BUENOS AIRES – An association in northern Argentina strives to combat child malnutrition, which affects the youngest members of indigenous communities thriving in a region awash with poverty.
“Reality is busted,” Diego Bustamante, the founder of the NGO Pata Pila, which assists families of the Wichi, Chane and Guarani Indian communities in the northern province of Salta, said. “It’s a rotten reality and, in many cases, too strangling.”
The organization focuses on vulnerable women with children of up to five years of age, and provides them with tools to get ahead.
“The tip of the iceberg is the child, through whom we enter the family, and the family enters Pata Pila’s spaces,” Bustamante said. “Then the works starts, which focuses on helping the child recover and empowering the mother, as well as improving the family and, by extension, the community.”
Bustamante was raised in the wealthy Buenos Aires neighborhood of Recoleta, when he got a “slap in the face” while volunteering a few years back.
“The process entails leaving your comfort zone,” he said, four years after arriving in the Guarani community with his backpack, taking the first steps into building what would later become Pata Pila.
There are still many vulnerable children in a country which has always provided “palliative measures” to address malnourishment through soup kitchens that, while helpful, fail to leave long-term benefits.
“Zero Poverty” is the slogan of Mauricio Macri’s administration, which, according to the Pata Pila chief, is a utopia for now.
“For there to be zero poverty, (the administration) has to reach society as a whole, with the whole structure of the state joining toward assisting these communities, towns and neighborhoods, without corruption and with good tools.”
While Pata Pila gets as much as 80 percent of its budget from federal funds, the organization – which employs 35 professionals and 30 volunteers – aims to get sponsorships by private parties, in an effort to protect it from Argentina’s unstable economy and political disarray.