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Guest Post: Santiago’s Children ~ Steve Reifenberg

July 27, 2009

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When I wrote my review for Santiago’s Children, I asked Steve if he would write  a post for me on post-grads working abroad. The following is his advice.

I published the book, in good part, because the experience of living and working at an orphanage in Chile had such a transformational experience on my own life.

I landed in Santiago in November 1982, just before a critical turning point in that nation´s history, although I didn´t realize it at the time. The repression in Chile had been so severe in that first decades since the coup of September 11, 1973, that very few citizens living in Chile dared criticize the military government. Six months after my arrival, in May 1983, I witnessed the first series of public protest across the nation that ultimately led to the peaceful return of democracy in 1990. While it was a coincidence that I had arrived at such an important historical moment, that I could only understand in hindsight, I knew almost immediately that I was experiencing something remarkable at the Hogar Domingo Savio. That I had the good fortune to land at the hogar and to get to work with Olga Diaz and the children who lived there, I am eternally grateful. This experience transformed my life, and has had an impact on most everything I have done subsequently.

I am more and more convinced that these kinds of engagements overseas are transformative and a good part of my professional life (I now again live in Chile and work for Harvard University) is spent helping students and others find meaningful connections overseas.

On the book’s website,, there is a heading titled “make a different” and a list of organizations whose mission is to provide assistance for people who are thinking that they might like to volunteer or make a contribution overseas…. If you or others you know are considering such an option, I highly recommend looking at the following organizations.

Voluntarios de la Esperanza
• Volunteers of diverse backgrounds and nationalities work with children in schools, community centers and orphanages to develop and implement educational programs and build lasting relationships. Our projects are created out of a desire to bring equality of opportunity to the children of Chile.
• Voluntarios de la Esperanza regularly places international volunteers at Domingo Savio.

Amigos de Las Americas
• Amigos de las Americas (AMIGOS) is an international, non-profit organization that provides unparalleled leadership and community service opportunities for young people while concurrently contributing to the well-being of hundreds of communities throughout the Americas. Supported by a strong network of Pan-American chapters, high school and college students from diverse backgrounds work successfully with host communities and partner agencies to address health and education priorities.
•The minimum age for participation in an AMIGOS Latin American project is 16 years of age on or before the following September 1, provided that the individual has completed his or her sophomore year of high school.

• WorldTeach is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that provides opportunities for individuals to make a meaningful contribution to international education by living and working as volunteer teachers in developing countries.
• While the majority of volunteers are somewhat recent college graduates, many volunteers are older. Mid-career and retired candidates are encouraged to apply, as their skills and experience are in great demand overseas.

All are organizations well worth checking out!

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