Posts Tagged ‘inflation’

Photo: Natalie Alcoba.
Gerardo Romero and Flor Yciz donate the gift of time to the nonprofit Parque Lezama Olla Popular, preparing
a meal they serve each week to those in need in Buenos Aires, Feb. 6, 2023.

One thing that struck my husband when he returned from over a year of working in China was that Americans do a lot of volunteering. His perception of China at that time was that the government did everything and that citizens didn’t often take it on themselves to help others less fortunate.

Christian Science Monitor reporter Erika Page notes that Argentinians, too, aren’t known for helping strangers, but that young people are leading the way in tough inflationary times.

“Every Tuesday evening,” she writes, “as streetlights flicker on in downtown Buenos Aires, a man named Charlie tidies a section of sidewalk, preparing for his visitors.

“Charlie lives on the street. The volunteers who regularly check in on him as part of their recorrida nocturna, or night route, are an emotional lifeline.

“The team of six sit with Charlie in a semi-circle on the pavement, offering juice, yerba mate, and conversation. They chat about the weather, current events, the neighbors, and when the laughter lulls, they ask Charlie about more immediate concerns, like his health, upcoming medical appointments, and how the police have been treating him.

“There are thousands of people like Charlie living on the streets across the capital, and 43% of the country’s population lives in poverty. It’s a reflection of the unrelenting economic crisis and sky-high inflation that’s enveloping this South American nation. Some 600 volunteers take part in these nightly visits organized by the nonprofit Fundación Sí, underscoring a growing movement of volunteers, fueled by young people, who are working to fill the void where government services and the labor market are falling short. 

“These volunteers may not be well off – or even interested in staying in Argentina long-term – but they offer whatever they can to lift their neighbors up: a hand, an ear, a meal, or simply some of their time. Argentina isn’t known for high rates of volunteerism, but recent data shows that’s changing.

A study published by Voices! Consultancy found that a record 36% of Argentines volunteered last year, including nearly 60% of people between 18 and 24 years old.

“Generosity of time and affection is generally reserved for family and close friends in Argentina, says Constanza Cilley, executive director of Voices! Consultancy. But, ‘there are significant increases [in volunteering] in times of greatest crisis,’ she says. …

“Last year, annual inflation reached 94.8%, sending food prices soaring, and making saving nearly impossible. Most young people no longer expect a higher standard of living than their parents in a country whose social mobility was once a point of national pride. That can cause internal conflict for those who want to do good here. …

“Emilia Maguire, a therapist, has considered emigrating for years, tired of the poverty she can no longer ignore – and which she sees as a reflection of distorted political and economic priorities. She recently joined Fundación Sí’s night routes.

“ ‘Sometimes I get home tired and distressed,’ says Ms. Maguire. ‘But when you connect with things like this that are gratifying, it’s easier to get by, because your focus shifts.’ …

“The Voices! study found a correlation between volunteering and general satisfaction. Some 23% of respondents who said they volunteered last year indicated Argentina as the best place for them to live, compared to only 14% of non-volunteers.

“The group got their start in 2018 with close to nothing, as the value of the Argentine peso began to plummet once again. They’ve since acquired a gas stove and donations from businesses and farmer’s collectives. They invite those who come to eat to help cook as part of the team. …

“ ‘The crisis itself pushes people together, uniting in empathy,’ says Carmela Pavesi, an organizer in her mid-20s. ‘You don’t need a lot of money or a lot of things,’ she says. ‘With the people you have nearby, wherever you are, you can do something with what you have.’ …

“ ‘Today there are more people living on the streets, more people in need, more people begging for money or help,’ says Eduardo Donza, a researcher with the Social Debt Observatory at the Universidad Católica de Argentina.

“The country’s poverty is structural and historic, says Mr. Donza, in large part due to a precarious labor market. Only 35% of the population works in the formal private sector, another 15% in the public sector, leaving half the population doing informal work. …

“ ‘If we don’t generate more wealth, if we can’t create more good jobs, we’re never going to come out of this,’ he says. Volunteering can’t solve these wider issues on its own. ‘But it seems to me like solidarity has increased. That willingness to help matters.’ “

More at the Monitor, here. No firewall.

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