Students from Ávila and Valencia worked as volunteers in Chile
The project “Participation in the Volunteer Work of the Universidad Santo Tomás Chile” was one of the projects awarded by ICUSTA’s Solidarity Fund.
With much joy and enthusiasm, a team of 18 Spanish youths from the Universidad Católica of Valencia and from the Universidad Católica of Ávila, accompanied by professors and a chaplain, arrived in Chile to carry out the project, “Participation in the Volunteer Work of the Universidad Santo Tomás,” which was one of two winners of the last contest for ICUSTA’s Solidarity Fund.
During their stay in the South American country, the Spanish students participated in Winter Volunteer Work 2018 in the rural community of Alhué, together with 39 students from the Universidad Santo Tomás, Santiago. In that place ICUSTA’s inter-university team carried out a series of services, such as the closing of perimeters, the construction of over-hanging eaves and the renovation of the exterior of some homes; the implantation of chips in dogs; the construction of a chicken coop and benches for the community; the design and painting of an exterior wall of the municipality’s library; the cleaning of some home patios and the cutting of firewood for the elderly; as well as recreational activities with children and their parents.
After working a week in Alhué, the group from Ávila and Valencia continued on to other volunteer experiences in Santiago, Chile. They visited the slum Santa Teresa in the community of La Pintana and some schools in Puente Alto. In the Clínica Familia of La Florida they accompanied terminally ill patients. Moreover, they spent a day of reflection at the sanctuary of the Chilean Saint Teresa de los Andes, in Auco.
María Molina, a student from the Universidad Católica de Valencia, said that “it has been a very rewarding experience. To be with Chilean people has been spectacular. The experience in Alhué and in the slum were very satisfying. I have seen all the students very happy. I take with me an incredible experience. I have learned a ton.”
For Carlos Rodríguez, from the same University, his stay in Chile was an experience that taught him a lot about society, which went beyond his area of study, medicine. He affirmed, “We learned to give affection, to listen, empathy, to understand, to be with people in need or simply to give them a hand. From this I learned a lot and I take it with me to Spain.”
Remedios Vizcarro, from the Universidad Católica de Ávila, held a similar opinion. He noted that, “besides needing a roof under which to sleep or a better heated home, these people needed to be heard. That fulfills me even more because the thankfulness seen in their eyes fulfills you. That for me is a gratitude that I take with me to Spain. I recommend to everyone to live these volunteer experiences. I am very grateful for what I experienced together with the people of Alhué and the Chilean students. They are incredible. I return to Spain very happy.”
However, Carlos also could verify a special characteristic. “They do great honor to the fame that Chile enjoys in Spain, that of Chilean hospitality. I can prove it because I am going home 5 kilos overweight. I am very happy and thankful to Chile. I know that it is a very rich country, with beaches, deserts and volcanos, but the greatest wealth it has is in its people. The quantity of volunteers, the desire to help and the commitment they have with their own country is impressive.”
The work of the youths was recognized in a ceremony at the main campus of the Universidad Santo Tomás, which was attended by ICUSTA’s Executive Director, Mauricio Echeverría; the National Director of Formation and Identity of Santo Tomás, María Esther Gómez; the President of the UST Santiago, Rolando Kelly; and the Director of Student Affairs, Paula Virgilio; who, among others, dedicated words of gratitude to all the volunteers and their coordinators for the support given to the people of Alhué.
The person in charge of the project and Director of International Projects at the UST Chile, Roberto Lafontaine, underscored the effort made by Paula Virgilio and her team so that ICUSTA’s Inter-University Mission could be a success: from welcoming, solving problems, expectations to adapting to the local reality. “It is not easy to deal with people who have distinct visions of what there is to be done and to bring them together to cooperate in order that everything turns out perfectly. That was achieved thanks to her effort, her capacity to work in a team and her conviction.”
The Director of Student Affairs at the UST Santiago, for her part, commented that this “was a tremendous experience, beautiful bonds were made between the students, and we were able to imbibe the vision and system of volunteer work that the UCV and UCAV have.”
The coordinators of the Spanish groups, María de los Ángeles Benito (UC Valencia) and Mercedes Sánchez (UC Ávila) expressed their gratitude to the network of ICUSTA for having been able to participate in the competition for the solidarity funds, because if this project had not existed their participation in the work of the UST Chile would have been almost impossible. In fact, thanks to the 10,000 dollars of ICUSTA’s fund, they were able to pay a large part of the travel expenses of the volunteers.