A Different Level of AMIGOS
No mosquito net, cot, or need for purifying my own water. But my AMIGOS trip checklist does include the following:
• Traveling and working closely with a partner. Check.
• Collaborative meetings with my host community, sometimes even staying with a generous host family. Check.
• Building relationships. Check.
• Learning from my host community and bringing home new insights to share. Check.
• Working on projects that will be community-led and sustainable. Check.
• Reporting to and feedback from senior leadership. Check.
That’s the AMIGOS process, no? But now replace the word ‘community’ with ‘chapter’ and clarify that my partner, my senior leadership, and I are full-time staff members of the AMIGOS National Office in the US. Then you start to see a whole different level of AMIGOS, still using our AMIGOS method, but applied to our work in the US with our chapter network. And this is what I think is so awesome about working for AMIGOS – you see our mission, vision, values, and what we do in the field in Latin America reflected in what we do in the US too.
For my job, I get to travel around the US to visit our chapter cities, meet with our passionate and hard-working chapter leaders (who, incredibly enough, are all unpaid volunteers that choose to do AMIGOS work in their free time to support our youth and families), and I essentially collaborate with these chapter volunteers on how to improve various areas of AMIGOS – seeing how they do things (different fundraisers in different chapters, for example) and then collaborating with them on what works best for them to carry that out.
Collecting and sharing all this knowledge is invaluable for the organization to keep learning and growing as OneAMIGOS despite how spread out we are, all while remembering that we are all working towards the same mission. So below are just fun snippets from my trips that made me feel like my chapter visits are so reflective of AMIGOS rather than your typical “business trip”:
• One chapter leader picked me up from the airport wearing an AMIGOS polo, and I wore my polo, so we were able to spot each other easily, just like what we advise in our travel memo.
• Chapter leaders have hosted me in their own homes for several days on my chapter trips so we can better stretch our budgeted dollars. Plus this gives extra relationship building opportunities – we love our host families! And I love playing with their pets since I don’t have my own (thank goodness in the US this isn’t breaking standards)!
• Working with volunteers means being flexible to meet them outside their busy schedules early before work, during lunch breaks, at late dinners, on weekends, or some have even taken off of work to see me. We meet mostly at their home or work, community centers, and restaurants, but sometimes I am lucky enough to meet somewhere completely different – hence the beach photo from my San Diego visit where I went to walk the beach with a chapter leader as we talked about AMIGOS and life.
A huge shout out to all the AMIGOS chapter leaders out there! Your generosity and passion are inspiring, and you make my job so rewarding. We cannot thank you enough for all that you do.
If you live in a chapter city and are interested in volunteering to support our AMIGOS program participants, please check out all our open chapter volunteer positions at https://amigosinternational.org/volunteeropportunities/join-our-team/#chapter and apply today (some even offer stipends!). And even if you don’t see a position opening that speaks to you, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to see if you can get involved another way!