Marijn Gijsbers – The Netherlands
Let’s start by introducing you to Abel, 22 years old, who lives in the slums of Lima, Peru:
“I belong to the millions of poor people, who have to leave their homes every day looking for a way to survive in this world of opportunities and frustration. The times we live in I can best describe as a period in which the government has forgotten us and we live in the margin of society.
There are not many people who think differently, like the founders of Cadena de Talentos (Chain of Talents), a foundation that is run by youngsters. It is the home where I develop myself, professionally and personally, into a person who loves his fellow man and desire to offer opportunities to children and youngsters in this forgotten part of society.
My goal in life is to fight poverty, a disease that takes away all hope from children and brings development to a standstill. Curing this disease is not easy, but it is not impossible either.”
Together with twenty-three others Abel forms a ‘chain of talent’, a small scale project with large ambitions: sustainable development through investment in talented young people from the slums.
How does this ‘chain of talent’ work?
1. Cadena de Talentos invests in young, underprivileged talent that has the capacity to bring about change in an environment that desperately needs it. Every year, ten youngsters between the ages of 15 and 18 get the chance to further their education after high school. They are selected on three criteria: talent, perseverance and a social character.
2. In addition to continuing their education this they gain skills to contribute to development through workshops, local foundation meetings and a yearly summer university.
3. Already during their studies they form a think-tank that starts projects and organizes education and training for children.
4. From the outset all students take on the moral obligation to apply their talent again in the slums where they are from. Besides this they will also make a part of their future income available to other young, talented people, who can then become educated as well. In this way the foundation will become self-sustainable.
Chain of Talents
What has been achieved?
• A precedent has been set: the first young talents have proven it is possible with their background to study at a university. They will graduate in 2013
• Several students are top of their faculty for their year at the university and considered leaders in their classes.
• An enormous social cohesion: they set up activities regularly and they study together all the time so that they can now heavily rely on each other. As an example: a new member who was suffering health issues and was ordered by the doctor to start exercising, was picked up by six other students to go running at 7 AM for three months.
• A daily board consisting of students (together with a representative from the Dutch board in a supervisory capacity) operates independently, starts up initiatives and runs activities and small projects through committees.
• And Abel? Abel was asked by his community to lead a program to further the development and education of about 200 children. Of course he could count on the help of his friends from Cadena de Talentos in running programs about which he says: ‘the kids are doing great! They all have their dreams and talents. I can see them grow from day to day. It is wonderful to have the capacity to help them and even, in some way, be an example to them.’
Compassion in action?
As one of the founders of Cadena de Talentos, I am also an active member of the Theosophical Society, Point Loma in The Netherlands.
Applying universal principles and seeing them work for a greater good is fantastic. We of course built a strong shared vision when starting this foundation. When new youngsters become a member, we ask them not only to visualize their own dreams, but also to work together on a vision on what the slum they come from could become if a group of young, perseverant and well-educated professionals would set their minds to changing the status quo.
And now Abel is doing the same with the children in his community...
Like Abel says:
“It takes a bit of effort, but God will illuminate our hearts so that we can firmly continue on this path, spreading hope while we awaken our sense of living. “