The Latin American Solidarity Centre (LASC) in Dublin has run a volunteer exchange with a partner NGO in Colombia, Ecofondo, for the last two years. The exchange is meant to develop links between the organisations so that LASC’s work is informed by the experiences of its partners in the region as part of its active engagement with the popular movements in Latin America.
The exchange has also helped to create links between community and youth organisations in Ireland and Colombia thereby encouraging grassroots solidarity between groups and individuals in Latin America and Ireland working to combat injustice and inequality. An exchange between a youth group in Ballyfemot in Dublin and a youth group in Medellín in Colombia took place in 2008 during the last exchange. Steve O’Dwyer, the last Irish exchange participant, worked on the ColombianWater Referendum Campaign and gave one of LASC’s Thursday Night Public Talks in Dublin on his return. His blog is available in my blogroll.
The exchange has been funded until now by a grant from the European Union’s EVS youth exchange program. This year, however, the grant has not been approved and the exchange will be financed by fundraising activities here in Ireland. LASC, due to budgetary constraints, cannot afford to support the exchange financially, but has been generous in terms of non-financial resources such as office and staff time, logistical support for fundraising events and copious amounts of encouragment and moral support along the way. To find out more about the project from LASC’s perspective, visit their website here.
For those who don’t know me, my name is Thomas Mc Donagh. I’m from Dublin. I was selected by LASC in November 2009 to participate in this year’s exchange. I’ve been a LASC member for the last 3-4 years. I began by participating in LASC’s Charla Latina discussion group before going to volunteer in Guatemala for 5 months in 2008. I worked there with an indigenous women’s fair-trade weaving cooperative called Trama Textiles. -LASC now stocks the women’s products in their office in Merrion Row-. Since returning from the region, I’ve completed LASC’s Latin American Development Studies course and I’m currently a member of their management committee.
I’ve just recently returned from 5 months in Asia where I volunteered for short periods at a reforestation project in Tamil Nadu and with Tibetan refugees in northern India.
For the next 2 months I will be dedicating my time to independant fundraising activities and preperations for the work in Colombia including spending time at the LASC offices.