Vamos a América Latina

Latin America… a new continent for NOW. Fenna and Elis discuss in their NOW talk the Why and How behind this next big step.

Fenna: I guess we could start by saying that NOW has never been a European project. When we first talked about NOW, the NOW Journey was thought as a global program. So to me it feels very natural that, after our initial pilot in Europe, we are moving to another continent. And it feels even more natural, that we are moving to Latin America, or how do you feel about it, Elis?

Elis: I fully agree. Soon after our first dreams of NOW, we realized that it was worth starting a bit smaller. But from the perspective of someone who is from and lives in Brazil, to me it was always a given that we would eventually bring NOW to this side of the world too. Also, I remember how challenging it was to me at times to tell my friends in Brazil about NOW, and as they got excited and said things like “yes, I think the country really needs programs like this right now”, I had to explain that we were not yet covering Brazil.

Fenna: Yeah, I hear you. I had very similar reactions in Argentina. Sometimes, people commented that this might not be as necessary in Europe. They would point out that there was so much to do in and around Buenos Aires, where I was living at the time.
I think our reasons to initially focus on the European region were not just related to making it smaller and easier to handle, but also about following our principle of sustainability, in terms of economic and environmental concerns (CO2 footprint).
It is extremely exciting that we are finally taking this step to Latin America. I can finally tell the people that I have talked to over the past year (whether it was on trips to Peru or Brasil to visit you and Rahel or at home in Argentina) – that they can get involved now themselves! How did your friends in Brazil react to the news?

Elis: There was also a lot of excitement! I could really see how now it’s much easier to engage people in Brazil with NOW.
As you said, this is also part of following our values: to me, when we created NOW, it was clear that we didn’t want a program for people to go “change the world in someone else’s backyard”. Our program is based on the understanding that people have the power to and should create change in their own surroundings, instead of the way-too-familiar ‘volunteering to save Africa’. As we are moving NOW to Latin America, this to me is a key element: we are building it with people in Latin America. We not importing NOW to Latin America. It is a process that will require changes and adaptation from NOW, most probably. And that’s because realities are different and the team will be different. Since you have just moved from Latin America to Europe, do you see that too?

Fenna: Yes, I most certainly agree that adaptations will be needed. However, I feel that this is the case for each of our participants’ realities also within one continent.To be honest, to me it is what makes our NOW journey such a fruitful and interesting program: the diversity of realities from individual to individual.
Finding new team members to work at NOW in Latin America is an eye-opening as well as a very positive challenge. As all of the current NOW team members have been with the organization more or less from the start, it will be interesting to see how the Latin America team will take a fresh look at our approach and challenge some of our assumptions. I’m excited to be part of both teams at the moment – I’m working on our pilot in Europe and on building NOW in Latin America. How do you feel about it?

Elis: I’m also very happy to be somehow involved in both, and to be slowly transitioning more and more to Latin America. Every conversation we have here about NOW opens up new topics and reflections for us, things we will need to consider, aspects that might be challenging, potential adaptations… But also, it makes me realize that…

Fenna: Sorry, I did not mean to interrupt but hearing you say that makes me a tiny bit little jealous and sad, thinking that I may have moved away a little too early…

Elis: Awww! You moved, but in a way you are still here and very much part of this process! And, what I was saying is that these conversations made me realize how much we have already learned by doing the European NOW Journey. We already have solutions for several potential challenges people ask us about. Take language, for example. Last week, we held an info call for people interested in knowing more about NOW in Latin America, and someone asked if Portuguese and Spanish would be a requirement to select participants. It was so natural for me to say no, and say that dealing with 2 languages would be so simple – because now we have as a reference the group in Europe, including such a huge variety of languages, and yet, we found solutions to be inclusive.

Fenna: Absolutely. I love your take-away from this and I just had to laugh at the fact that *2 languages* could ever be a barrier.

Elis: Yes! And of course, the goal is to have more than 2, right? Sign language is also always welcome! Same for Guaraní or any indigenous language, really… I think it’s also important for NOW that participants – and our team –  to realize that Latin America is by far not a continent with only two languages.

Fenna: That would be indeed amazing. Do you think project ideas of participants will be substantially different in Latin America compared to Europe? I am already dreaming of potential matches of Alumni and new participants across continents supporting each other and be inspired *laughs*

Elis: Yes, totally! I dream of that too. And honestly, I think this can (and should!) happen regardless of the topics they choose for their projects. After all, peer-to-peer learning shouldn’t be limited to a cause – or to a continent, right?

Fenna: Of course not. I mean, that’s what we have been doing, all along (from Rio to Bordeaux, Istanbul to Buenos Aires, and Heidelberg to Brussels). I am looking forward a lot to the next couple of months seeing how we will move forward with NOW in Latin America together with a group of amazing individuals in Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Chile – did I forget any potential places our future team members might come from?

Elis: Not so far, but you never know, right? Latin America is biiiig 😉 And we are ready for it!