Fellow Since 2006
This profile was prepared when Albeiro Vargas was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The New Idea
Albeiro addresses the widespread lack of care for the elderly and the disconnection between generations in marginalized communities in Colombia through a model of intergenerational exchange. Albeiro’s Guardian Angels program recruits children to care for elderly residents in nursing homes. Children are trained in basic caretaking and graduate to higher levels of responsibility depending on their experience. Yet his initiative does much more than just provide care: it teaches children to be protagonists in the improvement of their communities—to be responsible, respectful, and to take initiative. And by creating regular contact between generations, Guardian Angels fosters understanding between children and elders. Participating youth hear stories of Columbia’s past, learn skills like craft-making and gardening, and take the elderly out on field trips. Close bonds are created that transcend age groups and provide a new sense of purpose and value in the young and old alike. Beyond the direct engagement of the inter-generational participants, Albeiro pushes for reforms in legislation and national policy that will shift the current societal attitude towards the elderly. For example, he has initiated lawsuits against children who have abandoned their elderly parents and waged a successful campaign for the enforcement of a nationwide tax supplying revenue to nursing homes.