The October Spotlight on Service features the inspiring work of Daniel (Grade 10) with Fundación Granitos de Paz, an organization that serves communities in need in Cartagena, Colombia. Here, Daniel tells us about the youth programs he assisted during his service with this charity.
What is the mission of Fundación Granitos de Paz?
Granitos de Paz has been working for the better part of twenty years in trying to help break the poverty cycle in this region of the city, and consequently give all those in the community an opportunity for a better life. Through their hard work and dedication, they have been able to set up many positive spaces to encourage the young generations to keep in school, stay out of gangs, and not to follow the bad ways that had taken over the neighborhood before Granitos de Paz arrived.
This organization has also created multiple projects in order to achieve their goals, such as the patios productivos (productive patios), spaces for women, mostly single mothers, to be able to work by planting crops and maintaining them so that they can later distribute the crops they cultivate to big hotel chains and supermarkets in Cartagena. Granitos de Paz also offers sports academies and Baccalaureate tutoring for those who were not able to finish school. These are not the only projects that have been taken on by Granitos de Paz, but they are three very important ones.
What led you to volunteer with Fundación Granitos de Paz?
I had the desire to do something meaningful and, for me, it was no secret that many of the Non-Governmental Organizations in Colombia need a lot of help and contributions from our society. I also came to the realization that I could contribute in a much bigger way by putting in the hours and going to work over there, with the people in need, than by just donating. I knew about the great things Granitos de Paz was doing. From introducing green spaces in one of the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods in Cartagena, to creating a sports academy to keep the kids away from gangs and other actions that lead many to a horrible lifestyle, I was most fascinated with their work. From a position of privilege, I made it a priority to begin to make a difference, even in the smallest way.
What was a typical day like for you?
My job was very flexible. I had different experiences almost every day and got to know the stories of many people. Most days, I worked with the sports academy as it is within my interests. I helped the soccer coach set up, conduct practice, and, of course, play with the kids and have a good time. Soccer is one of the best ways to help the children in an environment like this as it is a sport that requires commitment, discipline, and hard work. In a country like Colombia, it is also part of the culture that unites the people in the country. Over my time in Cartagena, I also helped to direct tutoring for students who were reviewing the content of high school classes that were needed in order to take the equivalent of the SAT in Colombia to be able to go to university.
What new skills did you learn?
As a consequence of my experience, I worked on a lot of different skills. The first and most important one, in my opinion, was the virtue of empathy. As a very privileged person, I sometimes close myself to the thoughts of the misery that others might live in, but thankfully I was able to get a new perspective on how a very big part of our country lives. Even though in my school and house, empathy has been one of the core values, I believe that it is very hard to really develop this ability before fully understanding the other person or people, and putting ourselves in their shoes. I believe that I was also able to pick up and work on the skill of patience. Sometimes I disregarded the fact that everything in life doesn’t work as I have planned, but this experience taught me that the unknown can also help you to grow.
More information about Fundación Granitos de Paz may be found at this link.