Friday, 16 September 2011

"I guess everything began when I was 21..."

This is a short autobiographical story by Enrique, an activist that we at Greenhouse had the pleasure of working with albeit for a few months.


I guess everything began when I was 21. After several years being part of parish groups, I suddenly thought It was time to do something real for those who didn´t have as much luck as I had. February 1 of 1992. It was probably the most important Saturday of my live. There we were, on a sunny morning at one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Madrid. It was something like a school playground. My five fellows and me were there all the morning, playing with almost 20 children from seriously social damaged families. One of the youngest was 2 years old and his name was Manuel. Mari, his mother, had AIDS, and had been in jail a couple of times. I think I loved that boy since that first day. I think I loved all those kids since that day and I think that love changed me forever. That was the way I started my way into volunteering. After that, I have never given up this way of understand and live my life.

Being a volunteer, I travelled to Brazil to open a kindergarten for children with serious nutritional problems. I was also in Tijuana, one of the most dangerous cities at the Mexican border with USA, working with young gangsters they call “cholos”. Back in Madrid I created a very small craft business with young people in social risk situation (one of them just when he was out of prison for the first time). I also created an association with other social workers in which, for almost 5 years, we give work to almost 11 professionals that attended more than 900 women from all around the world. What we did in that organization was to help those women, most of them immigrants, without work and with dependents, to get a job that allowed them and their families to live with dignity. And again abroad, from 2008 to 2011, I was in Perú trying to promote youth environmental volunteering, being myself a United Nations Volunteer.

Some of these experiences lasted only a few months. Some of them several years. To be a volunteer has given me a lot of things. Has opened my eyes and my heart. Has shown me different places of the world, and very different corners and realities at the town where I was born. Has given me the chance to know how life is for most of the people of this planet (almost 923 million people live with less than one dollar a day). Has shown me it´s sadness and hope. Made me meet hundreds, possibly thousands of people with whom I learned what life means, with whom I learned how and why to fight tirelessly against injustice. And what is the most important thing, has brought to my live lots of people I will love forever, even if I don´t see them again.

That February´s day changed everything. Some time after that date I gave up my studies of Marketing. Now I am a social worker with almost 20 years experience in the fields of social action and international cooperation. I could have been something like a senior executive in a multinational with a good amount of money in my bank account, but thanks to God and to Manuel´s smile, now I´m about to start working in the promotion of solidarity in my own country, withthe fundraising team of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).

I could have been one of those men that think they know everything, but infact know nothing except that money rules the world. That are absolutely sure that nothing will change anything, and that believe the best thing they can do in their lives is to earn as much money as posible.

Thanks to all the things I have seen, I’m only absolutely sure that I have lots of things to learn. And I have the deep hope that some day this world will be better. Because of that, I´m currently studying a Master’s in International Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid, and because of that also, I lived for almost four months in Malta trying to learn some English. I´m not sure if I improved the “English thing” there, but what I certainly know is that again to be a volunteer (this time with Greenhouse Malta), gave me lots of things. It gave me the chance to learn more about environmental issues, about compromise, about how to believe in what you are doing, about how good ideas, and hard work, can change so many things. But over everything else, being a volunteer with GHM gave me also the opportunity to meet more people of this kind of people that is really worth to know.

So my friend, be very careful if one of this days you feel something like you want to be a volunteer. Perhaps that day will change your life forever. For ever, but for good. I´m also sure about that.

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