By Trevor Cobb
There are over 6,000 unique languages spoken around the world. Of those, it is estimated that as little as one half are being taught to children today. As someone who values the richness of a diverse cultural landscape, I am naturally a skeptic of anything that in some way imposes the English language, or US American ideals, on the rest of the world. When I signed on to work as an intern with Abriendo Mentes, many questions arose:
Would I be contributing to the homogenization of the ethnosphere — the sum total of the world’s cultures? What sets this initiative apart from others with underlying, oftentimes subconscious, colonialist agendas? By going abroad to work with an organization teaching English, how could I be sure to listen as much as I spoke, and to learn as much as I taught?
The difference, as I see it, lies in the motivation. At the foundation of the expansive offerings Abriendo Mentes provides the communities of Potrero and Brasilito, are personal connections. Behind the hundreds of volunteers who have come and gone, and the donors who so generously keep the project alive, are the voices of the local people.
At AM, the mission is to equip community members with the resources and tools they need to thrive in a difficult and ever-changing economic landscape. To this end, I feel the organization is incredibly effective. Abriendo Mentes embodies community empowerment, and exemplifies a rural development initiative that listens first, and pools together its resources to provide sustainable and lasting solutions.
The holiday season is a time to show gratitude. As we sit around the table and raise our glasses, we often express being grateful for our families, our health, and our ability to positively impact the world around us.
I am grateful for Abriendo Mentes, and for the people of Potrero — who opened the doors to their wonderful community, and taught me so many invaluable lessons.
As my life unfolds, and I seek opportunities to learn and to grow, at times I find myself lost in the plethora of worthy causes that exist in the world. I chose to dedicate four months to working with Abriendo Mentes not because of what they do, nor because of how they do it. I chose AM because I knew that at the root of it all — behind the thriving organization that will continue to impact the lives of so many — the motivation and purpose were sound.
And I’m grateful I did.