This profile was prepared when Alicia Argüelles was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1989.
The New Idea
Alcoholics Anonymous has in many countries been the most effective program to help people addicted to alcohol in a sustained way. It uses the strength of a community to help people overcome what is largely, a social problem. Alicia is using many of AA’s successful curative techniques to launch a broad preventative program in schools. She is beginning by drawing in AA volunteers, by going into a number of Mexico City schools and helping the students understand the culture that leads to drinking and drug abuse; providing counseling, and simply letting them know where they can go for help. The problems seem to be getting significantly worse, with alcohol, drugs, and “glue” often coming together. Schools increasingly see the need to act and respond willingly Alicia’s service. Ultimately, she would like her program to become part of the curriculum of across Mexico. Although AA has long had a systematic program to reach alcoholics in prisons and hospitals, these again have a curative, not preventative, focus. Building in her experience with both these programs, Alicia hopes she’ll be able to gradually draw the institution of AA into this major new application of its techniques and national and global networks.