By Allen Jones
While living with host families in foreign countries, Amigos’ young volunteers may spend their summers rebuilding schools, digging irrigation systems, educating communities about health, or restoring nature preserves, for example.
Through Amigos chapters throughout the United Sates, 26,000 alumni have experienced day-to-day life working in their host communities.
For Rice University student Kristina Dickman, 19, her experience with the organization gave her a new outlook on life and the world.
“I think the Amigos organization is unique in that it makes a lasting impact on volunteers,” she said. “For me, it changed my ways, what I valued in life.”
Dickman first became involved with the organization when she was a 16-year-old junior attending Memorial High School in 2013.
She applied to join Amigos through its Houston chapter but said she knew very little about the organization.
“I wanted to make a difference in the world and learn Spanish,” Dickman said. “That was my understanding when I applied, but my mission, my goal, really changed that year as I went through training and learned what Amigos does and what form of aid I would actually be taking part in.”
By Greg Flakus
HOUSTON— Since it was founded in Houston 50 years ago, Amigos de las Americas has sent 26,000 U.S. high school and college students to work on projects in Latin American communities.
“Our approach is not necessarily to help the needy; that is not what we do,” said Marta Ascherio, an Amigos de las Americas regional director. “What we do is create programs that invest in the capacity of young people to be leaders for themselves and leaders for their communities.”
Amigos de las Americas President and CEO Sara Nathan said participants work on projects to improve education, health care or community resources.
“They are really also about training and giving young people the experience of learning how to identify something to do in their communities and carry it out themselves,” she said.
Former volunteer and current staff member Ryan Kingston was studying computers when he signed on for what turned out to be a transformative experience.
“It was really great to get to know kind of what it is like to travel and to live in a different circumstance and to really focus on learning a new language and developing a whole other part of my brain that I hadn’t really been working on,” Kingston said.
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