Barrio Toba

TOBA Neighborhood, North area of Rosario

The Toba Neighborhood is a settlement in the north area of the city of Rosario (Santa Fe, Argentina). The Toba community is original from the North of the country and during the years they tried to move to the closest big cities to try and find a better way of life. For many of them, this was not a successful move. Currently, there are over 30′000 families living below the poverty line in this settlement.

The neighborhood’s habitants’ ethnicity is devided as follows: native Tobas (83.15%), Mocovies (2.2%) leaving the remaining of the people being mix-race, paraguayans and Guaranies.

Women are the majority. Up to 14 years of age, boys and girls numbers are even however, between 15 and 19 the percentage changes to 41% women and 29% men. The reason being is that men “emigrate” out of the community in search of work. Some go back to the Chaco province for the cropping season, sometimes they never come back.  This also makes that women are in sole charge of the children.

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The activities began during the first week of April 2010. During three consecutive weeks, the activity was focused primarily in visiting the representatives of the neighbourhood in first place; and the family homes of the Toba community afterwards. At present, we continue visiting the homes and slowly but steadily we are getting to know the families, their most important needs and problems. We are also trying to integrate ourselves to their habits, taking care no to be seen as ‘intruders’ but as part of their community.

We have visited 75 families up to now and we have made record cards for each of one. In the cards we have information like: number of people in the family, how long they have been living in the neighbourhood, how many children in school age, if they go to school, if there is any old age person living there, chronic diseases or person suffering any type of disability or special problems, if they have any type of jobs and if so, what are the characteristics of the job, etc.

Fortnight Community Meetings: In these meetings different community subjects are debated and following actions are agreed. Any activities that have been implemented in the last months are evaluated, ‘possible donors’ are mentioned as well as volunteers for the project.

At present, we are implementing School Support Activities (this activity is always necessary but it is fundamental during the class-ending period, as some students need to take special exams). There is an assistance of 45 children, 35 of which are primary level and 15 are secondary level. This activity is held twice a week. (This is valid for this period taking into account what we have just expressed)

Sports workshop: There is an assistance of 20 teenagers (girls and boys). The activities take place twice a week. This will change to once a week starting in December. (The activity will be on Saturday mornings). The teacher begins to work in a summer camp and will only be available on Saturdays. We think it is good to keep one day with him because a good relation has been established between him and the children and there is a good bond in place.

Music workshop: We try to do this activity once a week. We try to share this activity with a group of children that do a similar workshop in the school so as to be integrated and go growing together. We have some problems because sometimes we cannot coordinate everybody’s timings and availability. At present, there are 15 children and teenagers.

As a NEW activity that has began recently but that the community has adopted enthusiastically, especially amongst the young ones, is a Dancing workshop. In this workshop cultural and artistic expressions are taught, especially dances and costumes used by diverse Latina American communities. A person from the same community is in charge. One of them is a bilingual teacher in the Alfredo Gonzalez School and his assistant is his nephew, Ever. There are 25 persons between children and teenagers.

Some other activities that have been added are:

  • Manual activities for Mums
  • Nutrition and Hygiene workshops
  • Organization of Children’s Day (August) together with the school and community people
  • Native People’s Party (October)
  • Collection of warm clothes and blankets for the cold months and baby clothes for several teenage mothers.

In general the community feels integrated and committed with the Project. The people show more acceptance and response to some activities than to others, that is why we insist and try to motivate them constantly; we also try to spread the knowledge of what is done in the neighbourhood. (This takes quite a lot of time but it is worth doing. Some volunteers work in this activity). They are interested in getting sewing machines for the sewing workshops; we are trying to get this, but it is not easy. The person who promised them is a private donor. This same donor also said he would provide ‘copa de leche’ (Milk for the schools). This person is a lawyer called Guillermo Grisolia, he is the Director of the Mutual de Ayuda Familiar Cristiana de Rosario (Christian Family Cooperative of Rosario). I think that we are in a good path but we are waiting to see if we can get a more concrete answer for 2011.

We also are working together with a group of Toba women, who are quite well organized and are working at a municipal level to obtain recognition of Native People’s rights. They have a great push and have several contacts.

We have also had several meetings with volunteers evaluating and listening their proposals and difficulties; we try to push them to continue with their commitment.

This month we met three young people who have a music band, who sing in different bars in Rosario; they sing folklore music and music of the Native People, some of those songs are in their own dialect. It’s very nice to listen to them. They have offered to work with us and I think we are opening a good opportunity for the young. They are well known in the community because one of them lives there and the other is working in a community building plan that is under construction in the neighbourhood.

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