Removing Poverty Conditions

Elena (Duran) Miranda was born in Mexico and was a psychologist. When she married, she moved to Argentina with her husband. She had a comfortable lifestyle. When she was invited to visit a tourist destination for skiers and hikers, she found both a challenge and a purpose for her life.

San Carlos de Bariloche represented both the good life of society and the destitution of those struggling to live. On the edge of Bariloche was a garbage dump that was regularly visited by over 200 children and their families. They were scavengers looking for food or anything they could sell.

Elena’s friend challenged her to help the families living lives at the dump. Elena took on the challenge and spent time observing the families from a distance. She was viewed with suspicion as an outsider. But for six months, Elena basically lived with the families to gain their trust. Life was day-to-day and families depended on their children to eke out existence. The children did not attend school.

As the families became comfortable with Elena, she helped them understand the value of education. She then began to raise money so that the families could have the money needed to allow their children to go to school. She then created a program using professional volunteers to provide vital services to families living in the dump.

In a short period of time, the children were in school and others developed important trade skills. A nursery, primary, and secondary school were erected along with a clubhouse for after-school activities.

To support the parents, Elena helped create a recycling cooperative that organized the efforts to transform throw-aways into necessary income. Over time, the poverty cycle began to erode.

Hidden heroes are often life changers. Certainly, Elena changed the lives of those living in the dump, but in the process changed her own life as well. Hidden heroes often push the first domino that leads to a chain reaction of support for those in need. Rather than a handout, these hidden heroes provide a hand-up.

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            “Poverty must not be a bar to learning and learning must offer an escape from poverty.” – Lyndon Johnson

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