Friday, December 7, 2007

Looking Back at Chile

Posted on behalf of David Nebel, who visited our projects in Chile last week as part of a team from Children International's headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri.

The ’80s are back! Well, sort of.

Apart from a local fascination with ’80s fashion and tunes, an abundance of very small napkins, and some pretty good pizza, there is also an amazing degree of progress in Chile (at least in Valparaíso and surrounding areas), such that upon first glance I could’ve easily mistaken it for a European country like Spain. Chileans possess a modern and efficient airport (in Santiago), top-notch highways, and a booming middleclass. And as I might have expected, extreme poverty was comparatively absent.

Poverty still exists in Chile nonetheless. Though not as conspicuous or overly abundant as in other Latin American countries such as Honduras, Ecuador or Colombia, pockets of financially distressed families speckle the outskirts of Valparaíso and the adjacent city of Viña del Mar. And a discerning eye would be able to spot the telltale signs of impoverishment in more rural towns such as Limache and Quillota. It’s in these economically depressed areas where Children International continues to bring positive change.

As a Children International employee, I saw how our organization was helping a young girl suffering from leukemia, providing housing assistance to a family who lost all they owned save the clothing they donned the day of the fire, and helping steer Chilean youth away from drugs and violence and towards becoming confident and outspoken leaders within their communities. I also met a volunteer mom who, after enduring eight years of domestic abuse from her spouse, is now raising awareness on the issue within her community – due, in part, from the support she found in Children International.

All in all, I must say I’m proud of Chile as a country. It seems Chileans are addressing poverty with a great degree of success. Slowly but surely the wheels of progress are grinding poverty into smaller, more manageable bits. And Children International – who has been in Chile for more than 25 years – is undoubtedly still present, offering a helping hand in the fight against poverty and the improvement of children’s lives.

Photo by Andrea Waters

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