Ángela Betancur from Colombia, Lucía Solorzano from Nicaragua, and Nicolás Torres from Chile, are the first three volunteer professionals from Latin American who have come to the United States as a part of the pilot program, “Atlas Corps – América Solidaria Fellowship in the United States for professionals from Latin America and the Caribbean”. This year-long fellowship, partnered with the NGO Atlas Corps (AC). Through this pilot that our three new volunteers will become a part of this social innovation by working and volunteering in the United States. They will each work in the Latin American Youth Center in Washington DC, sharing their experiences and using their professional training in distinct community outreach programs.
We are happy to let everyone know about our volunteers!
Below we have added a little background information on our volunteers and what their views are for the American social landscape.
Ángela Betancur has worked as a social worker, mainly focusing on substance abuse prevention, teen pregnancies, and prostitution and crime in the vulnerable areas of Medellin. She has worked with communities using art and games with children with cognitive impairments, working towards integrating them into working environments, eventually building up to a full societal integration.
When we asked her about her first impressions of the children she is working with in DC she responded, “I think that opportunities are for all of those who use our heads and minds. When they believe that because they are born poor, their parents were poor and their grandparents were too, then they are born believing that they will also be the same and that opportunities do not exist for them like they do for other people. So, what I am noticing is an internal poverty cycle, these children do not think they can do anything to escape this cycle and although there are opportunities, they believe that they are not for them, or that it’s extremely difficult, or that opportunities are only for people who are pretty, white, or rich.”
Coming from the city of León, allow us to introduce our first Nicaraguan América Solidaria volunteer, Lucía Solorzano. As a psychologist with more than six years of experience working with non-profit organizations, she will work on the investigation and implementation of various necessary tools to help the community. When we asked her about why she chose América Solidaria’s program with Atlas Corps she said, “I worked in the Dominican Republic and met three volunteers there who I later become friends with. I had a paid job and even though I stayed with them in their home, they never shut me out or closed the door on me. They taught me how to have a sense of community, and after that, learning how to live and thrive in a community became one of my biggest dreams. I ended up volunteering with them in Haiti and got to see América Solidaria’s office there. It was the sheer amount of possibilities and experiences that truly captivated me. I found out more about the foundation and what it did through some of the volunteers who showed me that you can really experience and live the values that you are spreading and promoting.”
Finally, Nicolás, who is from Santiago, Chile, is the final member of our new team and as an attorney he has worked in organizations that provide training and education to vulnerable workers; he has experience working with labor laws, helping the most disadvantaged people in the community.
When we asked him about his first impressions of the American social landscape he responded, “Even the United States is not without poverty, however it is a different experience than what we are used to in Latin America. There is better access to education, housing and all types of goods and services. However, there is a lot of loneliness and abandonment. Here, poverty is a symptom of social failure. For North America, social failure is almost inexcusable and the poor are made into social pariahs. Poverty in the United States is deeply linked with violence and exclusion and primarily hits the Latin and African American minorities. It surprised me that racial integration here is practically non-existent, much less than what one sees outside of the country.”
We are very happy with the arrival of the first group of Latin American volunteers in the United States, who without a doubt represent a new path towards transcontinental cooperation. We wish them all the best, with a year full of learning opportunities, dedication, and contribution to create a more just, more human, and more supportive America.