Community Education And Empowerment in The Most Critical Places of Venezuela
11 May 2017
I think we can all agree that this world is full of people in need and sometimes even though we have the good intentions, we don’t have the time, money or resources to help them. It can be a difficult task if you’re not surrounded by such environments to have the motivation to do something about it.
The best part?
You don’t have to experience it on your own to know how it really is. I am here to share my story so you can have a glimpse on what’s going on when you’re confronted with these situations, let me indulge you with my story in Venezuela, one of the last projects I did before leaving the country in look for a better life.
I am a person who is interested in helping the people in need, therefore I am always looking for experiences that can help me make a change into others people’s life. I’ve always been someone that has liked to work with organizations that make a change, not only because I can help others, but also because these experiences enrich me in many personal levels and in many different ways.
How to bring peace to poor neighborhoods through architecture
I had the opportunity to work with a team of professionals such as architects, politicians, social workers and other members in a project called ‘Espacios de Paz’, which means ‘Peaceful Spaces’; the project involved visiting the most critical places of Venezuela, where there is severe poverty and where people have low resources, the team guides and teach the community how to develop an architectural project which at the end will be used by the same people of the community. Their main motto is: ‘If you build it, you’ll take care of it’.
The benefits of guidance and teamwork in such charity projects
The main goal to achieve by such charity entities is that by engaging the community to help with the building of such buildings, they will show more appreciation when the project is finished, thus resulting in longer preservation of the building. The idea that thanks to the effort put by the people involved the building will have more meaning and will be taken care of after it’s finished, it’s a great way to empower the community and put them in charge of the preservation of the place.
The project will not only teach the community about architecture, but at the same time about teamwork and leadership. It’s a great way to educate the public, teach them new skills and to teach them about appreciation for what they have, thanks to their own accomplishments.
How to break the social barriers
During this project the team and the community worked on the construction of a community cinema, which also included a space for children and a café. The building was supposed to be used to watch movies and to bring the children to play and have fun in their spare time. This community area was being built with the purpose of breaking the social barriers and to get the community members get to know each other, not only by working on the project but also when using the space for its purposes when it’s finished.
The building contained a room with big stairs-like stand where people can sit and enjoy the movie, at the other side of the stand there’s a children’s ball pool. In the other room there’s a café and a space where children can play and learn in company of each other, while their parents socialize with the rest of the community members.
Whose lives are being positively changed?
Most of the people involved in the project were member of these communities where the crime is high and where people live in really critical conditions, therefore the people who we were helping were mostly criminals, drug dealers or other kind of people who are common social outcasts.
The main purpose of the project is to teach these young men (most of them are young men), skills that they can use instead of committing crimes. The main reason most of the population is in such critical conditions is because of lack of proper guidance and because most of the population is uneducated, this leads to a high percentage of criminals in the society.
What kind of results did this project bring into the society?
In the first four weeks there was already a big change in the young people involved in the project, most of the people who started with 0% knowledge were able to do a lot; such things as welding, measuring and using different construction tools. The visibility of the construction of the project also brought community members to participate in aiding the workers with food and beverages; it was a big success into bringing the people together.
It was also a great opportunity for those people who were seen as criminals and outcasts to show what they’re capable of doing for the society with the proper training and guidance.
In conclusion I can say that these kinds of projects where the community is involved brings more benefits than just giving the people something without going through the process of working hard for it. I can apply this lesson in my life, that when you put effort in achieving something that you want, you will love it more and appreciate it, because it will be the results of your own hard work and dedication.
I am very grateful to the foundation of ‘Amenidades Urbanas (Urban Amenities)’ for giving me the chance to be part of documenting this project, that started just with an idea and it ended up changing people’s lives.
Photos By Rafael Barragán
Written by Fernando Smolders
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