Monday, 22 October 2012

Helping others in need: what it really takes

Long time ago, I had thought about going somewhere to help somebody in need but I was really afraid of seeing reality the way it was. I had always managed to dodge that idea but lately, I've been under, say, inner re-construction and I've posed many questions right into my own eye, like helping others and leading processes and basically take the initiative.

This idea about helping others makes me think of the actual trend of Humanitarian Tourism. The first time I ever heard about this term was when I met a Spanish nurse who worked for Doctors without borders . I met him in a very random place: the entrance of a bar. We met next day for lunch and he told me the whole story: He worked in Tumaco, a fishing village in the Colombian Southern Pacific Coast. He had been working there for a year or so,and when we met, he was in charge of a complete team of doctors and nurses. In less than 3 hours, he described what Tumaco was like, how simple life is for the locals, their needs, how harsh the sanitary conditions are, and how much money people waste in Bogotá: alcohol, party, restaurants, rents, etc. He was absolutely shocked about inequality in terms of covering people's basic needs in Tumaco and Bogotá people's expenses. During those three hours he picked up his cell phone several times to double check if his team of doctors and nurses were arriving safely to nowhere places they had to go to offer the only medical help people had around Tumaco. He also mentioned the latest trend of foreigners coming to developing countries to "help". What could they do in 2 weeks? He asked me trying to control an outraged tone in his voice. I could not answer. But he did right away: It's not about about dropping just once! Giving away gifts and that's it! I understood that if you want to really help a vulnerable community, you need to carry out a process, take the risk that the process will not lead you to a tangible outcome or result, and still keep trying. I remembered this story about the Spanish nurse while waiting in Portal Tunal for somebody to pick me up.

Looking at the bunch of foreigners waiting for somebody to take them to Ciudad Bolívar, I felt ignorant about what goes on with vulnerable communities there and kind of guilty for not taking the initiative before. But I wasn't ready. When you embark in a social venture like this, you need to be emotionally OK and strong enough to see pain, lovelessness, hunger and the like. Now, at least, I'm gathering all my guts to do something to help a little group of Colombians with NO resources at all, with absorbing jobs, families to feed, careers to fulfill and still, wanting to contribute to a small community in Ciudad Bolivar. Right now, these 3 accountants are opening the October-November cycle of Homework and School support. They need school supplies, white boards, forniture and above all well-intentioned people who help them regularly with the kids who go there to do homework or to learn to read. These accountants just have their will to help this community and that is how they have been through lots of trial and error stages during the last 2 years or so. What can I do to help them? Well, first, get involved with them and get to know the kids. As an English teacher I could basically give them a hand on Clasroom Management, for a start. That could be a great opportunity to review some principles and translate them into tips for these guys who are not familiar with pedagogical procedures with kids, for example. We brainstormed ideas like doing a diagnostic test, teaching the kids by doing or playing, etc. But first of all, I just need to get involved in order to start, really start doing something, to endevour a process. 

And you, what can you do to help us? Drop me a line if you WANT to try and stay for a while helping these Colombian kids who are so eager to learn and these 3 Colombian accountants who really want to contribute.

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