In May, a small-but-mighty group of Connected Youth Initiative employees, young people, and partners traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for a learning exchange with the Argentine organization Doncel. The trip was organized as part of the (Re)Connecting Youth initiative spearheaded by the International Youth Foundation, which connects groups from different countries and facilitates visits that let the groups learn about each other’s processes, strategies, and challenges.
A group from Doncel will travel to Nebraska at the end of June to see how the Connected Youth Initiative operates. After that, IYF and (Re)Connecting Youth will provide Nebraska Children with a $50,000 grant to pilot a program inspired by the exchange.
The International Youth Foundation wrote a brilliant recap of the Nebraskans’ trip to Argentina. We’ve also included some thoughts from Lincoln Arneal, NC’s Director of Leadership and Engagement, and Michayla, one of the young people who was able to make the trip to Buenos Aires.
Travelling to Argentina was an amazing experience, where we experienced a different culture through the spectrum of my work with Nebraska Children. We could not have had more gracious hosts in Doncel. They opened their doors to us and allowed us to learn about how they work with foster youth in Buenos Aires and beyond. It was amazing to learn about the journey they went on to help pass major legislation that extended care until children reach 21. I also enjoyed getting to see the young people lead their peers in activities designed to build support and rapport among their peers.
One of my personal highlights came while I was eating dinner with Michayla. While we ate, we watched a Boca Juniors soccer game on the TV. The game ended in a tie, but allowed Boca to clinch the league championship. Before we were finished, [fellow CYI team members] Jason and Sara stopped by and told us of the big celebration going on outside. I went and joined everyone celebrating around the large obelisk at city center. There were hundreds and possibly thousands of people singing, cheering, and chanting. Vendors were selling flags, shirts, and beer to the cheerful crowd. Cars zoomed by honking their horns as passengers leaned out the window waving flags. I walked around taking pictures and video of the scene. As a big sports fan, it was awesome to see the unbridled joy of all these fans celebrating a championship and doing it all together in an impromptu party.
And from Michayla:
Buenos Aires was the furthest from home I have ever been, and while I was hesitant to go, I knew the moment we landed that it was the right choice. Starting at the opening dinner our first night there, the people seemed to envelop me into this pool of genuine warmth and smiles, giving off a cozy and affectionate welcome. It was nearly impossible not to fall in love with this culture and this city. Most of my time there was spent asking questions and listening but what was apparent by the end of our trip was that these people, who live on the opposite end of the world, shared many of the same struggles that I face despite their location, their culture, and their system. Because of these many similarities between us, it was easier for me to connect with the youth from Buenos Aires. By the end of the trip, I had made memories I will not soon forget and new friendships that left a bittersweet ending to my time in Argentina.
These amazing experiences wouldn’t have been possible without the partnership of IYF and (Re)Connecting Youth. Our team is eagerly awaiting the visitors from Doncel to keep the learning exchange going.