Paloma Hernández Gómez VOLPA in Chile

I've always been interested in looking after other people's needs, from where I can get to know and learn other cultures, independently of where it takes place. This is why I've always been attracted by volunteering. I had a prior experience with another foundation; I went to Africa, to Ethiopia.

Now, through Entreculturas I have had the opportunity of coming to Chile, where I will stay until the end of 2012. My work here consists of supporting the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in its mission to accompany, respect, and defend the dignity and the personal and community projects of, those that migrate in situations of vulnerability. The JRS offers different services, such as psychological attention at individual and family level, legal orientation, public incidence and sensitization. Specifically, my volunteering consists of structuring the inter-cultural area.

Creativity is widely used to promote spaces of encounter where the different people are able to freely express their different visions of the universe in an interactive manner. One example is the way we use gastronomy, as a necessary tool to live and share.

We try to change the traditional educational philosophy in our schools. We are introducing an education project with a inter-cultural perspective to thus promote micro societies in the educational communities, where the values that feed egalitarian relations and of mutual respect can be cultivated, through a cooperative methodology. In this respect we want to function as a consultancy on education and public incidence.

Regarding the experience itself, I think that what is giving me the most are the people that I've had the opportunity to meet. Distance has also been of great benefit, because of all that implies at a personal level, as it has meant nearness in my case (even if it sounds like a contradiction).

Now I feel that I'm living the consequences of a unequal world from another different perspective, with another different culture, another different scenery...I intend, with more strength that is possible, to achieve a fairer world, because we have the resources at hand although the will to do this is lacking in a lot of people. I find that the solution to any true change has to be found inside oneself, in the way of looking at the environment, with responsibility towards the people. I think it is necessary to change the present life philosophy and be more conscious of the value that human dignity has for all.

And, somehow, the revolts taking place in Chile are a consequence of this need for change...a need that, in some way, has arrived also encouraged by the whole wave of revolts worldwide -Spain included-.
Here education is conceived as a private investment. For all job positions, doing whatever, a qualification is required, so that studying a career or a trade becomes necessary. It's a safe business! And, precisely, the more expensive universities are the ones that offer the greater job expectations.

Generally, Chile's state grants in the form of bursaries are few and families have to ask for credit to finance their youth's education. There are families that do the impossible to save and get the necessary solvency to obtain a credit and offer the best degrees to their children, chaining themselves to a life of debt.

Both, to Entreculturas and to the Jesuit Refugee Service free basic education is a fundamental right. And thus we manifest our concern about this serious situation.

The best path is to be constant and have faith in what one does with good will within one's possibilities, without loosing hope that a better world is possible. It doesn't matter where you are or how you do it, what matters is that you act.