Learning Journeys

Learning Journey: ACUTAS

For the last Learning Journey of 2022 and in the month we commemorate philanthropy, Filantropía Puerto Rico and its membership visited the Asociación de Comunidades Unidas Tomando Acción Solidaria (ACUTAS) in Toa Baja. This organization is dedicated to providing its four communities (Villa Calma I, Villa Calma II, Ingenio and Villa del Sol) with tools to create a self-sustainable and self-sufficient system both personally and collectively. One of FiPR’s main priorities is to continue to bring philanthropic organizations into the ground and hear first-hand communities’ needs and realities.

Waldemiro, Milly, Migdalia and Carmen, all community leaders of the communities that have helped ACUTAS become what it is today, welcomed us early in the morning, eager to provide a tour of their facilities. The tour started in their Community Library, a resource recognized by the Department of Education as an official municipal library. In it, kids from the four communities receive workshops and classes, with access to computers and internet connection. Throughout the walk, members of Fundación Intellectus, Fundación Ángel Ramos, Fundación Segarra Boerman, Fundación Puertorriqueña para las Humanidades and Filantropía Puerto Rico were able to explore how ACUTAS takes action with an emphasis on the most vulnerable within the groups they serve

We continue the visit at their Collection Center, a small warehouse where they keep food and water for the children to eat, and also to be prepared in the event of an emergency. The Collection Center is certified by the government as a Community Hub for Emergency Management. An important and essential space for the sustainability of the communities (We would come back to the warehouse just a little later to work on the Mochila Alegre project), but more on that later! Just before breakfast, Waldemiro showed us the Community Garden, a small garden where the community planted vegetables and fruits to use in the meals prepared for the kids. Later, we all enjoyed a nice breakfast organized by one of the community leaders MAMY’s Sweets and Foods in their multi-use room. There, we all introduced each other and spoke about why we were there. The importance of getting out of the office and into the streets to see and meet with community leaders in person was a motive that all Members had in common.
And back to the Collection Center, we returned for the preparation of Mochilas Alegres.  ACUTAS makes sure that kids have meals during weekdays, but they’re aware that a lot of them do not have the resources to have full meals during the weekends. The Mochila Alegre initiative provides these kids with food and ingredients to feed themselves and their families during weekends. Everyone present chipped in on the production line, and we were able to prepare 140 bags of food, ready to be delivered to the kids the next day.
The Learning Journey ended with a bus tour to the four communities. These communities are surrounded and separated only by water (“el caño”, as it is typically called), which is why they are so susceptible to flooding. During the tour, the community leaders explained some of the basic needs and issues the communities face every single day. From old and beat up streets, which are made of recycled asphalt, to the lack of government funds, these communities decided that they could not wait for someone to come and help them fix their problems and realized they would have to do it themselves. That is why ACUTAS is leading efforts to self-organize the community and address their most pressing needs.

Before concluding, we were all asked what we took away from the experience of this visit. The whole member network agreed that ACUTAS was a great community model that had achieved a lot in a very small period of time. Also, they all appreciated the opportunity of receiving this tour, acknowledging once again the importance of learning and seeing first hand the amazing work being done by these communities.

For FiPR, these journeys are the heart of the work that philanthropy does every day. It’s the space where we support capacity building and learn about new ways and perspectives so future “funder – grantee” relationships can be more effective and efficient. We are happy to say that all of this year’s Learning Journeys were a complete success, and we look forward to continuing them in 2023!

Keep track of our moves