The excerpt below is from blog entry entitlted Building a Career Through Volunteer Abroad published by Mobility International USA, April 2016.
When Antonia graduated with an International Studies degree, she wanted to know if the lessons contained in all those textbooks would hold any weight in the real world. She decided to join Jesuit Volunteer Corps for two years in Santiago, Chile to find out.
“What’s really interesting for me is seeing different international development strategies applied in the local context. I’ve been working in lots of community-based development projects.”
In her first year abroad, Antonia coordinated a weekly program to integrate the growing population of immigrant and Chilean youth through play. During her second year, she took on multiple roles at a meal program for the homeless people in the Santiago neighborhood where Antonia and three other volunteers live.
“My low-income neighbors are helping people who are worse off than they are, so it’s very grassroots and very driven by this common desire my neighbors have to make a small dent in a social issue that is very present where we live.”
Antonia, who has cerebral palsy and uses forearm crutches, has neither encountered people with disabilities in her local community nor found many opportunities to discuss disability inclusion with Chileans. However, she feels her presence has helped her neighbors and Chilean friends see what people with disabilities can do and what it means to be integrated into a program where she is the only volunteer with a physical disability.
“I definitely have to work a lot harder here to surpass or break down people’s cultural assumptions. I feel like every day in big and small ways I’m pushing the limits of Chileans’ assumptions about people with disabilities.” See more: http://www.miusa.org/resource/story/antonia