My adventure in Buenos Aires, Argentina began a year and a half ago, when I had the honor of coming to this wonderful city through Skidmores study abroad program. As a student of Political Science and Social Work, I was intrigued by Argentina’s political cultural history. The rise and fall of the socialist based “Peronism”, and its revival in the form of “Krishnerismo”, which maintained the idea of government for the people fascinated me, especially considering the recent election of a fairly conservative capitalist based President, Mauricio Macri. All of the lessons I learned both inside and outside the classroom, I held with me as I finished my final year at Skidmore College. In January of this year I decided that I still had more to learn from the people and the politics of Buenos Aires, so I began a job search. My hope was to find a job which would allow me to learn of the inner workings of the government, organizations and social groups in a way which would help me to work towards a more inclusive system of social and governmental organization in my own country. Argentines are known for their outspoken political views, their national strikes, and strong unions, all of which I find to be essential to the spirit of resistance in my own country. If I hope to work towards change for the better in the United States, I believe that I need to gain some international perspective in order to develop a well-rounded understanding of policy, politics and the role of typically under-represented people. In my job search, the ability to develop this deeper understanding was essential, and I was so happy to find that I was supported by both Skidmore Summer Experience Fund and Habitat for Humanity Argentina in this endeavor.
I have been working as the assistant to the political advocate for Habitat for Humanity Argentina in Buenos Aires, and the work thus far has exceeded my expectations and provided an outline of what I hope my career to look like. Although Habitat for Humanity Argentina has the same mission statement as all Habitat for Humanity offices, as a third of the country’s population lives in the city of Buenos Aires, the focus of the office is less on building homes, and more on improving the standard of living in the city’s most impoverished areas. In Buenos Aires, there are many financial requirements for renting an apartment, including three months’ rent, a commission, and proof of ownership of property. In addition to ensuring that power is maintained by the upper class through preventing safe and stable housing to the lower class, these requirements act as insurance to property owners that only a specific kind of person can inhabit their apartment. The goal of the political advocate of Habitat for Humanity Argentina has been to work towards policy based solutions to this social problem which has pushed many people to live in shanty towns and precarious living situations.
Habitat for Humanity Argentina has partnered with other organizations seeking social justice as well as the government to create policy based solutions to address the amount of people who are forced to live in shanty towns. This week, the government of the city announced which of the policies that were suggested are going to be implemented. Of the nine recommendations, two are going to be implemented, and one policy which was recommended by property owners. While this was disappointing for all of us at the office, we are going to continue to push forward for more changes.
This week I was assigned my own projects, which is very exciting, and a step up from just helping out my super visor. I am doing research regarding the ability to re-cycle empty buildings, and the finances for such projects. I am also working on data collection for our “target group”, in order to create a comprehensive qualitative and quantitative understanding of the people we are aiming to serve. I am also excited because this week for the first time I will be visiting the neighborhood in which many of our clients live. I am looking forward to getting to know the families and individuals I am working to serve.