Las Mentes Bien Preparadas, by Kelly Mannion

MannionK 3.JPG“Promocionar y desarrollar integralmente al hombre, generando igualdad de accesos y oportunidades.” This is the central mission of Fundación Pro Humanae Vitae, a group of dedicated volunteers tied together by overpowering belief in the equal development of the human person in every sense of the word – economic, social, cultural, political, moral. Founded by Sra. Graciela Sánchez in 1995, the Fundación supports numerous community development programs in the La Plata- Buenos Aires locale, working alongside universities, businesses, and municipal-provincial governments to develop and realize public initiatives. Within my first few days as a member of the FPHV family, I came to the realization of how ample the field of human rights work truly is. FPHV is not an organization that focuses solely on the well-being of one particular demographic, in one particular place or time. It is, rather, an institution dedicated to serve the needs of the community, whether in the form of organizing conferences for university students, workshops for small-business owners, Christmas recitals for children, outdoor programs for incarcerated persons, or exhibition fairs for local artisans. Even after 6 weeks at the Fundación, I still do not fully grasp the immense community reach of this great organization and its university, business, and governmental counterparts.

MannionK 1.JPGDuring my second week at FPHV, I traveled with my supervisor Rafael Velázquez and my co-worker Marcelo Fernández to Santa Maria Magdalena, a neighborhood comedor located on the outskirts of the city. There we met with the director of the comedor, a woman by the name of Graciela de Cabañas. Graciela told us of the constant struggle to meet with the demands of the neighborhood, balancing the everyday nutritional and social schedules of some 100 children with limited resources. Together, we decided to undertake the construction and realization of a sewing workshop in the backyard of the comedor so as to achieve some measure of self-sufficiency. With such an undertaking, as I was told by Graciela Sánchez, “the comedor would not have to be so dependent on government donations. The people are poor because the government dependence keeps them poor. They need change. They need something sustainable.”

MannionK 4.JPGTo this effect, I am currently working my co-workers to organize a benefit tea, the proceeds from which will go to the construction of the Maria Magdalena clothing workshop and the purchase of sewing machines. With the help of local businesses and government entities including Universitas, a group of culinary students, and the Commercial Center of La Plata, as well as with the charity of all those invited, we hope to raise sufficient funds to help our friends at the comedor achieve some level of self-realization. During my most recent visit to the comedor, Graciela de Cabañas related to me the story of five local boys, abandoned by the state after their mother was taken to jail to complete her sentence. These boys have no guidance, no direction in their life. They subsist only on the nourishment provided by the comedor. I am hoping, through FPHV’s charity drive, to indirectly touch upon the lives of these boys. By providing more for the comedor in terms of self-sufficiency, we give each community member who benefits from the comedor something more as well.

MannionK 2.JPGIn addition to my work with the benefit tea, I attend weekly meetings with the other FPHV volunteers to discuss the organization’s grandest undertaking, the renovation of an abandoned community building into a new cultural, social, and educational center. The realization of this large project, rightfully called Vitae Polis, will be the paradigm of the Fundación’s mission, the exemplar of its focused efforts. With the help and support of other institutions, FPHV will continue in its goal of providing for others the access and opportunities they deserve as fellow brothers and sisters. And it will do so in an organized, unified, dedicated, modest fashion. As Graciela Sánchez once told me, “La improvisación es solamente para las mentes bien preparadas.”