Ines Echeguia

Universidad Católica del Uruguay
Montevideo, Uruguay

Helping Others Build a New Lease on Life

It’s one thing to want to help others. It’s another to give others a new lease on life.

That’s exactly what some of our ICL Global Leaders were able to accomplish recently in Uruguay. Alumni of our ICL Global Leaders Academy took part in a service project with “Techo,” an organization that seeks to overcome poverty by creating new homes for thousands of people in precarious living situations, through the joint action of their inhabitants and young volunteers.

Ines Echeguia, a student at the British Schools in Montevideo, Uruguay, took an interest in the program because of her experience last summer at the ICL Global Leaders Academy. “The academy really inspired me because I saw how everyone – from the staff to the students – was willing to help one another.  I saw in others the same passion to change the world as I had, but I saw them starting with the people right next to them.  It made me see that changing the world starts with helping the people right next to you and so when I came home, I looked for an opportunity to help those in my community.  I wanted to give back.”

Ines joined up with fellow classmates in helping construct homes for people in need.  The Techo program, however, is unique because it isn’t simply about building homes. It’s a cooperative effort between young volunteers and the people that they are helping. Students get to know about the lives that they are touching with their acts of generosity.  It’s more than just building a home. It’s an opportunity to see and understand the impact that service work can have on others.

“I spent a weekend building a home for a single woman and her children who were escaping the horrors of domestic abuse,” Ines pointed out. “Being able to play with the children and understand the importance of providing them a safe place to grow up made my work worth so much more.”

Sifo Cersocimo, another alumnus from the 2012 ICL Global Leaders Academy shared in Ines’ assessment of the program.  “In three days, my team built a whole house for a man who is a recovering alcoholic.  It was incredible, not just that we accomplished so much, but that we gave the man a chance at a new and better life.”

As incredible as it sounds, each group of students tasked to these home-building projects is put to the challenge of finishing the construction of a house within only the span of a weekend.  It might sound like a lot of hard work because it is a lot of hard work.  It’s not only taxing physically, but mentally as well.  Students who partake in Techo need to be proven leaders, able to handle the pressures of teamwork and leadership, with the fate of a family hung in the balance.

As Sifo claims, “The ICL Global Leaders Academy prepared me for this experience in so many ways.  More than anything, I learned to take every challenge step-by-step and to stay calm.  This was important for me participating in Techo because when we began constructing the house, it was much more difficult than we had planned.  It rained for the entire first day – the day where we begin building the floor and foundation.  I was also very sick.  I could have been overwhelmed, but I took everything slowly and didn’t let the task become bigger than myself.  We had to think quickly and cooperate with one another so that we didn’t waste effort or time. That was a huge challenge, but something I was prepared for because of my experience last summer.  It’s funny how the activities and lessons we from the Academy popped up in all of these real-world situations I was experiencing. I laughed because I was like ‘oh I know this.’”

Both Ines and Sifo say that helping people is a passion of theirs. Because of their efforts, people in need now have a fresh start and a chance at a better life.  Their experience is the mantra of the ICL Global leaders Academy in actions: Harnessing the passions of young people to create a better world.

For these two girls, their participation in Techo is only the beginning.  This spring, Ines plans to volunteer for a non-profit company founded by her grandfather to help build schools and rehabs centers while Sifo is already beginning work on providing food and after-school education to people living in shanty towns in impoverished areas of downtown Montevideo.