Why am I here?

If you aren’t in for the win, you can skip to the last sentence to get the gist. If you want all the commentary, continue on as if you had Thoreau in your hands.

The Mission of La Obra Ecuménica Barrio Borro:

“Our mission is to generate opportunities to overcome the social exclusion that affects the boys, girls, and youth of this neighborhood, promoting integral growth of individuals’ potential and to contribute to the construction of full citizenship.”

Montevideo maintains one of the highest standards of living of all cities in Latin America. That sounds great, but it comes with a catch: there is a huge disparity between those who have a lot of money and those who don’t. That brings us to the “Barrio Borro” A.K.A. the neighborhood in which I work. For some reason or another, the kids with whom I work are living below the poverty line. I can’t do justice to their stories because, quite frankly, there is no easy or clean reason why things are the way they are. Some have parents addicted to drugs, some have parents who have to work literally all day for meager wages, some don’t live with their parents at all, and some have another other obstacle (actually combination of obstacles), that make the whole go-to-school, get-good-grades, go-home-and-play thing more complicated than it should be.

As previously mentioned the mission of La Obra is manifested in many forms; it could be skills such as doing research/typing on a computer, cooking class i.e. baking alfajores (a type of pseudo-Oreo, filled instead with caramel), or in the form of playing sports, games, or instruments, arts and crafts, dance, and academic support… the list goes on.

Marcos getting ready for the "murga" - drumming and singing - after playing soccer against other teens.  In the background you can see mate; the staple beverage of ALL social events (read: anytime more than one person is in a room... or within 5 ft. of each other).

Marcos getting ready for the “murga” – drumming and singing – after playing soccer against other teens. In the background you can see mate; the staple beverage of ALL social events (read: anytime more than one person is in a room… or within 5 ft. of each other).

Of course, all of these things come at more than face value. Everyone has the responsibility of looking out for the health, safety, and well-being of the others. A part of recreation and playing sports is that we all take part in a project to better La Obra i.e. cleaning the cabinet that holds the games or fixing the ping-pong paddles and table which have taken much abuse from teens that use them. (Read: how often do you see a 15-year-old boy handle anything with fragility?) Everyone who comes to La Obra receives a meal, either lunch or an afternoon snack, and the kids take turns washing the dishes and cleaning the tables and floors after we eat.

Another activity La Obra does with the elementary kids is to go to the pool twice a week. The object is not just that it’s fun to swim (which it is), and great exercise (which I’ll admit – I’m really biased on this subject and its importance for every person), but, for some of the kids, it provides their only two showers of the week. Indeed, some of these kids live in homes without showers or bathtubs.

That all said, I’m really here to live according to the slogan of a local cell phone giant. I’m here because, “Compartida, la vida es más” – Shared, life is better.

Julio and Camila help Rocio "ride" the chest press at Plaza 12, a park with soccer fields, basketball courts, playground equipment, and exercise machines.

Julio and Camila help Rocio “ride” the chest press at Plaza 12, a park with soccer fields, basketball courts, playground equipment, and exercise machines.

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