United for a Dream: Community Members Build a Much-needed Sports Field at High School in Granadero Baigorria

Ricardo Donoso is the deputy director of the No. 422 High School in Granadero Baigorria. For more than 10 years, he has been working side-by-side with the school’s principal, Rossana Inveninato, and where, in reality, the school has become a second home through which a large number of kids pass through to receive their training for life.

At High School No. 422, about 950 students cycle through the classrooms in different shifts. As what often happens in many schools, they run into an issue when it comes to physical education, as the dedicated gym facilities are not enough to hold all the students for these activities which are fundamental to their development and interaction. However the school did have some potential. “The incredible thing is that we have the advantage of available space - we have one hectare of property. At one time, plans for the space almost came to fruition—there were intentions of getting help to make changes, but that was it,” says Ricardo.

At the beginning of 2018, Global Communities started its first Sowing Futures program activities in Argentina. At that time, as a representative of one of the various institutions that had first contact with the organization, Ricardo saw the program’s arrival as “more of the same” but at the same time thought to himself: “We need a sports field so that the kids stop bumping into each other when they do gymnastics."

In Granadero Baigorria, Argentina, three high schools house a large number of students who usually move their physical education activities to other properties that the school has to rent or borrow. This creates the hassle of transporting the students as well as complications that occur from taking the kids off-premises for physical activities that may require basic medical attention in terms of bumps or falls.

As soon as Ricardo saw that “the people of Sowing Futures were serious,” he quickly got down to business. He undoubtedly wanted to look for more people’s support for the sports field project, and between discussions and conversations while sharing Argentina’s traditional tea, “mate”, the idea of ​​a “mate bingo” was determined to be a good way to start raising funds.

Community Collaborating for a Fundraising Event

A few days before the arrival of spring, community members gathered in a covered room at High School No. 422. “What is going on?” some curious neighbors asked. "Today is the day we start to raise money for the field for the kids," said the principal with a wide smile. The idea caught on throughout the community: some people took care of the logistics; others went out to look for gifts for the raffles; others set out to bring life to the event, recruiting artists and other entertainment. Between parents, students, teachers, staff, managers and Global Communities professionals, the group achieved an excellent call to action and an even better collection of funds.

The president of the School Student Center, Marcos Zárate, said “It is great to have an opportunity to bring families together as participants of this event. For years we have been fighting to have a space to do physical education.”

This initial fundraising event drew the following:

  • 48 volunteers (37 adults and 11 youth)
  • 1,760 hours of community participation from the 350 people who attended
  • $210,614 pesos in donations

Putting All Hands to Work!

Donoso was excited for a second event. “There are a lot of people who are working to make this dream come true and the initiative is magical because while some people are putting things together here, others have already started some of the work, and that is priceless.”

Administrators, teachers and students worked together and mobilized to find partners to carry out the work to build the sports field. They obtained the support of neighbors, shops and businesses in Granadero Baigorria to make the project possible. In previous meetings, there was talk of “launching an educational alternative for adolescents, considering that sports and recreational activities help prevent social problems.” The message is that “through sports, youth learn coexistence, self-esteem is increased, health is improved and the strengthening of social ties through responsibility and respect is encouraged.” When supporters spoke about the sports field, it was important to consider all these additional benefits.

When the cement settled, the School Student Center members, physical education teachers and John Deere volunteers came together for a day of work. They laid out and painted basketball, volleyball and handball courts and made repairs to existing structures. What started as a dream gradually materialized with the help of these dedicated community members.

Agustina Vargas, vice president of the School Student Center, thanked the presence of teachers and volunteers because "without them we would have been lost" and stressed the importance of having been a part of the day’s work. "For us who are finishing high school, it is something very good."

Osvaldo Novell of Supervision and Logistics of John Deere, who participated as a volunteer that day, highlighted the additional notion that the kids were given “the experience that we have to be mindful, for example, in the ways of labor safety” highlighting that young people "are the future and we must guide them." Leonardo Juarez, an operator of John Deere and a former student of the school, was very proud to "go back to school for a few hours" and in addition to reliving personal memories, this was a very nice way to give back and leave a mark. "The truth is that as a former student of the school I am very happy to have helped the kids—being part of this makes me very proud and I would do it a thousand times over."

On the project’s painting day, participation included:

  • 14 John Deere volunteers with 70 hours of volunteer time
  • 35 students with 175 hours of volunteer time
  • 6 teachers with 30 hours of volunteer time

A Sports Space Where Different Schools Can Intermingle

The best way to inaugurate the school sports field was to carry out an inter-school sports tournament by inviting Granadero Baigorria’s No. 550 and No. 330 schools to participate—but not with a competitive mindset. The objective of the tournament was to enable an exchange between young people, facilitated by physical activity. The proposal was to create an educational activity through which student participation was not subject to gender, skill level or competition. The idea was also to emphasize the playful value of sports, allowing students to have fun, intermingle, form teams and work towards common goals.

Divided into three categories (sub 14, sub 16 and sub 18), students of the three local high schools played volleyball, handball and soccer in teams that were mixed by gender and school.

The tournament was a success, and students experienced a great day of fun and inclusion. There were memorable moments that had been unexpected, as in the case of two of John Deere's volunteers who are alumni of “422.” For them it was a day full of memories and gratification after seeing a sports field where there was nothing before. Municipal authorities also approached, and highlighted the work done by the Sowing Futures team in conjunction with the school community. They promised to add their own grains of sand in the future.

The tournament ended with hugs, lessons learned, as well as the commitment of staff to continue working with the youth of the three schools next year. 2020 will bring new challenges to this group of young people who, in 2019, learned new management tools, the importance of involving community actors to develop goals, and the gratification of sharing achievements. This educational community is no longer the same; it had a big success that was self-generated, and that is only the start of a great development path ahead.

“Development is not something we do for people, it is something we do with them.”

In order to run the tournament, the community had the participation of:

  • 5 John Deere volunteers with 20 hours of volunteer time
  • 428 young students with 1,712 hours of community participation
  • 23 teachers with 148 hours of volunteer time
  • $101,605 pesos worth of cost share between the painting day and the tournament

In total, the new sports field project mobilized:

  • 131 community and John Deere volunteers
  • 857 volunteer hours
  • 3,472 hours of community participation
  • 474 young people involved
  • $312,219 pesos in cost share
  • 450 students benefited