Occupation: Founder/Director of Emerging Voices - IVHQ Partner Colombia
Hometown: Bogota, Colombia
IVHQ Program: Peru - Lima
Program Date: 2008
What is your fondest memory from your time volunteering abroad with IVHQ?
My fondest memory is from when I was volunteering in Lima, Peru, with elderly ladies with special needs. On my last day of volunteering they performed songs and poetry for me as a farewell gift. I realized how much they appreciated the last six weeks and what our time together meant to them. It helped me appreciate the contributions that volunteers make to these fragile grandmothers and other often-neglected groups. It encouraged me to continue volunteering when I went back home to Colombia.
Why should you be the IVHQ Volunteer of the Year?
I started Emerging Voices as a hobby three years ago, and it quickly turned into a full-time job after its onset. Though it’s been four years since I volunteered with IVHQ, volunteering is part of my every-day life. Since 2009, I have shared my home and my passion for volunteering with over 300 volunteers from all over the world. Without their coming to Colombia to contribute their time and skills, Emerging Voices would not exist and I might not be fortunate enough to dedicate myself completely to helping others. I would love to be IVHQ Volunteer of the Year to honor all the wonderful volunteers with whom I’ve worked over the last few years.
Music: 'Pescao Envenenao' by Choquibtown
What benefits will the award money have for your designated project?
The prize money would go towards a literacy program for the children in our Cartagena program. We estimate that approximately 1 in 8 children cannot even write their own name, let alone read a primary school text. This is due to long periods of living or begging on the streets and missing school. Many of them struggle in school, have low self-esteem and are scared of the future.
The funding would allow us to work with specialist tutors as they assess students’ literacy challenges and developing their skills, in addition to helping us purchase much needed materials and books. The program would give volunteers the opportunity to assist the tutors and work one-on-one with children. Nurturing and improving every child’s literacy skills would create real possibilities for these children and, in the long run, transform their lives and the communities that they live in.
What is your long-term vision for this project?
Our strategic objective is to help children progress through a quality education program and into either vocational training or higher education. In the short run, we would like to continue taking kids to DisneyWorld and providing them with scholarships, as we have done in the last year in the Bogota program. In the long run, our vision is to help them become skilled, employable individuals and create healthy communities for future generations. I strongly believe that we can break the poverty cycle by providing young people with access to quality education and training, as well as giving them strong mentoring and love from our volunteers.