Zakat Foundation of America has been working in Latin America for about a decade. The last year has seen new programs and countries added to the list. As with many Zakat Foundation programs, the work in Latin America places a large focus on empowering and educating disadvantaged women and children. We sat down with our Latin America Programs Coordinator, Veronica De Pasquale, to ask a few questions about Zakat Foundation’s impact in the region:
Zakat Foundation: Can you provide a few details regarding your background (where you’re originally from, academics, professional experience, hobbies/personal interests, etc)
Veronica De Pasquale: I’m from Argentina. I originally graduated as an English translator, but most of my working experience is in managing projects.
ZF: How did you get involved with Zakat Foundation? What is your primary role working for ZF?
Veronica: I got involved with ZF back in 2010 during the Haiti earthquake relief. Since then, I’ve been coordinating programs in different Latin American countries.
ZF: Why is it important for ZF to implement humanitarian programs in Latin America?
Veronica: Latin America is a region where most countries suffer from some form of humanitarian crisis. There is extreme poverty, child neglect and abuse, homelessness, illiteracy, hunger, refugee crisis, among many others.
Some areas of course are more vulnerable and affected than others. Political instabilities and widespread corruption have caused and worsen many humanitarian crises in recent decades, specifically in the case of Venezuela, Cuba, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Bolivia.
ZF: Can you provide details regarding the women’s rights workshop in the Dominican Republic? How did this program start, and what are the goals?
Veronica: We do have a women’s entrepreneur support program that aims to help women who already have learned some skill and started their own project. We help them to grow and expand their business.
ZF: Likewise, can you provide insight on the English classes for the young girls? How is this helping the youth?
Veronica: English is very important in Dominican Republic when looking for a job, as it is in many countries, but especially here due to its closeness to North America. Private institutions can have access to English classes. Through our local project, Wonders Development Center, we have offered English lessons to young adults and professionals at a very low cost since 2013.
Now, through Zakat Foundation’s partnership with Smile Foundation, we have started classes for children, too. It’s actually aimed at both girls and boys, but surprisingly mostly girls are attending. We hope that they can grow learning the language so that they can have a larger pool of opportunities when they grow up.
ZF: What is something you wish more people knew about Latin America? Where do you think the most aid should be directed? What kind of aid (shelter, food, education, healthcare, etc)?
Veronica: I wish they knew Latin American people are kind people, people who thrive if given the opportunity. We only need to give them the opportunity to grow and overcome their difficulties. I wish we could work more with children. I always think of the children, and the women behind them. We support mothers, we are supporting children. I believe in empowering women, focusing on helping them grow their projects and their ideas. Many of them have a skill already, they just don’t have enough to start something, or they don’t know how to.
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