On many occasions, the scenes we see and the repetitive faces we observe are the only things we contemplate, causing us to subsequently forget that somewhere else, in a recondite corner, is someone waiting to be discovered, supported and loved.

“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.” – The words of Gabriel García Márquez, a Colombian novelist who was awarded the Nobel Prize of Literature and honored as a fighter for literacy and a more imaginative world.

Márquez used his words to reflect the severe issues that our beloved Latin America still faces. The crude inefficiency and tragic inequality that results as a product of a conjunction of states, is expressed through the use of magical realism in his works.

However, the  majority of reality is not pleasant or rosy, particularly if you do not have any opportunities for your development as an individual. Your future is even less promising if you are judged based on where you live instead of the love you demonstrate for your community, even less hopeful if you have to think twice before leaving your home because of the fear of being shot, and even less bright if you get up feeling cold every morning and go to bed hungry every night. If you want to change your reality, sometimes you get the feeling that you are not strong enough, that your efforts are worthless and you become less and less hopeful of seeing a change. Born and raised in a disturbingly violent environment with lack of supervision and accountability from the systems of governance leaves few options. The most popular of these choices is the earning of money as fast and as “easily” as possible in search of your next meal, or babysitting your younger siblings. “Going to school tomorrow” is not an option. That is the eye-opening reality I was witness to.

“Every eight minutes, an Argentinian student is held back or drops out of school”. (M. Fernandez, Infobae, 2018/data: Observatorio Argentinos por la Educación.)

 

In my hometown, Salta, Argentina, I worked with the Junior Chamber International, and embarked on a period of self discovery thanks to my school’s aim of encouraging community service, improving members’ leadership abilities, and promotion of personal growth. I developed these skills through many activities in an impoverished, non-regulated residential area that is unseen by politicians except during election periods.

In Villa Floresta, a space located on the slope of the hill, the houses lack structure, there are few paved roads, and little to no basic services such as energy, sewers or health-centres. A group of friends and I, in collaboration with ‘la Gordita’, the manager, and her ‘Merendero’ (Spanish translation for Communal Snack House), called “Emergencia” dedicated ourselves to increasing the level of literacy in the children who attend the programme. The children are all between 2 and 14 years old, and provided with a warm cup of tea, chocolate, maté or liquid yogurt with a biscuit, piece of cake or toast. Gordita opens the doors of her house to the entire community, but especially to the 70 children that come every day around 6 pm. Whenever possible, she organizes a special party.

Children’s Day celebration in August 2018, held by the community at the Merendero.

Nearly every Friday, amongst our group of friends, Aldana Resuche used to call for us  to come to the ‘Merendero’ to read with the children, therefore helping them leave the harsh reality they are living in by giving them laughter and joy for an ephemeral escape. As a genuinely altruistic person with a huge, kind and passionate heart, she inspires others through her every action. Her authentic, contagious laugh and tears of happiness reflect a change maker’s spirit.

 Aldana with a 2 years old child who is a frequent attendee of the Merendero

Unfortunately, “Emergencia” is in danger of shutting down because it is not being supported enough by the Municipal Administration of Salta. The saviours of the unseen, the abandoned ones, are those who are not beholden to politicians and their shameless campaigns The politicians create a fictional space of engagement and compromise with this and other communities around Argentina and the globe, giving to the people a fake spark of prosperity in the eyes. It is an illusion, a mirage. It is a plague needing to be destroyed by people like Aldana to ensure that the ones that have been abandoned, betrayed and forgotten have, too,  somebody to lean on.

Children playing in the football field outside the Gordita’s Snack House

José Manuel Maidana Cejas

Author José Manuel Maidana Cejas

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