Blog

Karla Jimenez: Eswatini and its people 

In this month of celebrations in my beautiful country, I want to take the advantage to express gratitude to Eswatini and its people, for making me feel like home. Firstly, for showing me that there is plenty of kindness no matter the reason and the resources, secondly, for receiving me with care; for teaching me their culture and open the doors of their home with a smile and a hug. So much that even they have knocked my door to give me food, with so much effort, and as a proof of love. I would like to transmit somehow the esteem and gratitude to every person who I have had the luck to meet, for their smiles, the joy in the children’s eye and the story of each, who have had opened their hearts to me. 

Truly, for me is kind of hard to express in words how this experience has taught me to appreciate and see life in a different way, but if I try to define it, it would be smiles, hugs, (at this point, everyone think that in Chile we greet with hugs!), gestures, caress in the hair and face, simplicity, kindness, happiness for the simple things in life, among other things. 

On the other hand, the affection of children is so pure and honest, despite that most of the children of St. Joseph Home, are in a disability situation, and the majority were abandoned by their parents, they still show their love from the first second. 

On the part of adults, who I had the opportunity to share as much as the children, they are people rich in spirit, which they show in their daily life. They are human’s beings so grateful for what they have, and that is right and proper to live. Despite that, they care for each other, the neighbors and the defenseless. Therefore, that is what makes special people from Eswatini, and I think that is exactly what we need to learn and imitate. 

During this time, I could relate a lot with my neighbors, while we wash our cloth, or when we go to search for water to cook and showering. I think that in those minutes, doing simple things is when the best conversations and laughter had taken place. Even, one day, they lend me some traditional African cloth to assist to “Umhlanga Reed Dance Eswatini”, that is a celebration where the king chooses a new wife, who is added to the other currently 17 wives. To me, that celebration was a unique experience to feel closer to the Eswatini culture and be one of them. 

Finally, I would like to thank the Africa Dream Foundation and every one of the partners who make all of this possible, and to the people who participate every day in our raise fund events, as my best friend said, “not everything has a price… some things don’t have measurable value”. And this is the experience here in Africa, learning that you don’t get from a book, neither buy it, just to live it and carry with you forever.

To respect traditions is to respect ourselves

Viviana Zambrano

Directora Fundación Africa Dream

Over the month of September in Chile we experiment a stimulation of national symbols, of programs
that show us the traditions of different places of our country and while September 18 th , our national
holiday, gets closer the music on the radio turns into tunes and cuecas (music of national dance) and we
start to remember our childhood, dances, empanadas and games. Maybe the foreign people look at us
with amazed eyes and without understanding much. Nevertheless, they sense that “all of this” matters.
Those same eyes are the ones when we travel and face different customs holidays from other realities,
the same expressions of curiosity of our volunteers in Africa show when they are facing to cultural
demonstration of customs that are different from our experience.
In Africa Dream, we know that the rituals and cultural practices of each community, which we interact
has a value to them, and we connect with that sense, empathizing and embracing that difference.
Sometimes it is not easy and it challenges our mental models. That is the moment when we invite our
volunteers and ourselves to connect with a dimension that makes us “one”: as human beings we seek to
express what we feel, to celebrate and be happy.
To connect with that common spirit from humanity, that it is in our DNA and comes from our ancestors,
thousands of generations ago, it makes us brothers in essence of everyone who inhabits this planet. And
in families, the ancestors are honored and the customs are respected, we ask about the sense by putting
ourselves in their shoes. As volunteers, we do that in the places where we are taken, to create a better
reality, and we honored their traditions and the planet with our Big Family.

Stories from a former volunteer 

Francisca Vergara
Kenya 2011-2012

I was exactly one year in Africa, in my case I was in Kenia. The people who live there have
little, but they are very happy. It’s like they don’t need material things, maybe it is because
they are rich in spirit, and that is what matters. There are other basic needs that we take
for granted, and I wanted to experiment all of that face to face.
During my experience, I developed an empowerment project with young people who
were living in the street; we build a henhouse. It was their idea and it turned out to be
their little business, which also helped them to rejoin with the community, considering
that they are an outcast group for the society.
My biggest learning of all of this experience is to live happily with what we have, and leave
beside our pessimistic feelings since there is so much to smile for. This experience left a
mark in my professional life, and also changed how I use to see life. For example, the way
of how I live my daily life, and being kind to the people (whoever it is) is not that hard. I
realized how lucky am I and how important is to live the moment, make the most of the
hours that we have in this world by doing something that fills you spiritually because
money is not everything.
To those who want an experience with Africa Dream, my advice is that every moment,
take it as it comes. You will be going to a continent where everything is completely
different. I also recommend to say “I love you” more often, many people would say that is
not necessary, but it is. Lastly, share with the people who matters and makes you happy,
be surrounded by those who fill your soul. Over that year in Africa, plenty of those “ghost
friends” disappear on the way.

Gabriel Melo: Sharing knowledge

Time has flown by; the first five months of work in the farm have been full of learning. However, we have never lost sight of our goal: to train the Samburu communities in organic agriculture.   

By the end of July we officially started the program denominated “Community Gardens in Samburu: Lodungokwe, Tuum and Barsaloi” materialized with the on-site execution of the first workshop about management of soil for the groups that are going to participate during the first instruction cycle, which lasts a total of 18 months.     

From the moment that we found out about this first trip to the north to start the program, the enthusiasm took over each one of us, and the knowledge that it was finally going to start, that the garden had been getting ready for the past two years for this, gives us such a deep sense of excitement. 

Arriving to this place, reuniting with the people from the missions in the north is a reason for happiness; there is always so much to share with the priests, seminarians, volunteers, sisters from the Saint Theresa congregation, workers from the mission and the people that belong to the community. The fact that we could witness the big expectation that is placed on this program in the missions is something that fills us with motivation to give the best of ourselves.  

After a warm welcome in Barsaloi, we met a group that was mainly formed by women. It brought a lot of joy for us to see the huge interest that everyone was showing for the workshop, by making questions, talking amongst each other or simply by listening intently the knowledge that we were sharing.  

In Tuum the story was no different. Once again, the all-female group showed a great predisposition to learn and do the experiments that we had prepared for them with their own hands; these consisted on determining the texture of the different soils and then create small piles of compost. Unlike Barsaloi, in Tuum there are some families that have ventured into agricultural practices, mainly in vegetables like “Sukuma wiki” and Swiss chard (frequently eaten in the country), according to the results shown in the initial polls that we made.  

After a long trip from Tuum, we reached our last destination: Lodungokwe. This last group, the least homogeneous in age and gender, is formed by five young males and six females, which is something very positive in our point of view. This will allow cooperative work amongst them, something that is not always possible in the Samburu communities, especially in the more conservative families.   

Generally speaking the results of the experiment of soil are very similar in the three missions, where sand predominates over mud and clay, which poses, without a doubt, a big effort to the program. This mandates to look for different techniques of improvement for the soil and optimization for the water; these are needed to overcome this obstacle.  

Once we were back in the garden and with our batteries fully charged we were able to testify, with confidence, the importance this program we are creating has for people. Even though we are just starting, we are convinced that in the near future a lot more people will be able to benefit thanks to this kind of programs. The results will be reflected on improving the diet and where, over time, these new abilities can turn into an income for each family.  

Why you should be part of the tribe?

Amparo Velasco
Africa Dream Director 

Every year, the Africa Dream Foundation, chases a new dream, a new project in a new location, and a new challenge, that comes from the urgent necessity of the high amount of children, adults and elders that living in extreme poverty and illness conditions. The challenge of every year is bigger… and it adds to a new cause that is currently maintained, and that are completely funded with the support of our partners in Chile.  

Every year, different professional are sent, who give away their time and work to a location, with a clear objective from the beginning. This objective can be in a new school, hospital, community vegetable patch… Doctors, agronomist, teachers, engineers, technicians, physical therapist, physiotherapist are needed, and anyone that feel in their heart the thrust, the strength and the will of coming out of their comfort zone to work in the hardest conditions that they will face in their life, but with the satisfaction and joy of being part of a tribe it is unforgettable. 

For every volunteer that the foundation sends, for every project that is going to be develop, we must assure a permanent flow of incoming that will allow us to settle the accommodation, with all that implies, assuring all the necessary conditions. We don’t take chances. We have to be sure to cover all the expenses before we start planning a trip, to buy supplies and before we nurture hopes. 

The only income to develop and build this amazing work is your contribution. With your commitment and monthly contribution, we can; design, plan, assess and fulfill with a project of caring, healing, educating, growing, and creating dreams and hopes for every children and adult. 

Today we have a new dream that is an urgent matter: The Eswatini orphanage. This project seeks to take in and look after abandoned children and with some disability. It is necessary to cover all of their basic needs, such as, accommodation, health and diet, but also, we have to help them to develop themselves as autonomous adults, give them

 tools, teach them how to move forward and how to live better. First of all, a medic and an engineer will travel, and they will perform a lifting of the current conditions, just as much as in infrastructure as in the general condition of the children, so in the few weeks that the professional are there, can give them the therapy and care that they will need, and also a special education.

The contribution of every partner is vital to fulfill this dream. It is amazing how meaningful it is. No amount is too small. You can’t imagine that with 5000 CLP monthly, can feed an entire family for a hole month, in Africa.  It can change the life of some many that they need it! 

For this reason, we are asking you to become a partner. With your contribution we can keep working and making true this Africa Dream.

Karla Jimenez: Our new volunteer send to Eswatini

Karla Jimenez is 34 years old and she is a Civil Industrial Engineer. She was born in Temuco city and she has been living in Santiago since the last 3 years. For almost 10 years she was a hockey field player and also is passionate about photography, music, books and volunteer works – specially with kids and elderly. 

Nowadays, Karla prepares her suitcases to become the first volunteer that is going to Eswatini this year, with the mission to create a preliminary report of the most urgent necessities of the orphanage, which is the one that the foundation will start to collaborate in its next operation. 

A few hours on beginning her journey, Karla tells us about her motivations and expectations regarding to this new challenge in her life.  

—What is your interest on making a voluntary work? 

I strongly believe that helping a person to have hope, it’s invaluable, if we all contribute with a grain of sand, from each individual possibility, we could make a big difference in the life of children and families that live in poverty. That is the personal reason that motivates me to contribute to a more just society: to have the possibility to connect with needed people and create a space to give, at the end of the day, they give us the chance to learn from their experiences and how to face life, which I think it remunerates to any fulfilled effort; which is much more that you can give as a volunteer. 

—Why did you choose a voluntary work in Africa? 

In the years that I lived in Araucanía Region – the one with more poverty in our country – I tried actively to collaborate in voluntary works. When I got to Santiago, I looked for institutions that were committed to help the needy and by chance I met Africa Dream Foundation. 

Personally, I always had the dream to do a voluntary work in Africa, but I had the idea that it could only be done if you were a doctor. When I met the foundation, I saw the big opportunity that they provide to every professional that is interested on doing a voluntary work in the poorest continent in the world, where sadly the children work since they are 5 years old, instead of studying and playing. Hence, definitely, it is a dream come true. 

—What motivated you from Africa Dream Foundation? 

First of all, I think is amazing that they don’t close the doors to any professional if you compare it with other foundations or ONGs, and how they can contribute from their own knowledge. Besides, the receipt of the manager, the team and volunteers it is extraordinary and friendly from the first minute. They make you feel like home and it is a place where every idea it’s a contribution. In addition, the projects that are set up, seek to provide knowledge to the African people so they can have the tools to overcome the poverty without the support from any institution. 

—What do you expect to contribute in the Project that you will perform at Eswatini? 

The Africa Dream Foundation is giving me the chance and had trusted me to go as an engineer at Eswatini. My work will consist in collect information in a 200 children’s home, most of them in a disability situation, which I hope to transmit in detail of the reality of the place to the volunteers that are going to come after me, so we can create projects in this areas of health and education that can contribute the best as possible. 

—What message you would give to those who are thinking on doing something like this but they don’t dare? 

I strongly believe that this voluntary work in Africa is going to be one of the most important experiences that will have in my life and I invite them to do it. Life is one and now. The payment and personal growth it will be worth it, also, to have the opportunity to contribute, even at the minimum, to overcoming poverty in this continent, it is priceless. 

—What would you like to say to the Africa Dream’s partners? 

The most important thing is to express gratitude to the contribution to every one of the partners, because many professionals, of every specialty, can provide something to Africa, in my case to children who need it, since they are rejected and abandoned for being in a disability situation. Through our projects and thanks to their contributions, they are helping to change somehow the life of people from the other side of the world, where life is so tough and different from our reality. 

I also want ask to our partners, to invite their families and friends to become part of this noble cause, which its own purpose is to deliver tools the African people so they can leave that poverty circle, specially the children.

The experience of an ex volunteer

Ignacio Vilches
Agricultural Engineer
Director Africa Dream

The Origin 

My volunteer work started on January 2011 and ended with my return in February 2012 and I have been bound to the foundation since that moment. I have trained new volunteers, participated in competitive fundraising for new projects and in interviews to spread our work in mass media.    

The restlessness for helping has been with me due to a family formation, something that became stronger during my university phase, while working in the CCAA in my faculty, during summer and winter jobs, missions and by performing my job as a firefighter. 

The concern of going as a volunteer to Africa came after, when I was working in the Ministry of Agriculture. During this time, I received an email where they were looking for an agronomist to manage a community project in South Africa. The project made so much sense to me because it meant giving my experience and knowledge to the service of the community that needed it, and, at the same time, it was an opportunity to test myself and to come out of my comfort zone.  

All of it raised the question as to where I was going to arrive —including culture, language, believes — but at the same time, the challenge as a life experience was unmeasurable, therefore my initial doubts vanished once I accepted taking part in the project. I was going to be there during the second year of the project that the foundation started, with the support of our counterpart in South Africa, a Salesian Sisters mission — Catholic order — responsible for the Holy Rosary School. 

Without a doubt I must say that in this important process I had full support from my family and friends.  

Volunteer work 

The Project was taking place in the Xitlhelani village, in the province of Limpopo in South Africa. It is near the northern border with Zimbabwe and Mozambique, right next to one of the biggest parks in Africa: Kruger Park. This place is known for being a very rural zone, far away from the big metropolitan cities in the country — Johannesburg is 7 hours away from this place by car — where two local ethnic groups live together: the Tsonga tribe and the Venda tribe, as well as refugees from neighboring countries that are looking for opportunities. These refugees are escaping the dictatorship in Zimbabwe and from the civil war that took place in Mozambique between 1977 and 1992 — with more than 5 million displaced people. Basically, there are no “white people” in this area.   

The Project had 3 big lines of work. The heart of the project was a community project. It consisted of resume the work with women, housewives, usually widowed or separated, that were in charge of a vastly extensive family group — in these groups there were always a lot of kids, and it was also normal to find elderly people —. The origin of these women was the Tsonga tribe, Venda tribe, Mozambican and Zimbabweans. The Salesians would lend the land and we would give them corn seeds — this is the base of the diet in sub-Saharan Africa — and peanut. We also supported them with tractor hours to prepare the soil. Along with that we helped them during the entire process, and they received training in the Agricultural Ministry support office.  

The second line of work was as support in the school, as a teacher for kids between 4th and 7th grade in their science class. In this situation, basically all classes would be made in an experimental garden where the vegetables, herbs and fruits were cultivated, under the concept of permaculture (sustainable agriculture with the environment). The idea was to show different kinds of crops that could develop in the climate of the zone — savannah with fresh and dry winters, and warm and rainy summers — with mechanized irrigation — the water is a very scarce resource in this continent — and sustainable in the environment.   

Lastly but not less important, the work done with the kids in the village and the refugee camp. This job consisted in giving value to teamwork, improvement and integration through sport. This was done twice a week with kids from 7 to 13 years old. 

The Experience 

It wasn’t easy at first, since there was certain rivalry and discrimination from the kids in the village toward the kids belonging to the refugee camp in Rhulani.   

With the help of another volunteer, called Natalia, we would bring the kids from the camp closer by truck, after school hours, and we would use the facilities that the school, managed by the Salesian sisters, would provide for us. The result of these activities was amazing. In average, it was more than 20 kids that participated each week, creating strong friendship bonds. Later, Natalia replicated this modality with the girls in the refugee camp.     

Looking at it from afar, what would be the main thing that I learned from this experience? 

Without a doubt the happiness, the affection and the generosity from the people that I met along my stay. It is something that cannot be repaid, especially in those moments when I felt the distance from my family and friends. The development of respect and tolerance was just as important. This was significant so that I could face a world that was so very different from the one I was used to, and it was also the foundation to create bonds with the community that took me in.  

Another thing that I learned from this experience was how the support from the team in Chile was important, so that I could develop my work in this remote place, and moreover, give my family security that things were being done right and in a very serious manner. 

Undeniably my vision of the world changed after my experience in Africa. One realizes that life is much simpler than what we believe and besides, the meaning of being a community and having respect for one another has been getting lost.   

A message for future volunteers

My advice to you is to take full advantage of this experience, one that is unique and unforgettable. There is so much that we can contribute to the community to which we arrive and much to receive as a volunteer. The friends that you make stay forever, so much so that after 3 years, I went back to Africa with my wife and the affection from the people was still the same

The most important capital

Nicolás Fuenzalida Plaza
Director
Africa Dream Foundation

Only a few days ago, during the Ministerial Conference of Agriculture between the African and the European Union, it was declared that the population in Africa would rise from 1.200 million inhabitants up to 2.400 million inhabitants in 2050. For many people it seems to be counterintuitive to think that a region with the poverty and inequity problems that Sub-Saharan Africa has can allow itself to double its population in only a few decades.

And, without a doubt, this data does not cease to be important for all organizations that work in cooperation projects for the development of the Black Continent, even in the knowledge that in spite of all our efforts, the challenges and problems that we face in the eradication of poverty could increase twofold.

However, the convictions that inspire us do not chance; facing all the challenges that have come up during our work in Africa, the answer to our foundation has bloomed, it has always have and it will continue to have the same objective: the human capital.

There is vast amount of humanitarian cooperation models: while some foundations opt to channel the help through subsidiary help programs, others triangulate interesting structures of cooperation between government and private organizations. By contrast, in Africa Dream Foundation, we have always centered our programs in the development of sustainable projects, implemented by professional volunteers that focus their work in the creation of ties with the community for the installation of capacities, the cultivation of a collaboration culture and to put our history for the benefit of others; our talent and what we are.

This, beyond focusing our labor and mission as a foundation, urges us to remember how delicate and fundamental our operation on site is. People are, first and foremost, very complex beings and they cannot simply be viewed as another piece of the machinery of a specific organization. By focusing our efforts in the human capital can only inspire us to constantly renovate our calling to deliver a good professional service, nurtured from the knowledge of good and bad practices from cooperation programs, motivated by our deepest convictions and aiming to be the best version of ourselves as a humanitarian organization.

Who knows where we will be by 2050, but we are confident that the social service that we offer today will always be driven by this constant desire to be better and by professionalism; to be able to see the results of our work, where everything makes true sense: in the happy faces from those who we wish to accompany. That is our most important capital.

 

First Volunteer Work in La Bandera

Jorge Molina
Volunteer Coordinator in Chile

One of the Africa Dream’ motivations, beside sending volunteers to the African continent, is to perform, what we call, a “mirror voluntary work”, meaning, to replicate activities that we develop just as much in Africa as in Chile. With this, we are trying that volunteers create an awareness, ideas and energy for their journey, so they can share their experiences and give feedback to the next generation of volunteers.

In this opportunity, as a first volunteer act of the year, our team in Santiago joined the kindergarten JUNJI Crecer con Amor, in the San Ramon region, close to La Bandera settlement. In that place we proposed to develop a series of activities which objective was to include the just as much the kindergarten as the community, so the volunteer work wouldn’t be just a material assistance. Among them, a workshop aimed at teaching how to make an herbarium, the construction of compost pen and the teaching about the benefits of herbal medicine.

In May, as a first activity, we started the construction of five vertical vegetable patches. We used pallets with the idea of promote recycling or reuse; and to obtain variety, we use — different kind of seeds – such as, lettuce, onions, cabbage etc. – and the most important ingredient: motivation.

The activity started on a Saturday morning. When we got there, we were very well received by the principal and her team, with a meeting that allowed us to chat and get to know each other before we got to work. Most of the team didn’t know the kindergarten, so we did a tour on the establishment to decide and clarify some assembly details. Between the excitement and the nerves, the only thing that we knew was we needed to build the vegetable patches and the that will be three teams, but, how will we do it?

The challenge was to make those, who had never done anything like this before, to understand how to do the job and to reach a satisfactory result. In this occasions, it is necessary of course, to be open minded, and to listen and have initiative. At the end, all of that was there. The conversation between the teams and the parents who were assisting was very natural. There were laughs and jokes through the entire day. There was so much motivation that day, that the misses of the kindergarten brought their own plants to put them in the yard.

At the end of the day, the vegetable patches were ready and with a huge satisfaction on how we finished this activity, there was only one thing to do, order and put away everything. Did we end up tired? I can assure that more than one went to have a nap, a deserved rest…

A few days after the activity, I can make several conclusions; to assess with a critical look and make observations. However, the most important thing is to learn what we did, saw and listened at the kindergarten. This vertical vegetable patches can be the beginning of a signature to Africa Dream. In time, we can keep continuing the development of the constructions, esthetic or even to update with a new design. The important thing is that day we gave the first step of creating something that can be replicated in others schools and/or kindergartens, to provide a new solution and a new knowledge to the children and who knows, maybe in the future, to move this idea to the African continent.

Gabriel´s first month in Kenia

Gabriel Melo
Volunteer in Kenia

Africa… it is difficult to talk about it. Being almost in my fourth month in this beautiful continent, it is inevitable wanting to share my experience.

The first days, I define them as innocence time, where I find myself with a totally new and attractive world, they had fulfilled my soul. With frequency, I was moved, with only be in the presence of needed people, but despite of being in such conditions, they always returned a smile, the kind that not even one hundred selfies can get it.

Then, the time to get to work with my job in the organic farm started, which the name is “The 3000 Friends Farm”. The post-visit motivation was there, on the Samburu Lands, where all the missions are carried out and where the people, who the program is for lives, and with all the convictions rooted in me. The first period I dedicated myself to learn, trying to participate in all the daily chores involving the land. I learned about the animals, how to treat and deal with them. Also, I realized how hard is the manual work with the land, so much that I had learned to appreciate with admiration to the people who give their life to this noble profession.

On the other hand, on weekends, I had destined my free time to get familiar with the surrounding areas of big Nairobi, which has been very advantageous to meet new people and to be enrich with opinions and new ways to see the world. In the same way, and as long as the time was passing by, with the Chilean community in the country, we created bonds and moments to gather and remember our beloved homeland from the other side of the world.

Regarding to the realities that I have seen in these months, I can say that they have been diverse. On one hand, I had met the living conditions of the villages in the Samburu land, where is in the down town-north of the country: traditionalist people and very attach to their customs, people that had learned to laugh utmost even when they had the minimum. On the other hand, the big metropolis of Nairobi, comparable with our capital, where the social contrasts are surprising and the problems with the institutions are obvious, it often makes me think about what is ethically correct in a modern society.

However, despite of the culture shock, I wouldn’t change this experience for nothing. As long as the time pass by, Africa is showing me its beauty in the little details of everyday, giving me, in different moments, the opportunity to overcome myself and break my own schemes and boundaries, which is definitely helping me to grow as a person.

Likewise, the farm work has been a tremendous challenge. At least today, I’m calm knowing that we did everything we could, putting our hearts and energy to carry out this project, because we believe in the people that works with us, just like the growing of the Samburu people, who are our north, in every morning when we start the day.

Finally, I would like to thank Africa Dream Foundation, for the opportunity of being here and its constant concern for its volunteers on the field, as well, the Yamural Missioner Institute for accepting and including me as member of their community.

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