I arrived in Cordoba, Argentina on the 8th of March 2017 to do my 6 months EVS project on the topic of community mediation with a 25 kilos luggage, 60 kilos in my heart and 180 kilos of expectations.
They always say that it would be better leaving without expectations, letting yourself be carried out by what happens, but this is one of the things I am not good at, reason why I am trying to transform this boulder of expectations towards Argentina, EVS, OAJNU and myself into a tool to deeply get into contact with this experience. A bit as it happens with community mediation: the conflict stemming among the expectations of people coming from a specific culture and the fact of living in that certain context, allow to know and recognize each other’s in a deep way and thus discover which are the limits and the resources we own to change something.
I thought a lot about when it would have been the right moment to start recounting something and it always seemed “too early” to say something reasonable, clever or simply communicative. One leaves thinking about diving into a difficult reality, something unimaginable, of working full time to solve the great problems of the world, about recounting tear-jerking stories on life in Latin America…or at least this is what I was thinking.
And then there are the first two months here.
These two months when everything goes slow, the summer is reaching its end and the city slowly starts to reawaken from its hibernation. You arrive ready to “kick the ass to the world” and you find yourself in streets full of people moving in slow-motion, “despacito” is not only a song, it is a way of life!
Cordoba forced me to live the waiting time, the time of the process, learning to catch all that is in between thinking about something and starting to act.
Cordoba is a place you need to learn to listen, catch. It is not a “pueblo” and not a capital city and for this reason it has small realities problems and big cities difficulties. To get in contact with Cordoba you need to slow down, stop, learn to wait the other’s time, Cordoba’s time. This time that in the end seems to be not enough to understand it, to start writing, to start working.
This is my EVS first phase, I like to think it as the first phase of the community mediation process: in order to really intervene and act in a social group you need to first get in contact with people, understand which is one’s question and wait until is ready to work on it, because without community’s realisation of a problem or conflict, you cannot go anywhere. Many times we are part of a relationship, of a group, of a community and we are so into what is happening that we cannot see, stop and understand what’s going on. In this sense, the first phase of community mediation allows us to build a time with social actors to understand what one is experiencing, which are one’s needs and how it is possible to intervene.
Very often this time is longer than these two months, but they have to be enough.
Now that projects have started, I realize that the waiting and the time that seemed me as “empty” have been great allies to start understanding something about what it going on here. Keep standing and silent has forced me to listen to and not only know Cordoba but also the organization which is hosting me.
And here OAJNU (Argentina Youth Organization for United Nations) comes into place.
Getting to know it, is an experience by itself. To those saying that youngsters are not eager to do anything, or are not able to, or that they do not have enough experience, I would like to tell them to come and have a walk around here before talking. OAJNU is not an organization like the others, it is an organization made by youth for youth. And when I am talking about youth I mean 18 years-old people starting to cooperate with the organization who at the age of 20-21 are coordinating projects, builing up productive and bounding relations with institutions, educational contexts and among volunteers. It is an NGO which aims at creating an inner space where young people can grow and become competent, a space where they can think about how to change reality. The interesting thing is the type of work they carry out: there is no tangible result as the building of a roof….they are young people creating an emotional space to transform and develop critical thinking: they try to promote a real change starting from the inside, from emotions… and this work requires long waiting times to build the bound and the ability to accept frustration, because you need to learn to work long time without knowing which will be the results and when you will be able to see them.
It is true that frustration can become a catarsis to build a reflection and reconstruct the puzzle. Now I am thankful I arrived here “early” because I got the opportunity to see the creative process for the organization internal and external goals and for the various projects as well as the moments during which the bound with the community key actors has been created.
For example, I got the chance to travel for three hours with public transports to reach a school in the middle of the pampa to ask a teacher whether and how to continue previous cooperation. I got the opportunity to see that those 6 hours of travel for a meeting lasting half an hours were the result of months of work and confiance building and that the same travel is the symbol of a committment in the relation with the other. With this travel you are telling the other that you see and recognize him/her and this is the first, fundamental step to allow his/her opening up to the possibility of showing you what is happening in his/her reality and take part into it. It is therefore in the process that the mind starts to build the world of possibilities and in the way back where it places the basis to understand what is happening.
Now that I got the chance to take part into the “process”, I am ready to get into the “tangible” and conflict related aspects of community mediation process and of my own one here.
Chiara is the Italian volunteer hosted by OAJNU in Cordoba, Argentina.