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Since the end of January, I have been working as an FSD intern in the community of Villa Elisa, a small neighborhood on the outskirts of La Plata, Argentina. While Villa Elisa is a vibrant community full of culture, it is also a perfect example of the challenges that Argentina faces today. On my walk to work I pass wealthy, gated communities that give way to rows of makeshift homes on trash-lined streets. The lack of opportunity leaves most members of the community rooted in their current socioeconomic position.
Both the government and the press were slow to respond. Coverage of the floods was restricted to the city center and the government offered no assistance to the poorer neighborhoods. The people of Villa Elisa reacted by taking to the streets. They used road blocks and bonfires to cut off the two major roads that connect La Plata to Buenos Aires, effectively choking a major artery (I was forced to walk the 4 miles to Arco Iris). There was no satisfying conclusion to the incident. The roadblocks disbanded and mattresses were eventually distributed to the area, but Villa Elisa is still recovering and the people still feel unfairly neglected.
Besides natural catastrophes, Arco Iris´ lack of security remains the principal challenge that hinders its growth and expansion. Located in a marginalized neighborhood where drug use and theft are common, the community center is exposed to thieves and vandalism. At night, youth drink and participate in high-risk activities in the unprotected, trash-filled, and weed-infested yard; during the day, overgrown grass hides broken beer bottles and drug paraphernalia. Dogs roam the area where the children play, bringing in garbage and disease. Underutilized, contaminated, and dangerous, Arco Iris’ yard exists as a constant reminder that the center currently lacks the infrastructure and resources to serve the community to the best of its ability.
Along with Anne DeLessio-Parson, an FSD field director, we have designed a project to construct an enclosure – a protective, secure fence – that will allow Arco Iris to improve and expand the activities it offers. Surrounded by a well-constructed fence, Arco Iris will be able to (1) create a garden that would supply the children with fresh produce and make the center less reliant on other sources, (2) construct a playground and soccer field for the 90-plus children served, and (3) ensure security for the valuable baking and sewing equipment. A fence, while simple, is an important step for a rural community to build a more sustainable future.
To see pictures, a thorough breakdown of the project’s goals, and ways in which to donate to Arco Iris please visit the blog at: http://arcoirisproject.blogspot.com/. We are still short of reaching our necessary funding so please feel free to send the link to anyone you think might be interested in donating. Thank you!!!