We Are All Catalysts for Change: Volunteering with America Solidaria in the US

Estados Unidos
“As an America Solidaria Fellow in the U.S., I learned to serve each individual, each person as change agents, not as victims of poverty. We are all humans and we are all catalysts for change”. - Angela Betancur. Social Worker from Colombia, served as America Solidaria Fellow at the Latin American Youth Center in Washington D.C.

Q/ What made you want to become an America Solidaria volunteer?

A/ I felt completely identified with what they propose and have set out to accomplish: a more just and united continent. At the time I applied I had been working as a social worker for over three years, mainly with young people from different at risk backgrounds (prostitution, delinquency, use of psychoactive substances, teen pregnancy). I was looking to volunteer in a country in the Americas and knew I had found the perfect opportunity with America Solidaria.

Q/ How did America Solidaria prepare you for a year of service in a foreign country?

A/ You need more than professional experience to live out of your comfort zone and work as a volunteer for over a year.  This is as much a professional challenge as it is a personal one, but it is also an opportunity to question yourself and the world around you.

Our two week training in Chile at the start of the year was crucial; I as an individual, and we, as part of the America Solidaria volunteer team, reflected on social and political issues facing our continent , but most importantly, we were given space to reflect on the human dimension of volunteering, our expectations and our fears.

Q/ What projects and activities did you carry out as a volunteer?

A/ At the Latin American Youth Center in Washington, DC, I worked with the Healthy relationships program, carrying out processes with survivors of domestic violence and developed strategies for the prevention of gender-based violence with students from some DC schools, young men and women 14 to 21 years old. I also supported the Mental Health and Psychoactive Substance Use programs through individual and group counseling support four teenagers and their families.

One of the most successful and gratifying activities for me was an art therapy workshop with abused teenage girls. We asked the girls to express through paint and dance what they felt and liberate those fears and negative emotions. It was a liberating experience for them.

Q/ To whom would you recommend this volunteer opportunity?

A/ To all those that believe that a continent with less inequality is  possible, those who are passionate about overcoming  poverty and believe that we can better our societies through development; if you are willing to step out of your comfort zone and gain new experiences, then I suggest you apply to become an America Solidaria volunteer.