A little bit of history

Santiago´s Children is a very personal story. I was 23 years old just one year out of college – I had studied philosophy and planned to go to law school, but instead found an opportunity to do something different. Although I was quite enthusiastic and earnest, I have to admit now  I was pretty clueless — coming from Ft. Wayne Indiana, having never traveled outside the US, with extremely limited Spanish, showing up in a poor area of Santiago, in Chile under military rule, in the middle of arguably the worst economic crisis in the 20th century.  This book is about that parachuting process, literally falling out of the sky, into things of which I was completely innocent, and some of the things that I learned in process. .

I landed in Santiago in November 1982, just before a critical turning point in that nation´s history, although I didn´t realize it at the time. The repression in Chile had been so severe in that first decades since the coup of September 11, 1973, that very few citizens living in Chile dared criticize the military government. Six months after my arrival, in May 1983, I witnessed the first series of public protest across the nation that ultimately led to the peaceful return of democracy in 1990. While it was a coincidence that I had arrived at such an important historical moment, that I could only understand in hindsight, I knew almost immediately that I was experiencing something remarkable at the Hogar Domingo Savio. That I had the good fortune to land at the hogar and to get to work with Olga Diaz and the children who lived there, I am eternally grateful. This experience transformed my life, and has had an impact on most everything I have done subsequently.

I am more and more convinced that these kinds of engagements overseas are transformative and a good part of my professional life (I now again live in Chile and work for Harvard University) is spent helping students find meaningful connections overseas.

On this site under the heading “make a different” is a list of organizations whose mission is to provide assistance for people who are thinking that they might like to volunteer or make a contribution overseas…. If you are considering such an option, I highly recommend looking at the following organizations.

Voluntarios de la Esperanza

  • Volunteers of diverse backgrounds and nationalities work with children in schools, community centers and orphanages to develop and implement educational programs and build lasting relationships. Our projects are created out of a desire to bring equality of opportunity to the children of Chile.
  • Voluntarios de la Esperanza regularly places international volunteers at Domingo Savio.
  • http://ve-global.org

Amigos de Las Americas

  • Amigos de las Americas (AMIGOS) is an international, non-profit organization that provides unparalleled leadership and community service opportunities for young people while concurrently contributing to the well-being of hundreds of communities throughout the Americas. Supported by a strong network of Pan-American chapters, high school and college students from diverse backgrounds work successfully with host communities and partner agencies to address health and education priorities.
  • The minimum age for participation in an AMIGOS Latin American project is 16 years of age on or before the following September 1, provided that the individual has completed his or her sophomore year of high school.
  • http://www.amigoslink.org


  • WorldTeach is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that provides opportunities for individuals to make a meaningful contribution to international education by living and working as volunteer teachers in developing countries.
  • While the majority of volunteers are somewhat recent college graduates, many volunteers are older. Mid-career and retired candidates are encouraged to apply, as their skills and experience are in great demand overseas.
  • http://worldteach.org/

All are organizations well worth checking out!


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