Lisa Delao is a student at Virginia Commonwealth University and was a participant on an ISA Service-Learning program in Valparaíso, Chile in the Summer of 2015. Lisa was an ISA Pay It Forward correspondent.
Dalton Youngblood gets up early to trek from Viña del Mar to Valparaíso by metro. By 10 a.m. she arrives at Patio Volantín, her service-learning community partner organization. With her apron secured around her, her morning starts with making bread.
When she shows me how to make the flour mixture, she recites the recipe passed down to her from Benjamin (or Benja as most call him); we make nine kilos of bread.
Later on, around 5 p.m., she helps sell the bread to the community for 100 Chilean pesos a piece. Some days her dough comes out exactly like Benjamin’s, who has been making bread almost his whole life, and other days she’d say, “It came out too dry.” But Dalton is proud to say she has developed a skill, and is proud to be able to deliver a product that she has created with her own hands.
Amidst local artwork framed with recycled materials, a small poster is decorated with outlines of hands and a banner that reads Patio Volantín. Beneath the banner the words translate to: we all built this space. Your Hands + My Hands = Patio Volantín. We each play a role here at Patio Volantín. Everyone matters here, and everyone shows one another that they matter.
Benja welcomes Dalton in the mornings with a warm hug and kiss on the cheek, the customary Chilean greeting, and quickly follows his hello with a warm cup of tea. Dalton tells us who gives the biggest hugs, which is Sebastian (or Seba as she and many others call him), and that Tufy, a stray dog who has been at Patio Volantín since they first began renovations in 2008, is their mascot. On the days that Benja took Dalton and I to work on the community garden sites, Tufy always followed closely behind. He wanders the streets and alleys, frequently coming close to make his rounds for pets and scratches.
Part of Patio Volantín’s mission is to bring community members together because only as a collective can they see the changes they want accomplished and still retain their autonomy. Here at Patio, the people make the decisions that impact their neighborhood. Benja had brought attention to this detail.
During my time in Valparaíso, I came upon dozens of vacant lots that had become hollow ghosts of buildings that are used as trash dumps. It’s clear that with reminders of traumas such as houses taken by wildfires it isn’t easy to build up morale, but Patio Volantín says, “we mobilize in periods like these and thousands of people empathize with the misfortune of others by rising up to work through contributing. This is the moment of a catastrophe where we take the first step.”
Patio Volantín and another community collective, Sitio Eriazo, have been taking steps toward building a new image for a vacant lot in Cerro Panteón. This space was hollowed out by the oppressive force of the Pinochet dictatorship. Their goal is to create a community space for a garden to revitalize this vacant lot into a public space.
Benja says there are many partners invested in helping their neighbors and improving their community. This includes service-learning participants like Dalton, myself and other ISA students, who desire a genuine experience in producing a positive impact on the people around us.
Soon, the garden space for the children in this community will be flourishing. Patio Volantín envisions these goals, and relentlessly seek out methods to make them a reality. Benja says, “we have to take what is said and turn it into what is done.”
Patio Volantín was awarded an ISA Pay It Forward grant in the summer of 2015. ISA Pay It Forward is a grant fund that supports ongoing sustainable development projects to serve under-resourced communities around the world. All ISA students have the opportunity to ‘pay it forward’ by contributing a $5 donation when applying for an ISA program online. 100% of ISA Pay It Forward donations go toward funding sustainable projects identified by our ISA Service-Learning community partners in 12 cities around the world.
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