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Man of the world: from Mexico to Argentina



From the city of Querétaro (México) to the city of San Martin in Salta, Argentina.


I’m Luis Alfonso Tapia Ocádiz, a Mexican boy who has volunteered in the “Fundación de Iniciativas y Estrategias Solidarias” thanks to the Milonga project.


Where to start? There are many experiences, from the fear of approaching a different reality to the fruits born from the decision to love concretely.


The initial expectation

I had the desire to study at the Sophia University, as I wanted to deepen the charism of Unity and integrate my studies with a more complete preparation. I had prepared all the documents when the opportunity arose to participate in the Milonga project. Precisely in those days it appeared the opportunity to go to Salta and work with the “Fundación de Iniciativas y Estrategias Solidarias”, a project of socio-community empowerment through the management of cooperatives aimed at people in situations of vulnerability. This project was very similar to an initiative I had done during a period of social service in Mexico; my project was similar but concretized. So I decided to give up the Master’s degree abroad to be able to do something different, but that basically went towards the same goal.


I have heard very well about Sophia University, I know it is a great institution where very well-trained people work. On the other hand, I knew only the coordinator Verónica López of the project, thanks to a Skype video call that I had done together with Vicky Osorio, regional coordinator of the Milonga project. Verónica explained to me what the project consisted of and what if it was being done. I understood that this was already a reality, the cooperatives worked well, the people involved started to be a little more autonomous, and so on. It was as if my dream had come true. The surprise was, once I arrived in Salta – the region where I volunteered – to realize that I was wrong, that the cooperatives were just being created. So, the situation exceeded my expectations, it was even better than I thought, I saw the opportunity to learn and be part of the process.

What I learned


I learned that, as a human being, I have many limitations, but that I can not focus only on these but, on the contrary, I must also consider the talents that have been given to me and make my contribution to society. In this way I have been able to test myself and realize that one can be useful to others only if one is willing to give oneself; I feel that the fruits are not only dependent on me, but that I have lived an experience of God; it only took my “Yes”.


Difficulties found


Among the small and big difficulties that I found, first of all there was that of being in contact with other cultures. I had to face a new reality where nothing was under my control, so I had to adapt to what was there. So I took a greater knowledge of my limitations and some fears that, perhaps, I did not know I had.


As far as some practical issues are concerned, I had a problem not knowing the country, as it was difficult for me to move (Buenos Aires – Salta), even though Providence always made itself present, sometimes in a very “creative”.


Living in poverty, some services were very far away, or sometimes some places were not illuminated. Also, while doing this volunteer work, I had to perform some tasks online for the company I was working with in Mexico; unfortunately, it was not easy to find a good Internet network, which is essential for this work.

Vivendo in condizioni di povertà, alcuni servizi erano molto lontani, oppure alle volte alcuni luoghi non erano illuminati. Inoltre, mentre facevo questo volontariato, dovevo svolgere online alcuni compiti per conto dell’impresa con cui lavoravo in Messico; purtroppo, non è stato facile trovare buona rete Internet, indispensabile per fare questo lavoro.


Relationship with the local community


In my case, most of the relationships with the local community took place during the group work hours at the Foundation. With most of my classmates, integration was immediate, and this gave me the confidence to feel free to do the work and make decisions. With others, however, the relationship was difficult because we had very distinct personalities and visions, but in the end, the barriers were overcome and real partnerships were created.


Interculturalism


At times it was difficult for me to understand people because even if the language is the same – Spanish – the vocabulary is different, even the way of expressing oneself, to pronounce as well, as some expressions excluded me from the conversation, until I managed to familiarize yourself with these ways of speaking. It was a real challenge, first of all to understand a series of ways of doing things that are very different from mine; to give an example, the way of asking things in Mexico is very prudent and kind: “would you be so kind as to send me this document as soon as you can?”. In Argentina, however, they simply ask for it and sometimes it sounds like a command: “send me that document”. Obviously I exaggerate with these examples, certain ways of doing depend on the specific region and people, but it is useful to illustrate what I want to say.


What I felt to communicate about my Mexican culture was cordiality and attention; I felt I could offer listening and really value the other, with his culture, his experiences and knowledge. I received so much affection, I also found many people who shared and appreciated my culture, I felt special, valued; for example, I remember that all the people I met remembered the famous Mexican TV program “Chavo del 8”.




Personal growth


This experience marked me very positively, both spiritually and professionally. I realized that to get as far as we set ourselves, it is not enough to have clear objectives and develop a strategy, but it is essential to lose the fear, make decisions with the knowledge that you could be wrong so many times, but it is worth thinking about taking this challenge. In this experience I have discovered, perhaps, my professional vocation, or maybe the need to train myself in two areas: Coaching and Neuro Linguistic Programming, in order to make a greater contribution in society; and also what I would like to change about myself, to be able to improve myself, to win my fears more easily, to trust more of my decisions.



Post-voluntary experience


In my city there is a community of needy people who, together with a group of young people, visited once a month, organizing recreational and training activities for the children. Today, I would like to make a more concrete contribution to the social situation in order to find, together with others, adequate responses to the various needs. I would also like to continue supporting the Milonga project through my testimony and always be available to this reality. In general, therefore, the experience was very beautiful, any detail helped to make it special.

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