miércoles, 6 de junio de 2007


Submitted by Peter Claesson, UNDP

“The program recovered a lot of youth here. There was disorder and so many negative things that affected the kids. The police used to come a lot because of all the gangs. But they harassed everybody. Now there is no violence and no drugs. There are more kids playing, more groups that go to the church to hear talks. Before it was aggressive. It was dangerous in the evening in the streets. But it’s not now.” - Sonia Mendoza Lopez, resident of Colonia Primero de Deciembre

Sonia Mendoza first began as a volunteer with Xibalba when a few of the organizations leaders came to her neighborhood to begin a campaign. She operates a small pulperia in the heart of the barrio but since becoming a volunteer she spares time to work with sick children, survivors of gang violence and visit minors in jail. “One of Xibalba’s main strengths is that the majority of its volunteers come from the communities and the streets. Their motivation is intrinsic. They volunteer so that they will promote better lives for their children, their neighbors and themselves,” explains a member of the organization’s board of directors, Itsmania Pineda. Sonia is one of over 6,000 members that make Xibalba’s network of volunteers that has spread to hundreds of Tegucigalpa’s poorest neighborhoods. A core group of volunteers recruits these community volunteers who then work to better the neighborhood they live in. Adult leaders reach out to the area’s youth in campaigns of gang and drug prevention. They help youth become accepted in their own homes and save others from entering gangs. In addition to encouraging youth Xibalba’s brand of volunteerism empowers adult community members. “Volunteering gives a sense of self worth,” says Pineda. She tells a story of one volunteer who changed his own life. “There was a man who was an alcoholic. He treated his family badly, didn’t get along with his neighbors and community members. He started as a volunteer and so had to be a good example. Even the gang members in the community held him accountable. He quit drinking and mistreating his family. If he went back on it then someone held him accountable.” “It’s a simple concept that people just get – ‘If I teach them to do better I learn to do better.’ - People want to become more humane and fill in the emptiness; they won’t turn back once they start to fill it in with positive things. The system encourages people act in simple but positive ways that they did not do before being recruited as volunteers. “We suggest methods of building the community from within and people respond well,” she reports. Xibalba provides individuals with an increased sense of value and responsibility. The title of ‘volunteer’ alone encourages people to act as leaders. Xibalba’s message that community members can stimulate reform is reinforced by social proof. The coordination of raising many volunteers in a given area at once also creates a support network of common interest in the community. “Our biggest key to success if the humility of our volunteers,” proclaims Pineda. “They know the problems where they live. They know the people there. Their humility makes them effective. Becoming a member of Xibalba tightens them to their community, empowers them.” But the organization benefits from other types of volunteers as well. People from all sectors of society strengthen its work. For example, members of the press often give free advertising space and promotion to Xibalba. “We get so many volunteers by the transparency and credibility of the organization. Plus people trust us because no one here earns any money from our work, even the principal organizers. No one feels like anyone but themselves and their community is profiting from their efforts. The secret is in the volunteerism.”

Cultural Interaction: Art as an Attraction and Medium.
Other core volunteers help craft the medium and message of Xibalba. The organization uses art to reach out to youths and then encourages them to express themselves in ways that build the community. Volunteer Juan Murillo Rodriguez explains how Xibalba uses art to both raise interest and displace dangerous diversions. “It’s easy to organize. If you go into a community and ask ‘who wants to be involved in theatre, in art or music’ everyone wants to. But they normally don’t have the chance. So they are inclined to do nothing or digress toward gangs, violence.” Art gives the youth an outlet and also contributes to a positive message. “Better rapping, painting and acting then robbing using drugs and fighting,” adds Pineda. Music and visual art are an ever-present part of all societies. Xibalba uses the media to convey messages that build the individual in place of the negative ones that inundate popular culture. The art conveys a positive message but often acknowledges present reality. “If a child is a victim of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, how can they sing of love. They don’t know it,” says Pineda. But the kids raise awareness of the problems by articulating them. It opens dialogue and intervenes in cycles of violence and abuse.” With support from the older volunteers local youth write and act in plays, write songs that they later perform and paint. Xibalba provides materials for youth to paint artistic murals over gang graffiti. Plays performed on the streets draw a crowd and educate the audience about topics relevant to combating social problems. Rappers gravitate towards other accomplished musician volunteers and write lyrics that convey the messages of peace and substance free lives.

At the top of the organization a consejo de accessores resides over a 12-member board of directors. The board of directors is made up of committed adults who have spent countless hours beginning new programs in dangerous neighborhoods. The board includes a variety of concerned leaders including ex-gang members and prominent business people. When beginning a new campaign, board members along with core volunteers enter at risk areas and raise local volunteers who work within their own communities. After the board decides to begin a new campaign a small group of volunteers makes preliminary visits to the targeted neighborhood to raise awareness of the organization, build relationships with community members and begin work on a diagnostic. The most recent program was begun in Nueva Suyapa. Three volunteers, including a board member, walk the streets to raise consciousness amongst their inhabitants and gain an understanding of the community’s problems. Core volunteers conduct interviews and surveys and map the area. They target leaders such as local priests, school principals and social workers but also talk with the leaders of the gangs. “They have grown up in the streets with us,” explains Pineda of the gang leaders. “We know them. They trust us. We never have problems with them.” This confidence gives Xibalba the advantages of access and increased social relations. The board of directors uses the preliminary information to design a strategy for the neighborhood. Meanwhile information spreads throughout the barrio and core volunteers begin to teach community volunteers to take positions of leadership. Volunteers recruit young people in Xibalba. Interested youths fill out informational sheets and are later given a membership card. The cards create a social identity that centers on art but articulates social change. After permeating the community and developing local artists an exhibition is held in the neighborhood. The exhibition is a concert and art show where street kids also perform street theatre. The event helps educate the rest of the community of the new presence of Xibalba. Kids, adults and gang members alike gather to investigate the spectacle. The personal interaction builds solidarity in places that rarely have mixed crowds. They also draw out new youth who become interested in Xibalba. Besides the art itself, the organization brings speakers to the communities to give talks in schools and other community centers. Ex-gang members share personal testimonies, educators give lessons on sexuality and speakers talk of the dangers of drugs. When possible Xibalba establishes workshops that serve both as classes for acquiring a trade and sources of income for community projects. Three sewing workshops grace a well-established campaign in colonia Primero de Deciembre. The board of directors hopes to open a computer workshop in the new program in Nueva Suyapa. “We already have instructors who volunteer,” tells Pineda. “But we don’t have computers yet. If we get the funds, great we will take advantage of them. But if not then it won’t detain us.” She goes on to reveal a secret of the programs sustainability, “We don’t give. We teach. We want to prove to the government that change can be made by motivating people in the streets not by spending millions of dollars.”

No hay comentarios: