Giving back

A guide to charities in Chile

Whether your interest lies in community development, the environment or education, there are plenty of opportunities for supporting Chilean charities.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 Category: Daily life
Earthquake reconstruction has been a major focus of recent charity efforts. (Photo: US Embassy Santi Earthquake reconstruction has been a major focus of recent charity efforts. (Photo: US Embassy Santiago, Chile/Flickr)

As Chile's economy continues to grow and mature, so too is the country's spirit of generosity. A new charitable and volunteering culture is emerging in the South American country, spurred on by generous giving in response to recent tragedies such as the powerful earthquake and tsunami that devastated coastal communities in February 2010.

Other issues that are commonly being tackled by non-profit organizations in Chile include community development, educational support and, more recently, environmental conservation.

If you're spending time in the country, it's a good idea to get acquainted with some of the different ways that you can join locals in making a worthwhile contribution. Here, This is Chile provides an overview of some of the main trends and organizations in Chile's charitable environment.

Earthquake reconstruction

The devastating earthquake which struck Chile at the beginning of 2010 drew headlines around the world, prompting massive responses from international aid agencies such as the Red Cross and the United Nations.

In Chile, despite the devastation, the quake set off a positive chain of events. In the days following the disaster, millionaire businessman and round-the-world sailor Felipe Cubillos sent a series of emails to his supporters, which eventually led to the birth of reconstruction organization Desafío Levantemos Chile (Challenge: Let's Lift Up Chile).

Since then hundreds of Chileans have lent their support to the group, enabling it to play a pivotal role, repairing boats for affected fishing communities and helping with the reconstruction of dozens of schools and kindergartens.

Sadly, the organization's charismatic founder was among the 21 victims in the tragic plane accident at the Juan Fernández Archipelago, prompting tributes and praise from all over Chile. Donations to Desafío Levantemos Chile can be made through the organization's website.

Community development

The general themes of community building and infrastructure development are important among Chile's charities.

Another group that has played an important role in earthquake reconstruction is Habitat Para La Humanidad (Chile), the local branch of Habitat for Humanity International. The charity, which has become an established part of Chile's non-profit community, works with vulnerable families and communities to provide housing and basic services. It accepts volunteers in a wide range of areas including construction, communication, translations and psychosocial support. Donations can also be made through the organization's website.  

Another general focus of Chile's development organizations is community aid and development work among the country's indigenous communities. One of the most successful organizations in this area is Fundación Chol-Chol, a homegrown intermediary group that assists Mapuche artisans to market and sell their handicrafts in Chile and abroad. Volunteers assist the organization with marketing, communication and funding applications.

Education

A large part of Chile's charitable sector aims to provide educational opportunities to marginalized communities and people who have missed out on the academic fundamentals which others take for granted.

Located in Santiago, CreceChile is a Catholic organization that gives classes to adults who have not completed their basic education due to financial hardship. After-hours classes are provided in a range of subjects along with workshops on important life skills such as small business management, first aid and IT. Most of the group's volunteers are Chileans who are familiar with the subject areas and are able to teach effectively in Spanish.

Environment

Environmental charity is an exciting new development in Chile's non-profit scene that is taking advantage of the growing prominence of green issues at home and overseas.

One of the most successful charitable groups working with is Agrupacion Medio Ambiente Torres del Paine (Torres del Paine Environmental Group), which, as the name suggests, operates in and around the stunning Torres del Paine National Park in the country's south. The group is responsible for maintaining park trails, assisting with scientific studies and providing education to tourists. In recent years it has developed a solid reputation, attracting a steady flow of donations and volunteers from Chile and countries further afield.

Charity event

No article on Chilean charities would be complete without mentioning the national Teletón, or Telethon. Launched in 1978 by television personality Mario Kreutzberger, commonly known by his stage name Don Francisco, the annual television event is held in December or November and has been raising money for people living with disabilities for over three decades.

All of the country's major television networks lend their support to the event which is made possible by an enthusiastic team of local volunteers. The annual Teletón is coordinated by its own foundation, Fundación Teletón, and in 2010, it raised close to US$40 million.

img_banner