Jorge Poveda, a former AMIGOS Youth Ambassadors Program Coordinator and Associate Project Director, shares his experience building young leaders as well as how to expand your global perspective with AMIGOS.
What AMIGOS programs have you participated in?
I traveled from Ecuador to the U.S. guiding 13 young leaders on the Youth Ambassadors Program in 2016. Also, until August of this year, I was in Azuero, Panama working as an Associate Project Director (APD).
What are some of the most memorable community service projects you saw/took part in?
One service project that stood out was Dayanna’s. She was teaching English to young kids in Guayaquil, and I remember thinking to myself that I had never seen such a big commitment before, particularly because Dayanna lived very far away and because they were little and loud kids!
She somehow managed to engage them in such creative and innovative ways that they didn’t lose interest in learning. Even her parents wanted her to quit because they thought it was way too difficult since she was getting ready for college and the service project took so much time. Of course she didn’t. Since I was accompanying her through all the steps of the project, I was able to see, (and I’m not even speaking in a metaphorical way) the particular kind of sparkle that your eyes show when you know that you did a good job.
A couple of months after her project, she was standing in front of the auditorium in the U.S. Embassy in Quito presenting her work and the only thing left for me to do was to clap as hard as I could. Here I was, her mentor, in the front row seeing what a leader actually looks like in real life.
What was your favorite moment of cultural exchange?
The understanding that across different cultural frameworks, there are some core ideas with seemingly different expressions but that are underlined by the same concept. What AMIGOS defines as leadership is the same thing that people in Panama are defining as “emprendimiento” (entrepreneurship), which at the same time is very similar to what in Ecuador is called “ciudadanía participativa” (active citizenship). This apparent disconnection becomes very encouraging because you discover that different people from varied disciplines are working towards the same objective without even knowing it. This was my favorite part of my time in Panama as an APD: finding allies everywhere!
How has AMIGOS impacted your life?
AMIGOS was the solidification of what I was envisioning for myself for a couple of years but was still more of an aim than a reality: travelling abroad, working in a foreign language, learning professional skills in a completely different cultural environment, and developing my very own style of leadership.
After my last experience with AMIGOS I felt more prepared both professionally and personally for bigger challenges. I had a sense of confidence that I didn’t have before and that was what made up my mind to apply for a Master’s Program in Europe… I received the news of being awarded with an ERASMUS+ Full Scholarship while working for AMIGOS!
What do you see as the short-term and long-term impact of AMIGOS on the world?
AMIGOS strikes the volunteers and the host families with the realization of our own breadth/amplitude. We’ve been loving and taking care of the people we’ve been exposed to so far, but at the very moment that we start connecting with other circles, as distant as they might seem, our capacity for kindness and gratitude shows itself as a never ending trait. What is more empowering than acknowledging yourself as an infinite source of love?
The long-term impact of AMIGOS is reinforcing the idea that solidarity and warmth do not need a shared culture or nationality to operate. I think that AMIGOS is showing the exceptions to the limits socially drawn while letting individuals meet the possibilities to defy those limits.
What advice would you give to someone interested in doing AMIGOS?
You are never “completely ready” to do it. After overthinking to make yourself feel ready, you just have to stop thinking about it and give it a try. Whatever skills you think you are missing, the experience will offer it to you while going through it.
Are you ready to experience the world in a whole new way? Learn more about our cultural immersion programs today!