According to the dictionary, the word “confraternity” describes a relationship of affection and solidarity among a group of persons or peoples who consider each other to be “siblings.” It is in this spirit that this article tells about the experiences of a service task carried out by the Light-Network of the city ofSalta, Argentina, since 2018 up until today.
In 2018, the “Confraternity Mission” was carried out, a humanitarian aid mission organized by the Fraternity – InternationalHumanitarian Federation (FIHF), which had studied and was developing a series of service activities to assist the communities of the Tartagal original peoples.
Assistance was provided for the communities of El Caburé, El Mistol, Nueva Esperanza, El Algarrobo, La Avispa, El Crespín, Zopota-Frías, Fwolit and El Escrito, as well as the nomadic communities of the scrubland. These activities were done with the collaboration of FIHF members and collaborators and representatives of the original communities.
Through these actions, a solid relationship was made, a relationship of caring help, a relationship of “confraternity” between these original communities and the members of the Salta Light-Network, who never lost contact.
During the two years of the COVID19 pandemic situation, face-to-face help and service activities were limited.
Even so, the task and the sending of donations of goods, clothing and shoes remained active.
The lack of a physical presence was not enough to break “the link” and the group remained firm and sure in the commitments they took on with these communities, trusting that in the process of service there are moments of calm, of preparation, and other moments of action and movement, and that what is most important is to maintain the attunement and correct discernment at each step of the way and to know how to act…
Finding the way to re-engage with active service
In 2021, the Salta Light-Network group again felt a strong call to reactivate these service tasks in an updated way. The group decided to inwardly reflect on what path they should take, and as from that point, answers began to come forward.
Providentially, on the 9th of that month, a collaborator from the city of Salta joined the group who had been involved in service tasks for 25 years with the Wichis communities of Santa Victoria Este (an area located in the north of the province, on the banks of the Pilcomayo River), through a cultural and artistic development specifically designed to support and reinforce the Wichis women of that zone.
For example, one of the tasks consists in helping to publish bilingual books of poems written by the Wichis women, which deal with this original culture. There have already been two books published with this theme.
From this contact person, the group felt that this was the answer…, the service tasks needed to be reactivated in a more conscious way! They decided to make broader contact with the communities of this area, to get to know their needs and desires, in order to begin support and projects in that sense.
Faced with adversity, take Action
In December of 2021, some news surprised the Salta Light-Network group, the moment for specific action had arrived.
Some days before Christmas, an orange alert was given in the areas bordering the banks of the Pilcomayo River, due to a rapid rise in the water level of the river. Given the nature of the river, this situation isolated several local communities; the peak of the river’s rise would happen after the New Year.
The communities that were cut-off were facing weeks of isolation, without basic services of electricity and drinkable water, exposed to the inclement weather and a poor level of health care and hygiene.
One of the chiefs of these communities, call Abel “Lutsej” Mendoza, who was known to the Salta Light-Network, communicated with the group to share his worries; they had also been affected by the floods and were cut off. Whole families had their homes under water.
On receiving this request for help, the Salta Light-Network was activated, but because of the extreme situation, the request for collaboration was sent out to the whole Argentine Light-Network. A national campaign was organized among the collaborator groups of the whole country to pray about this situation and collect funds for aid.
The funds for supplying physical needs arrived promptly, and this whole task was overseen through meetings of group reflection, which opened the way for a correct discernment in organizing the actions taken.
As the group could not reach the area of the floods to bring food, goods, clothing, etc., together with the chief, a system of collaboration was put together with a local supermarket, where the funds were sent, and the representatives of the communities were able to collect food and basic necessities from that place. Thanks to the collaboration of a network of people who provided their vehicles, these goods could be distributed and reach the hands of those affected by the floods.
Like a chain of links, joined through solidarity, different deliveries could take place, since the level of the river rose several times in the last months.
The following communities of Santa Victoria were able to be assisted; Pozo Tigre 3, Cañada Larga, San Refael, Meche, Algarrobita, La Puntana, Pozo Tigre, Santa María 3, San Valentín, Misión Vieja, Weloí.
Food assistance was also sent to communities of the city of Tartagal; donations were distributed by a collaborator, Mr. Carlos Ferro, retired rural teacher of the area.
As a way to conclude this narrative, Claudia del Castillo (Salta Light-Network Coordinator) told us:
At first, it was a great challenge… from the beginning, a huge learning experience, and at a personal level, it was also my first close contact with the original peoples, with whom I had had very little interaction in spite of being a social worker.
As a group, this task has allowed us to find out a lot; it led us into meeting new brothers and sisters, to learn to be permanently available. Also, each activity we were involved in has brought us great joy and much satisfaction.
Sometimes we could only see the photos of what was being delivered, and this filled us with joy; we had no other reference than that.
This task brought us much spiritual growth and reinforced our group unity, especially in being able to take action for others, to alleviate needs, lacks, the pain of other brothers and sisters.
We will continue to look to deepen our interactions with these communities, and reinforce the comradeship; we feel that this is the task of the Confraternity Mission.