Lately, I have noticed a lot of changes to public infrastructure around Buenos Aires. There have been a lot of new upgraded bus stops, painted bridges and repaired roads. I thought it was a bit strange. The whole time I have been here, any kind of upgrades such as these have been non-existent, particularly in the provinces.
Valeria and I have a regular bus change on the way to Food for Thought, which is on a bridge at a place called Gerli. This bridge hadn’t been painted in fifty years. It was an oxidised rust colour and the bus stops at either end wouldn’t have been recognisable as bus stops if buses hadn’t regularly stopped at them.
Recently the bridge was closed for a week. We had to take a different route to bypass the it. When it finally reopened, it had been painted bright orange, the road had been resealed and the bus stops actually now look like bus stops, with seats and shelters.
So there I was sitting on the new bench seat at the bus stop in Gerli, looking at the bright orange bridge in front of me. I thought to myself, ‘Something is going on. Why, all of a sudden, are councils paying for all of this stuff?’ So I asked Valeria, thinking that she would be none the wiser than I on the topic. She turned to me and said one word “elections”, as if I had had my head in the ground for the last year and a half.……I had noticed a little dirt in my hair, ears and nostrils…..
If you build a new bus stop, will you get votes in the next election? Apparently so…
Ok, just to explain. I started writing this blog to detail the process of our journey that has been creating a non-governmental organisation here in Latin America. We don’t have a political, religious, or other, stance. What we are trying to do is function from a neutral perspective, for the good of the people. So, I am not writing this to oppose the powers that be within Argentina, although I could definitely make some suggestions to them on how to improve their system along the way. What I am writing this for is try and create a picture of the environment of which we are working in.
This is the environment of which we work in. Looking from the outside, you could say that the government buys the votes of it’s people. A government that pays benefits to a mother for every child that she has. The education that surrounds these payments is basically nil. For me, giving money without education is like giving water without a vessel to drink it!
It is an extremely difficult culture to change, as there is no reason for a mother to do anything different. She receives money to feed her children so who can complain about that! I’m not saying don’t give the mother money. Here is one of my suggestions: give her money, and back it up with education around good ways for her to spend it. This current structure is totally self-sustaining for the government in power and not sustainable for the families that live within that structure.
Here is what I see. Mum buying sweets and highly processed, cheap food for her children. Mum not washing her children. Mum not buying toothbrushes for her children. Mum having more children. (One of the single mothers of the community who has five children already, has just fallen pregnant again. She is also having stomach pains and said that she isn’t going to the doctor until the end of the month when she has an appointment to have a hysterectomy.)
Our team make decisions and judgements based on our what we see and what we experience. My judgement based on what I have seen and experienced is this: don’t give money without education…