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"Tantaka helps future volunteer put on glasses to see needs."

Sofía Collantes, the coordinator of the University's Solidarity Time Bank, visits the campus on June 12 to explain the essence of this Project.

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Sofía Collantes, coordinator of Tantaka: "Volunteering is a way of being in the world". PHOTO: Communication Service
07/06/18 17:54 Communication Service

Sofía Collantes has been the coordinator of Tantaka for five years. Tantakathe Solidarity Time Bank of the University of Navarra, and in this time she has not stopped learning, "both from the volunteers, who have added their drop, and from the different entities with which we have the opportunity to collaborate," says Collantes, who will be on campus next Tuesday, June 12, to explain the essence of this project.

When and why was Tantaka born?

Tantaka was born in October 2012 on the occasion of the call to the Year of Faith made by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. A meeting was held at the Rector's Office to analyze what could be done at the University to support this initiative. It became clear that faith is charity, so better than holding a Congress on Faith, it was necessary to mobilize students, professors and employees to do what each one knew and wanted to do to help meet the needs of the people living in Pamplona.

In Navarra there is a long tradition of hospitals, foundations and associations dedicated to the care of the most disadvantaged. Some initiatives are today essential in the social fabric of Navarre. For example, the Red Cross, Caritas and the Food Bank. And it seems to me that this situation can be totally extrapolated to Gipuzkoa. There are also dozens of groups and associations that work to accompany the elderly, and associations that were born from families affected in one way or another by different disabilities operate with great strength. 

Taking into account the "map of solidarity in Navarra", when we at the University thought about what we could contribute, it seemed to us that the best thing we could do was not to start with some other activity of our own, but to help those who help, many of them with decades of experience under their belts. The crisis has caused many of the social aid associations to see their resources limited, while at the same time their needs are increasing. We saw that what we could contribute was time, time to help change things.

What does Tantaka contribute to society?

The search for volunteers willing to give one hour of their time per month to help solve needs. In supporting children, in integrating, in welcoming, in accompanying, in the fact that we all have the same dignity regardless of our abilities or disabilities... we agree on all this. And although it is true that not all of us know how to do everything, we all have something we are good at and we can put it at the service of others. What Tantaka does is to help the future volunteer to put on the glasses to see needs. Sometimes the barrier that separates us from people is our own lack of knowledge. You can't help if you don't know. If in your family or among your friends there is not a person with a disability, or someone who suffers a situation of poverty, loneliness or exclusion, it is more difficult to take charge of the reality that these thousands of people live.

We believe that our co-responsibility within the ecosystem of solidarity should be reflected in a knowledge of our environment -to begin with, the closest one: our neighbors-, a knowledge that is the driving force to help and help out. And together with opening our eyes and getting to know, "put people, not problems, at thecenter", as the Caritas Delegate in Navarra, Ángel Iriarte, said, and walk with them, with all of them, in the construction of a more solidary society.

How many volunteers does Tantaka already have, and how many people does it reach?

This year we had 1,100 volunteers and reached 4,000 people.

Why did you get involved in this project?

The Vice Rector for Faculty, María Iraburu, offered me to start this project and I did not hesitate.

How does volunteering benefit the volunteer?

To generalize a lot, there are two ways of being in the world: living in the midst of society and going to the problems with the intention of helping, or turning a blind eye to the needs of the people around us. Volunteering is a way of being in the world. Feeling able to help is one of the best things that can happen in your life. 

And how does it benefit the recipient?

In knowing that you are not alone, that there are people who will help you solve your problems and needs. 

What is the experience that has marked you the most since you have been in charge of Tantaka?

In five years I have had the privilege of knowing many stories that have given me an absolute conviction that it is possible to change the most difficult life situations.

I met a lady who had been in Pamplona for two weeks and who had arrived in Spain with her baby on a boat. When I asked her how she was, she told me that since she had been in Pamplona she had been feeding her baby with Nesquik because she had nothing else to give him. I thought: 'what paradoxes life has, the baby has not been killed by the sea, but he will be killed by the disinterest of the citizens who live in our bubble without worrying about what is happening around us'.

This lady had gotten into the boat with her baby and they had arrived alive, but she was not able to find a job in Pamplona. CORE, for example, is an association that takes care of immigrants like this lady and from Tantaka we made it possible for the cleaning ladies from the University to teach them how to cook, clean, sew, take care of children or the elderly. 

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