In community, we heal/relieve social wounds by rebuilding dreams and hopes

Our Community of Villa Itatí, Quilmes, Our Lady of Amerindia Region, has been established for over 30 years in a working-class neighbourhood called Villa Itatí, near the capital, Buenos Aires, Argentina. The sisters seek to accompany their neighbours by being close to them and working together to find answers to the realities of exclusion and marginalisation. We accompany teenagers from families of ‘waste pickers’, in the most vulnerable sector of the shanty town, called La Caba.

The social inequalities faced by young people and their families are numerous. They live in unhealthy areas, in the most geographically flooded zone. Basic needs are not met, public services are lacking, and economic income comes from cardboard recycling and social programmes. The problem of drug use and its trafficking in the district has become particularly acute in recent years, condemning young people to start using psychoactive substances at a very early age. Drug trafficking is commonplace in the context in which young people and their families live, and structural and historical vulnerability has a direct impact, leaving subjective wounds that destroy dreams and hopes for a better future. The main areas of life are affected: physical and mental health, life plans and socio-affective ties, and this leads to drop-out from primary and secondary school.

Based on the creation of bonds/links of trust and a space for meeting, listening and satisfying basic needs, the support is provided through experimental workshops and the organisation of cooperative tasks and services. Educational reintegration has helped young people to resume their school careers. They have been able to begin to redefine their experiences, and rekindle the desire and hope to project themselves into the present and the near future, in the knowledge that the present for each of them is cruel and threatening.  The important thing is to weave networks and create links, mainly based on attention to life. Recreational and sporting activities have been incorporated, as well as the habit of starting the day with a snack and ending it with a community dinner.

We present the thoughts of two teenagers:

● N.16: “I’m going to prepare a snack for the children”. A 17-year-old teenager, father of a 6-month-old baby, with two suicide attempts due to drug use problems, he has found the opportunity to play both his role as a father and go back to school.

● S.15: “I want to be an educator”. A young woman who had dropped out of secondary school for two years and was in conflict with her family, she was able to complete the first year of secondary school and find community spaces, enabling her to fulfil her desire to be an animator of a ‘murga’ (music-theatre training).


Cecilia Lee, fmm and the Socio-Educational Programme team