The first impression of Pablo Chufeni is that he's just a bundle of energy - Pablo just radiates optimism and enthusiasm. He is from Argentina, in his twenties, and works in a variety of professions, including as a professor teaching theatre, and as a TV producer. He got his first work experience at a local program of a developing bank, working with poor teenagers. Beyond these varied work activities, Pablo dedicates a huge amount of his time as a volunteer for Servas, and as you will find out soon, he is working on setting up a number of exciting international youth initiatives for this organization.
Pablo originally discovered Servas through his uncle. He has had an opportunity to travel to the Netherlands, to Belgium, France and England, and he credits Servas for making these travels possible since he would otherwise not have been able to visit these countries. Servas allowed him to travel cost-effectively and gave him the opportunity to really get to know these places.
Upon returning from these trips, Pablo decided to create a local Servas chapter in Rosario, Argentina's second largest city. Today there are 15 very active Servas members and the group has already hosted 2 national meetings with people from 5 different provinces.
Pablo told me of his experiences in Montevideo where he met a young Brazilian woman who wanted to study Spanish. Pablo thought that Servas offered a phenomenal international network of open-minded people, and somehow this network could be harnessed in productive ways. He ended up designing a program for youth to study abroad. This young Brazilian woman ended up staying a whole month in different Servas member homes in Argentina while a teacher gave her free Spanish language lessons. She also had a chance to take tango lessons, a real introduction to Argentinean culture. This was enhanced by a scholarship at a theatre arranged by Pablo, which normally would have cost $700. In return for this experience, Argentina sent a young Servas member to Brazil to study Portuguese.
This initiative has now expanded, and in addition to Brazil and Argentina, Pablo is setting up free youth language exchange programs in Mexico and Uruguay, and he is currently working on expanding the Servas language learning and cultural exchange experience into Canada and the United States. All in all, this program will be able to offer free learning programs to 18 to 30 year old Servas members in 4 languages: Spanish, Portuguese, French and English.
In addition, Pablo is also working on organizing the first International Servas Youth Meeting in the Southern Hemisphere. The event is called “Patagonia 06" and will be held during the 3rd week of January of 2006. Servas members from all over the world will be invited to share their experiences of how to enhance the organization's effectiveness for promoting peace. Pablo also intends the event to make Servas more dynamic and more accessible to young people. He feels there are so many possibilities of harnessing this international network of like-minded people for the peaceful development of the world.
Patagonia 06 will be hosted in the well-known Argentinean resort town of Bariloche and it will be an extremely affordable event: The conference program including accommodation and meals will only cost US$160.00. This low cost will allow young people from all over the world to participate.
On a more local level, Pablo hosts “diversity meals", dinners that are intended to get more young people involved in Servas. So far he has hosted 4 meals with 4 participants each, and 6 of these people have now become active Servas members, another example of the success of local outreach programs.
Pablo's imagination never rests. In addition to his current projects he is already thinking of combining Servas travel with farm work experiences as well as international job shadowing and internship opportunities. Very soon you'll hear from this whirlwind of positive energy himself, how he develops all these creative ideas and finds the time to implement them in his spare-time.
Susanne Pacher is the publisher of a website called Travel and Transitions(http://www.travelandtransitions.com ). Travel and Transitions deals with unconventional travel and is chock full of advice, tips, real life travel experiences, interviews with travellers and travel experts, insights and reflections, cross-cultural issues, contests and many other features. You will also find stories about life and the transitions that we face as we go through our own personal life-long journeys.
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The article with photos is published at Travel and Transitions - Interviews