Chile: The Foundation “With Your Hands”

May justice open the way, and peace shine among us.
We work for human development and social justice. 
A group of alumni, families, friends and volunteers have joined the work that we RSCJ do in Michaihue sector, Concepción, Chile. Together we are creating a new space where we can work in collaboration towards a world that is more just and inclusive.  Sharing our mission with them, welcoming their initiatives, creating networks with them and through them, reflecting, searching and building together, has led us to widen our vision of reality, and at the same time, enriced enormously our service to these very poor people.
Our town has around 2,500 families who live in very vulnerable and extremely poor conditions. Many of them built their houses, but now they have drinking water, a sewage system and electricity. Almost a third lives in small apartments. Today 80% of the town’s roads are paved. In the last two years around 4 thousand families have begun to arrive, all of them evicted from nearby areas where they squatted illegally and lived in hovels with no water or electricity.
Since 2005 the organisation “With Your Hands” has developed activities to promote individual and community development, through Social Services and through the coordination of the numerous activities of many volunteers who work with more than 300 families. Our efforts are directed towards empowering organisations within the community, the neighborhood, and to enable self-help initiatives in many areas: child education, social integration of young people, environmental improvement, and development of women. We want to work towards overcoming poverty, and towards the social integration and development of children, young people, families and groups in Michaihue.
Our priorities for action
The professional expertise of social workers, working together with government agencies and local organisations, has taken on an on-going analysis of our sector, assessing various groups, supporting initiatives from the neighbourhood groups, and attending to the many needs of families. The wounds of poverty, the needs and desires of each one that comes to us become a challenge to respond to with new projects and initiatives. We want to offer each one a true and worthy solution to the problems of home, food, lack of work, sickness, drug dependency, violence or abandonment.
Support and development of women through workshops which bring together 15 women of all ages. Here they are offered opportunities for personal growth and to learn social and manual skills. Supported by a group of volunteers who are past pupils of the Sacred Heart School, they reflect on their situation as women, their stories, their needs. They also learn first aid, care for their body, hairdressing, cooking, painting and a range of crafts. The latter often become a way of supplementing the family income. What is most important is that, through meeting each other and sharing their reflections together, they build support networks amongst themselves.
Our services for children is something we have been doing since 2004, offering holiday camps for around 250 children from 5 to 14 years. For a week in the winter and summer holidays they meet together to play, share, learn how to know themselves and to be with others, as well as physical and craft skills. They are well fed, and above all receive much affection. The camps are organised by the young people in the missionary group “Saint Philippine Duchesne” from our school in Concepción. This same group continues to support 35 children throughout the year, helping them with their school work on Saturday mornings. We celebrate with them the most important feasts of the year with outings, a nice meal and games and competitions.
Our commitment to young people is expressed by accompanying about 30 young people and adolescents who have formed their own interest groups.   One group of young people meets for breakdance, another to create graffiti, another to become a “batucada” and practice walking on stilts. The younger adolescents just like to meet with their friends. These groups meet weekly and are supported by Social Work students who do their placements in our foundation. During the winter and summer holidays we give more time to the young people of Michaihue through running Youth Workshops. These last for 5 days and are called Ayekantun (opportunities for recreation, creativity and artistic expression). About 30 young people take part and begin each day with a reflection on their own reality as young people, as well as on their needs and their talents. These young people, aged between 15 and 25 years, take part in groups of music, crafts, breakdance, painting and graffiti. The volunteer youth workers become their friends and help us to plan future activities for these groups.
Also, throughout the year young people from our sector and other sectors help to organize the young people, together with the social workers, offer opportunities for voluntary community service in order to help some families with, for instance, repairing houses, collecting rubbish in the streets and making the town squares attractive.
Vision and values that urge us forward
With Your Hands is an invitation to listen to the needs of the poorest, to recognize the enormous debt that we owe them, to offer genuine friendship, and to be in solidarity with what they live and with their desires for greater dignity. With them we believe that it is possible to transform their situation of injustice, marginalization, and lack of resources; with them we want to take responsibility for the problems which affect us all, and to put the talents of each one at the service of the community, with them we work in the formation of self-reliant, open and responsible persons and groups. The starting point is Michaihue, the concrete faces of its children, women, young persons, their tremendous desire to learn, to meet, to celebrate; we want to question, to link efforts and social realities, to open doors to solidarity and compassion. It is with everyone we are making possible that here in Michaihue each own his/her dignity dignity; the dignity which makes each person unique, with his or her own skills and abilities that can develop fully and thus contribute creatively to society. We are taking steps towards justice by contributing to social and economic equity, making it possible for solidarity to generate communion and reconciliation, and to rebuild the social fabric destroyed by lack of trust, fear, discrimination and division. This solidarity, made visible in openness and friendship, helps to overcome the isolation, individualism, and loneliness which have an impact on relationships, encouraging the participation of all, both the people of Michaihue and those who offer help, in order that the capacity to act and modify social structures and dehumanizing life situations will unfold through autonomous, organized and responsible action.
Our hope is that our Foundation and all those who work in it will share life with the people of Michaihue and work to respond to their needs: loving each person, family and group deeply by knowing, welcoming and valuing the particular reality of each one; by allowing ourselves to be touched by injustice and suffering, and to be moved with compassion and the thirst for justice in face of each form of oppression and misery; in dialogue with local organizations and by collaborating in all attempts to promote the development of the whole person, offering solutions which always promote participation, identity and autonomy.
Sofia Baranda rscj

Section |Living Our Mission

Province |Chile

Tags |Collaboration with Other Institutions