As a foundation, we strongly believe that if we work together, we can break down barriers that keep people from reaching their maximum potential, and together as a community we can reach a better quality of life. This is exactly the reason that one of our volunteers, Alexa Schaeffer, decided to take on this task. “América Solidaria is a very unique organization. It works together with local organizations within communities to make changes. This was exactly what I wanted, to work with a community.” Alexa was born New York and completed her schooling at New York University in the areas of arts and politics in Latin American. Through diverse experiences, such as at Woodhull Hospital where she guided people in obtaining social services and resources available in New York, is how her passion and interest for Latin America grew. This is the reason that Alexa will begin working with the Ciudadano Global organization; in which she will focus on developing projects that help people seek employment and development in the work world.
One of our other volunteers, Katelyn Raynak, came all the way from Arizona to work for the Súmate Foundation, where she will use her background in psychology to work towards preventing students from dropping out of school. Her experience working with other organizations, such as Young Life and Reading Seed, which focused on service integration and community awareness, allowed her to “recognize some of the social and economic challenges that adolescents are faced with. The main goal was to create safe environments for students by providing them with leaders who were ready to listen to them”. For Katelyn, an important part of her work is “involving herself in the community and listening to the people there, given that the biggest change and progress can only be achieved through interactions with citizens and community organizations, particularly those affected by injustice and inequality. ”
We know that this reality takes place all across the continent. Many people live without the rights and benefits that only a few people are able to enjoy. The amount of children that leave school due to exposure to dangerous environments where there are no support systems, and the increase in school dropout rates are both shockingly high. It is for this reason that another one of our volunteers, Alexa Schwartz, will also participate in the Súmate Foundation working in a program that focuses on school drop-out rates and areas of education. “Education has always been important because it opens many
opportunities and frontiers. The issue of school dropout rates is multilayered, and has no single exact definition. Rather, it has many definitions, and I hope to be able to understand the root of the problem during my time here”. Alexa was born in Florida and has worked in the educational field in the Newcomb College Institution, within a program focused on women through which they could receive support and education in order to take on leadership roles in society. “There, I learned how to interact with young people and handle projects and advance step by step. Every one of our plans must be developed and planned out”. Part of her work will be to conduct research to help understand the process that young people go through as they end up leaving school, setting patterns and developing eventual support plans.
Also, one of the members of this new team of volunteers, Alex Penwill, will be working in América Solidaria Haití as a part of a pilot program within the offices of the foundation itself. Alex was born in Denver, Colorado and during his years in the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, he focused on international management, sustainable development, social enterprises and Latin America. This led him to develop a wide body of work in building alliance strategies among the organizations where he participated, with other collaborative centers, sponsors and administrators. For Alex, working in América Solidaria became the highest point in the reality that he has been able to understand, and it reaffirms his thinking of how “important it is for the community to develop projects that garner local support and collaborate with the area’s leaders. This is especially true for base projects where the goal is to reduce poverty, inequality, and to improve social welfare”.
We trust that the journey they have embarked upon will enrich their lives and continue to a spirit of solidarity in them that we hope extends all across the continent. Working towards redefining societal values and giving people what they need in order to enjoy a better quality of life opens the door to a place with more justice and dignity.