Visiting Amigos de las Américas in Oaxaca

August 11, 2014 at 4:32 pm Leave a comment

As part of my job as Executive Director of IVPA, I occasionally get to visit our member programs and see volunteers in action. Visiting with communities and volunteers is one of my favorite things. Last week I was in Oaxaca and was able to spend the day with IVPA member organization, Amigos de las Américas.

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AMIGOS is an amazing organization that has a long legacy volunteering. They are celebrating their 50-year anniversary this year! AMIGOS’ mission is to inspire and build young leaders through collaborative community development and immersion in cross-cultural experiences. AMIGOS primarily works with high school and university students on summer projects and recently expanded to have semester and gap year programs.

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I first met up with Amigos de las Américas’ Oaxaca Project Director, Emma Smith. We discussed her role and the different programs that she helps manage. Emma brings a lot of experience to her role and was even an AMIGOS volunteer in high school, only to return to work for the organization after receiving her master’s degree. Emma manages 35 volunteers in Oaxaca. Emma’s responsibilities when visiting a community include meeting with local officials, host families, partner organizations, and volunteers to make sure any problems or issues have been properly addressed.

That day we were meeting up with Supervisor, Rani Kumar and together we would take a colectivo taxi to the rural community of Santo Tomas Mazaltepec, about an hour away from Oaxaca. Rani is a university student and returned AMIGOS volunteer who in her role as supervisor visits volunteers weekly in their communities.

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In Santo Tomas Mazaltepec there are two teenage AMIGOS volunteers. These volunteers get a full immersive experience, living with a host family and working with community partners and local youth volunteers. I was particularly impressed with their level of maturity, their language skills, and their dedication to the work.

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The AMIGOS volunteers have been working with a partner organization, Puente a la Salud Comunitaria. Puente is a nonprofit that trains community promoters who teach healthy cooking and nutrition and also run a summer lunch program for the local children. What I loved about Puente was that they actively work to introduce the native amaranth grain that is full of vitamins and amino acids, teaching families how to cook with it.

In addition to their work with Puente, the AMIGOS volunteers also work along side local youth to brainstorm, plan and execute a “micro project”. In the community of Mazaltepec the youth chose to develop a game night and to stock the library with games, some purchased and some created.

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It was so fun to AMIGOS volunteers at work and to see their staff coordinating and working with the community and partner organization leaders.

Thanks AMIGOS for letting me witness the great work you are doing.

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