5 years learning to dance the fraternity of Milonga (part II)

 

A brief journey through the history of the international volunteer program
that has set the pace for youth and social action

In our first installment we learned why and how this international volunteer program was born. We also discovered the meaning of his name and the intercultural richness that it implies. Today we want to delve into what is new about milONGa, why it is different from the many volunteer programs that young people can find today and what have been the most significant moments in this history.

Why think of international volunteering as a key of fraternity?

Because we consider it to be a fundamental ingredient in social transformation. The processes of change and social justice are incomplete if it is not taken into account that
social vulnerability is the result of weak social ties. In this sense, strengthening and promoting them is a way of encouraging or awakening the sense of brotherhood not only at the local level, but beyond borders. We are increasingly aware of the interdependence between peoples; migratory processes increasingly show us the need to recognize ourselves as brothers and sisters.

Doing an international volunteering experience favors contact with different situations of social vulnerability and at the same time with different peoples, cultures and why not, with the historical roots of many inequalities. From this perspective, a proposal that bets on equality and equity responds to a logic that is no longer an aid from north to south, but has a multiple directionality north-south / south-north, north-north, south-south, whose actors also recognize themselves as equal and therefore all have something to give and much to receive.

What aspects are unique to this volunteer program?

It seems to us that there are several. First, this one that we said before: a logic of multiple directionality that also points to the recognition of the other as an equal and therefore, where relationships become reciprocal. On the other hand, it seems to us that another innovative factor is the aspect of the training that occurs in all phases of volunteering –before, during and after- and to all the actors, mainly, of course, the volunteers who face many challenges.

How is this training proposal structured?

Since the beginning of the program, the proposal was that it should not only be a volunteer that carries out social actions, but that it has a training component. Thanks to the program’s contact with the Learning and Service experience, we find the pedagogical foundations on which to base our proposal, which is articulated with the values that promote fraternity from the charism of unity. In these 5 years we have been developing some content and activities that complement and stimulate those who participate in the program to have a deep experience, exploring more about how to make this form of service become a lifestyle.

Thinking back over these 5 years, what have been the most important moments of the program?

First, when we launched the proposal at the end of 2015. It was not yet clear if we were going to have any international funding, but it seemed important for us to be able to promote this contact between young people, eager to donate their time and do social service, with social organizations that were looking for this type of collaboration.

Once the proposal was launched, we were surprised by the quick response from the young people. And inn 2016 the first volunteer experiences began in Bolivia and Brazil. From that exciting moment, we have not stopped having magnificent experiences with each of the volunteers.

Another important moment of the  program was the creation, in 2018, of an international management team. The development of the program, the creation of instruments and management tools, etc., are the result of a collaborative path. Each of those who have gone through the program have left their contribution, and that greatly enriches our proposal. It is not something designed from a desktop, but is made from and with the experiences that we have that we have acquired along the way.

In this sense, the participation and commitment of the volunteers who have passed through the program has been fundamental. They too, with their experiences and suggestions, allow us to improve our proposal.

And without a doubt, a very important moment, which happened recently, is the creation of our online program. The pandemic challenged us to continue fostering contact between the impulse to donate and put oneself at the service and the need of organizations. In a context of reduced mobility and risk, these two needs continued to exist and it was for us a reason to find new ways. Thanks to an agreement with the El Diamante Youth Social School, we have managed to carry out a pilot experience and in the coming months we will be launching the program more widely to continue forging ties.

Precisely about this we will talk a little more in our next and last installment, as there is still much to know about the history of this dance.