Last week I visited Pauline and Benoît who are living in Formosa since 2 years. They are leading 2 projects of international solidarity with the charity they created: Form’Oser. I shadowed them in their projects for one week.
Simple conditions for a key proximity
I arrive in the poorest province of Argentina by a sunny Sunday morning. At 8.00 am the temperature is already around 30°C. Benoit comes to pick me up at the bus station, in the taxi he warns me: « You will see our home is rustic ». Indeed, with Pauline they moved into the heart of the neighbourhood « Districto Cinco », one of the poorest of the city. In this neighbourhood the road is a simple dirt floor, we walk among the stray dogs. In the streets, the ambient sound is a joyful mix of salsa, cumbia and folkloric music which are invaded the air thanks to a great amount of decibels. We greet the neighbour while passing: « Hola, que tal? Todo bien? ». The excess of water from the sewer is flowing in the trench between the pavement and the road. In the houses there is current water but it isn’t drinkable. The house of Pauline and Benoît is rather small, fortunately their warm welcoming compensate greatly the lack of comfort. They explain me their choice of location, guided by the fact that it allows them to leave close to the people they are working with and helping through their projects. It is a coherent, full and complete way to live their projects. Because they are not here to give a handout but to do social and economic development. They are at the service of the people of the neighbourhood and they work together .
A tailored project
The story of Form’Oser is the story of a couple who wanted to go abroad to take part to an international solidarity project, but who didn’t find any to go together. Therefore they decided to build their own. Benoît had already spent 6 months in 2010 at Formosa and he had worked on a micro-credit project. He knew that Bernadette Caffier who was leading the project for thirteen years wanted to retire, therefore he decided to succeed her. Pauline’s project is about prevention and support to young people and family touched by drug addiction. She started the project from scratch and developed it. Both of them are all together pleased and passionate about their projects. However the rhythm is intense because when they are not working on the ground, they are raising money to fund to charity, the project and their monthly salaries of 500 euros. The weeks are starting on Monday morning and end on Sunday evening, clocked by the different meetings all around the city and the province.
Formosa is the poorest province of Argentina. Many people are leaving below the poverty line. As everywhere in the country, the economic crisis of 2001 has strongly affected the population. At that time the microcredit network has been created. Since then, it has been structured with the help of the national NGO « Nuestras Huellas ». This network represent an opportunity for the people to borrow money when a bank wouldn’t consider a loan to help them developing their activities. It also opens to the participants an access to a regular trainings in order to learn how to make the most of this opportunity. Finally through the network, participants can also start savings.
If Argentina is not cocaine producer, the country still remains the hub of this drug as 20 tonnes are transiting each years to be sold in the country, in Europe and Africa. On the top of cocaine another drug appeared. Called Paco or Pasta base, it is a mix of chemicals such as kerosene, sulfuric acid and others. This drug is sadly very affordable: 2 pesos (less than 0.12 centimes euros) the dose. Paco generates instant addiction.
Moreover these are not the only drugs which are affected the population. Formosa is a border region to Paraguay which makes this problem even more present in this province. Therefore the church has decided to set a program with the help of Pauline: Equipa de Prevencion des Adicciones: EPA- Team for the Prevention of Addiction. The role of this team of volunteers is to support and help people and family concerned by addictions. Equally they do prevention for the local population.
The continuation of the Project
Pauline and Benoît are soon going back to France. This is not a reason for them to completely leave Form’Oser. First of all, they decided to continue the fund raising from France, that way they will be able to pay the wages of the 2 new volunteers. Indeed, they recruited with lot of care another couple to replace them on the ground. Niels and Clotilde arrival is highly anticipated in Formosa. Pauline and Benoit are preparing their arrival the best they can. They even planned to welcome them in Buenos Aires and to introduce them to all their friends in contacts in the capital!