills in people with cognitive disorders in Bogota, Colombia. In a few days, Ana Artía will be the fifth Uruguayan volunteer professional to contribute abroad, in her case in Haiti.
In 13 years, América Solidaria has worked in 13 countries on the continent, benefiting more than 33.000 people each year, through the development of 200 projects and thanks to the support of close to 500 volunteer professionals at the service of the continent. América Solidaria is a concrete example of integration between countries in the region through inclusive relationships and international cooperation networks that promote development with equality.