Juan's Solidarity Network provides this much-needed outlet through a very simple yet effective mechanism: the telephone. By linking up callers who need assistance with the organizations that can provide it, via a dedicated network of hotline volunteers, the Solidarity Network confronts social crises, both large and small, and promotes a culture of solidarity. The Network's volunteers come from all walks of life and professions, including teachers, lawyers, social workers, and retired people. Each volunteer answers the hotline for three hours at a time, and the calls are transferred to his or her home or office.
Despite its small headquarters in the bowels of a local soccer stadium, the Network has already had an enormous impact. In the two years since its inauguration in Buenos Aires, the Solidarity Network has answered nearly 50,000 calls. Daily, the Network receives an average of 100 calls, 60 percent of which are calls for help, two to three of which are urgent. The remaining 40 percent are calls from volunteers offering their services. Each non-urgent call is recorded by the on-call volunteer, who then passes on the list to the Network's administrative team. The volunteer administrative team meets once a week to review the calls, consult the Network's comprehensive database of organizations, and allocate responsibility. The urgent calls are dealt with immediately by a team of three experts, including Juan.
In addition to the servicing of daily needs, the Network launches media campaigns to address particular social problems. For instance, through regular radio appearances and a weekly newspaper column, Juan and his colleagues collected hundred of sweaters and coats to help poor families combat the winter cold. They raised over $350,000-one dollar each from 350,000 Argentines-to finance a brain tumor operation for an eleven-year old boy. In a 25-day Solidarity Recycling campaign, they collected medicine for over 1000 cancer patients from families who had leftover medicine from already deceased relatives.
Juan's short-term goals for the Network are three-fold. First, he plans to expand the Network's model to the interior of Argentina, including the cities of Córdoba, Salta, Bariloche, and Mendoza. He hopes to deal with each community's needs locally and then refer particularly difficult cases to Buenos Aires. Second, in order to facilitate this expansion and build the Network, Juan has developed a volunteer training program that recently received funding from the Kellogg Foundation. Within this program, volunteers will attend eight topical classes focusing on each of the main issues the Network addresses, such as domestic violence or emergency medical care. They will also be trained on the telephone and make several site visits before receiving their volunteer certification. Finally, Juan hopes to expand and computerize the Network's constantly growing database of information, so that volunteers in Mendoza will have access to the same information as their counterparts in Buenos Aires.
Beyond his native Argentina, Juan plans to spread the Network to neighboring Paraguay and Uruguay, both of which have expressed serious interest. In his typically energetic and far-sighted manner, he also predicts expansion into Chile, Brazil, the rest of Latin America, and, if he still has time, the world.