By: Michael Venegas
Marketing & Communications Manager, External Relations, City Year Chicago
City Year’s roots are in physical service--working to beautify common spaces and make sure they reflect the values of our communities. A small set of our AmeriCorps members continue leading these service initiatives through our Care Force team, sponsored by CSX.
One of the best parts of serving with Care Force is the ability to travel and see new and exciting places. A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of spending a week in Mexico City to help coordinate an international service day for Dimension Data, a technology services and solutions provider. Our service location was one of 11 cities in North American participating in the event. Four other staff members from various City Year sites (Chris Farzner, Epiphany Acevedo, Jamey Applegate and Havens Smith) and I spent the week working at El Centro Colibrí del Centro Interdisciplinario para el Desarrollo Social, (CIDES), which roughly translates to The Hummingbird Interdisciplinary Center for Social Development. CIDES is a resource center for displaced students from Santiago, Chile – assisting students ages 6-10 in reading, writing, mathematics, and computer skills. The students that CIDES serves come to the center directly after-school for a few hours of learning and activities, and then go off to work in the evenings.
We had a lot of projects going on during the service day, both inside and outside of CIDES. Jamey was in charge of painting their medical room, installing a mural, and organizing/reinforcing the shelves in their storage room. Havens led a group of volunteers in painting a large conference room and the director’s office. Epiphany worked everywhere--she did a little painting, organizing, construction and then organized the students in painting murals. I oversaw outdoor mural painting on two large walls and Chris served as our resident problem-solver.
While I was there, I noticed that children in Mexico City often sold trinkets or begged for money at stoplights. his experience was one of the more culturally shocking for me, as I’ve rarely noticed children in the U.S. take such an active role in panhandling. Because the students who attended CIDES could very well have been working in that same role, it was that much more inspiring to see them persevere and actively take an interest in their education–they were our motivation throughout the week.