“It was not just about going there to help, but understanding how they could help me” – Jennifer’s chronicle

 

By Manuel Nacinovich

 

When Jennifer contacted milONGa for a social work experience, she did not expect the journey to turn out the way it did. In Peru, her country, she already had an experience in the social sphere and she knew what this type of action was about. So the next step that she decided to take was abroad. And Brazil was the chosen candidate. There, the SMF – Sociedade  Movimento dos Focolari- was waiting for her to get to work. Her idea of volunteering, she explains, was to give help. What she did not expect was to receive it.

⇒ What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of your experience in Brazil?

The feeling of being like part of a family. We only spent two months together, but I felt like I have known those people for my whole life. Another thing that stands out is introspection. While I was there I started thinking of ways that I needed to improve, of things that I had to improve to be able to help people.

⇒ Out of everything that happened during the experience, what did you not expect?

I have been working as a volunteer for many years and I’m very inclined to the humanitarian issue. When I was thinking of the experience I was going to do in Brazil, I was picturing it to be in a certain way, that I was going to handle certain issues, that I was going to do certain tasks. But something I really liked, and I did not see happening, was the fact of having to think about me. It was not only about going there to help, but understanding how they could help me. I realised that I I had not thought about myself because I had been very focused on the humanitarian and social aid issue. I think it was like… I stopped and analysed myself. I always thought that it was only about going there to help. But it was not. I still remember it today

⇒ So during the milONGa experience there is also a personal journey that one goes through.

Yes. That’s something that impressed me. I thought I was going to stop thinking about myself and start to help. At first I had that mentality but I was surprised by the “no, we want you to also work on yourself, that you get to know you” aspect.

⇒ What was the first thing that surprised you when you arrived in Brazil?

Meeting with people from a different country that have another structure, close to mine as both of them are Latin American, but different. I was surprised by the fact that, even so, I could familiarise very much with them, connect and feel comfortable while I was there.

⇒ Do you remember any anecdotes in particular?

Once we went visiting the houses where alcohol and drug addicts are recovering. It was the experience that I liked the most. I really liked talking with them and listening to their stories. Some of them were very sad, and it made me realise how lucky I am.

⇒ You chose to do your volunteering experience in Brazil because it’s related to social project management, which is what you specialised in for your academic education. How did this volunteering experience influence your professional vocation?

It really opened my vision to what I wanted to do, something bigger. It gave me many ideas on how I could help and take what they are doing in Brazil to do it here in Peru, where I live. And, other than this, the experience reinforced my vocation. It made me realise that this is what I want to do, it is what makes me feel very happy.

 

You can see the video of Jennifer’s chronicle on our Instagram @milonga_project