By Vera Schroepel, ASAP Students, Birmingham Chapter
TECHO is a youth-led nonprofit organization present in 19 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. It was established in 1997 by a group of young people with the dream of overcoming poverty. Through the joint work of families living in extreme poverty and youth volunteers, TECHO seeks to overcome poverty in slums. The organization is built on the conviction that poverty can be permanently eradicated if society as a whole recognizes poverty as a priority and actively works to overcome it. TECHO works to promote community development and resilience in slums, fostering social awareness and action, especially by mobilizing volunteers, as well as political advocacy to drive structural change to reduce the prevalence of poverty. Juan Colín Irazábal is based in Mexico City and has been Social Director of TECHO Mexico since 2011.
Note: the following interview was conducted through email and has been edited.
How did you get involved with TECHO and how do you help out?
I got involved as a volunteer when I was in university almost 6 years ago. In 2007 and 2008 I only went and built houses. I graduated from university and started working in a large chemical company, so I wasn’t able to continue building houses. However, in 2009 I got involved in the second stage of the project, which focuses on community development and social inclusion programs. I was a volunteer in the education program in a slum about half an hour away from my house. I went every Saturday for about three hours to give tutoring to elementary school children in the community.
In 2010, I quit my job in the chemical company and I got hired to be the Regional Director of TECHO México. Back then I was in charge of supervising the work that was done in the four regional offices we had back then in different states (today we have six).
What are you doing with TECHO now?
After a year as Regional Director, I became the Social Director of the organization (one of the two heads in the organization). My job is to supervise our social intervention, which includes finding the communities to work in and diagnosing them, our construction programs, our volunteering programs and our community development / social inclusion projects (there is a specific person that guides teams for all of these programs). Also, I’m in charge of generating alliances with universities, other NGOs and governments.
Do you enjoy working for TECHO?
My experience in this organization changed my life. It showed me the reality of my country, which I had never seen before, took me out of my comfort zone, and committed me to work alongside the families that live in extreme poverty to overcome their situation. I would definitely recommend getting involved in the work of our organization.
For more information about TECHO, watch the video below, which is in English and provides an overview of TECHO’s mission and strategy:
You can also watch TECHO CEO of the US office Nicolás Berardi’s TEDx talk: