Wednesday, May 24, 2006

ve has landed

New York gave Voluntarios de la Esperanza (VE) a warm welcome last week at our first annual fundraiser. Despite the sporadic thunderstorms, guests still poured into the Museum of Children's Art and brought with them much interest and enthusiasm about the projects underway in Santiago. I didn't have very clear expectations for the trip- I had only been to New York City once before, and had never personally met any of the volunteers associated with the program- but I still have been saying that it proved more successful and exciting than I had imagined.

Please visit a slideshow of photos from the event.

This year's fundraiser showcased artwork created by children in Santiago as well as photographs by Lindy Drew, a current volunteer in Chile right now. Guests sipped Chilean wine, munched on empanadas, mingled to the sounds of an obliging jazz trio, and eventually congregated in the back of the museum for presentations by Luke Winston, director of VE, and a few past volunteers. While we did raffle off some enticing prizes and offer guests homemade friendship bracelets, one of the most significant moments of the evening was the opportunity to explain the mission and the vision of Voluntarios de la Esperanza to a group of people previously rather unfamiliar with the organization- including, to some extent, myself. From the informational material presented about the program to the personal accounts of living in an atmosphere so disparate from previous lifetyles, I felt that the evening afforded me the chance to construct a more dynamic understanding of what VE is trying to accomplish in Chile.

When I first applied to VE my perspective of the organization had been formed solely through the internet. I kept thinking about all of the organizations that exist in areas of the world where technology cannot help connect people, but I knew that I could only handle a certain amount of risk. I wanted to travel to another country, but I preferred to know as much about the situation into which I would be entering before I would go. Both on the website and in New York, I learned that VE does not assist only one orphanage, one home- rather it has taken its relatively fortunate position, including exposure on the internet, and constructed a network of homes such that volunteers and resources move far beyond the central location called Hogar Esperanza. VE is even beginning to reach children in local elementary schools, and aims to assist communities and local families as well as children at social risk. The mission of VE is not to replace primary caregivers, and it is not simply to give assistance. VE seeks and works towards change, education, and support in an effort to provoke growth in a positive direction. Members of the organization are active members of Chilean society, American society, and the greater global society. I have been lucky to have found VE, because the more I learn about the organization, the more I believe in it and its vision.

A Saturday night dinner in a dark Italian restaurant- but paired with Chilean wine- sealed the weekend, leaving me with faces to go with the email addresses and a heightened anticipation for the next few months.

No comments: