Mariana is a development worker from Argentina, currently working as a Public Policies Adviser with the Father Juan Montalvo S.J. Centre for Social Studies in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
What is your work background?
Before becoming a development worker in the Dominican Republic I had always worked for State institutions – I worked for the Chief of Cabinet (similar to the Prime Minister’s office) and at the University of Buenos Aires (the 3rd largest in Latin America) on budgetary matters, particularly at the drafting and evaluation stages, and issues related to social policies. I did a lot of analysis and advocacy work.
How would you describe yourself?
Firstly, I’d say that I’m a very “chilled” person, and also very hard working.
What inspired you to become a development worker with Progressio?
Working for the State didn’t fulfil my expectations - I realised that the change I was looking for had to come from people. Citizens have to get involved in public policies, and I realised that I had to play a role in this, namely by using my work experience to achieve what we as part of the citizenship of the world must change: the struggle for governments that are fair, equitable, democratic and committed.
What is your first memory of arriving in your country of placement? Is living in your country of placement as you expected it to be?
Arriving on the island at night made me sad, because I thought “what a shame that I can’t see the sea from the sky”, but then I met the people who would be my work colleagues and I said to myself “I’ll be fine here, absolutely fine”. What strikes me most about the country is its geography, which is so different to a large country with great plains like Argentina. Fortunately, I’d imagined it as it is, so I didn’t feel any disappointment, on the contrary, it’s how I’d hoped it would be.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
All the opportunities that are present in civil society to influence public policies. I enjoy research, and we are currently defining a strategy to change the circumstances that our research shows need to change. The opportunity to work with and influence national governments in areas that the current trends in international cooperation are abandoning, but that Progressio continues to support. But what I enjoy most is seeing people’s faces when they see that they understand something about the budget and public policies, something that they make us believe that only an ‘enlightened’ few can understand, and which with the Centre we can help to reveal.
What has been the most exciting moment so far?
In December 2010, we ran a hard-hitting campaign to demand more funds for the education sector. The campaign grew in size, which enabled us to be present at the budget approval for 2011. Although they didn’t agree to what the people were demanding, being able to attend all the Congress sessions and listen to the most unlikely arguments as to why they couldn’t increase the education budget, while those who we were hoping would give a positive answer could not look us in the eye, was very exciting.
And the biggest lesson?
Speaking the same language, but in a very different way, takes a lot of effort. And never forget that each community has its own history and culture, and you have to study and learn a lot in order to understand what is going through other people’s minds when you’re planning an activity.
What is the biggest challenge facing the country where you are working and the area in which you are working?
At first glance it appears that, due to problems of inequality, there are some very, very, very rich people and a lot of people who are very poor. For those people who work on monetary policies, from a social point of view it is like we are banging our heads against a wall.
If you could change one thing, what would that be?
I believe that together society can change everything, so I would change everything, except the warmth and love of the people.
What strikes you most about Progressio’s Development Worker model?
The real commitment to social transformation, to a vision of the possibility of people being able to manage themselves and change their own lives. We have the freedom of being just a cog in society and we don’t force ways of working on people.
What is your favourite model or saying?
He who has nothing has everything to gain (and I learnt this here on the island).
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of becoming a development worker?
Don’t think twice, just do it! And then straight away, start looking into and thinking about what you can do to make the world a better place from your own little place on earth.
Where do you see yourself once your placement has ended? And in what ways is this placement with Progressio helping you to get there?
I am sure that I will be very involved in all the causes that the Centre supports, but above all I can see myself doing something very similar in another part of the world. Progressio is giving me every chance to fulfil this dream.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
If someone wants to do something good for everyone on this earth, they need to believe that things can change for the better; they must take on (in some way) this project, which through its strategic framework is supporting people who live because of and for their own transformation.