The experience of Sonia, Spanish volunteer in Brazil

experiencia voluntariado techo europa teto brasil

"Let's achieve social changes, from the grassroots, joint action and accompaniment."

I spent years after finishing my university studies questioning work methodologies in the third sector. In a process of constant search and learning thanks to social projects in Barcelona and people who shared my concerns and a participatory vision of the projects in which we worked, I gradually managed to build a critical view and a way of working that counted on the people and communities in which I worked to achieve social change, from the base, joint action and accompaniment .

My interest in working in the world of international cooperation and project development was always motivated by the idea of making an impact and improving living conditions, especially in localities located in Latin America. Over the years this idea never ceased to be present, so, after a few years of work and training, I came to TECHO EU by chance, after an extensive search for organizations working in Latin America. The filter that I kept during months of searching was to find an organization and projects that worked with a horizontal and participatory vision in communities in vulnerable situations.

After a short period of time of conversations with TECHO EU, I expressed my interest in volunteering in TETO BRAZIL projects. Since my first study exchange in Chile, I established networks and links with Brazil, friendships and knowledge of the political and social reality that accompanies the country. When the opportunity to volunteer with TETO MINAS GERAIS materialized, doubts and fears arose, which dissipated when I met the local team. I found both before arriving and at the time of arrival, and two months after being here, an environment that shares my convictions, interests and ways of approaching communities and generating changes in the reality of people living in peripheral places. Working in an organization with young leaders implies learning together, questioning methodologies and reviewing the ways of working in order to grow as an organization and as a team.

I think it is very necessary to start from our own deconstruction in order to be able to understand both the methodologies and the way of approaching the reality from which TECHO starts in its different sites and aspire to continue improving them day by day. We start from a vision in which each of the communities has its own particularities and we talk constantly with the people who live there, who are ultimately the subjects of action. Without this previous work, it becomes impossible to establish good communication with the companions, with the inhabitants residents y residents of the communities/favelas.

In only 60 days I have learned and felt many things. The first weeks were a challenge, meetings, acronyms, different areas of work and volunteer groups, different communities and projects underway, I was grateful at all times for the accompaniment, patience and interest in making me part of everything that was happening.

Subsequently, I was offered to be the working coordinator of the event ECO (Escutando Comunidades) or translated, Escuchando Comunidades. An event that would take place the third week of November in the community of Terra Nossa, with the purpose of carrying out, together with community leaders and local volunteers, the application of surveys in the community to learn about educational and economic aspects, health and welfare indicators, knowledge about the home and its infrastructure, among others.


The importance of these surveys was clear from the beginning because of the threat to the land on which they live and the need to census as many people as possible to verify that they have been living there for more than 10 years. 

From such a logical and framed framework as the application of surveys, what really happened in just 48 hours were hours and hours of informal conversations, of getting on the ground and understanding the need to propose projects that start from the community and are applied to it. With this, I solved one of the great fears I had for years, to end up working on projects with a paternalistic, welfare-oriented vision, framed in Western logics. From the conversations in the houses, in the moments of cooking, in the streets, comes the charisma and sympathy of sharing complex life stories, of constant struggle, of fear and strength with lightness, of relativizing the problems and seeing/living the struggles day by day, step by step and of the autonomous organization to achieve better spaces . better spaces y habitable spaces for the next generations that live there.

I continue every day, beyond learning technical issues such as the approach to events, coordination of and with people, resoluteness and practicality, the development of projects focused on specific contexts, volunteer leadership, etc., generating human learning. Finally, I share that working and volunteering for and with TECHO, has a very emotional part, a part that is intermingled with the profession but that starts from the vision of fighting for fair cities, working in community networks, with active participation in the processes and decision making of the people who live in peripheral places, finally working together as a society and fighting to overcome the violation of basic human rights in our cities.

Written by: Sonia Recuerda