From Lebanon to Bolivia, Protests with a Sense of Unity
Political and social conflict has characterized many South American countries in the last two months. Almost with a ‘domino effect’, problems started in Ecuador, then exploded in Chile and, at the same time, in Bolivia (where the crisis still continues) and, finally, in Colombia.
Street protests have prompted many to set aside their studies, their job or their daily activities. Others have abandoned their dreams and wishes.
Giving up your plans and projects is not easy. Stephanie and Elias, two Lebanese youths, share their story. Both applied to work as volunteers in Bolivia in 2019 through MilONGa – a volunteering platform that, with the aim of meeting the growing desire of young people to live social experiences, created a network between young people and organizations.
In the three years since MilONGa has been established, 130 volunteers were able to have this experience. 40% of these activities take place in Latin America, where Bolivia has received the largest number of volunteers.
The idea of travelling from Lebanon to Bolivia to work as volunteers was nothing strange, but this was brought to a sudden end when, reluctantly, they announced it was no longer possible for personal reasons, to go through with their plan. “When we made the decision to end our project to go to Bolivia it was not easy, because we were very excited to go and live this unique experience and we had worked on it for several months. Somehow, we got to the point where we felt it really wasn’t God’s plan for us to go to Bolivia this year. At that moment we could not understand why but, regretfully, we had to announce we were canceling our trip.”
A few months went by and those protests were no longer happening only in Latin America. At the same time, the streets of Hong Kong, Iraq, and Lebanon had also become the scene of major rallies.
In the case of Lebanon, protests targeted political corruption and the economic crisis in the country, which led to the resignation of Prime Minister Saad al Hariri. Stephanie and Elias were fully involved in this wave of protests, which brought them to live a historical experience in their country.
“We believe that this revolution is an important turning point in the history of Lebanon. It is with great hope that we are involved in this peaceful revolution. We know the path is not short, this battle is and will continue to be long and difficult, because we are fighting against Machiavellian politicians, but we are convinced that this is our chance to achieve change, for the sake of Lebanon,” Stephanie told us.
It wasn’t their plan to stay in Lebanon. They were committed to going to Bolivia. Suddenly, however, the crisis that both countries were experiencing at the same time gave a new meaning to their experience, even though they had to give up their volunteer work. “After all, everything happens for a reason! Elias and I felt that this great wish we had to go on a mission to Bolivia has turned into a different kind of mission here in Lebanon: on the streets, together with our fellow countrymen and women, calling for justice and a better life for everyone in this country. At the same time, our mission in the streets is to be there for people in need – for those who feel depressed, for those who have lost hope, for those who are tired or angry… And to support each other to continue with the right attitude in this peaceful revolution.
Since recent conflicts have erupted in several nations, MilONGa has witnessed how the network of volunteers around the world has created empathy among those who have lived through the same experience in countries facing social protests today.
Stephanie adds in the end: “We hope that in other countries too, in different parts of the world, in the face of all the demands coming from the people, that rulers will finally find the wisdom to give way to a new class of clean and competent politicians, to turn our world into a better place.