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ACORN International organizes expertise abroad

ACORN International (now Community Organizations International) was formed to share grassroots organizing experiences with families and friends in their home countries and to improve the lives of people around the world.

Because low-income workers are often forced to migrate for work opportunities to support their families, many have connections in other countries. Corporations also cross borders in search of cheaper workforces and more lenient government policies. For this reason, ACORN International wanted to share their successful strategies, fighting exploitative corporations and abusive economic policies.

ACORN International has expanded throughout the Americas and to India, defending citizens and workers suffering from globalization in the 21st century. Corporations often rely on the separation between nations to take advantage of workers despite the similarity of their issues. ACORN International focuses on the challenges faced by all low-income families, regardless of nationality.

ACORN International’s history began 38 years ago in Little Rock, Ark., in the wake of the U.S. civil rights and social movements of the 1970s. Now, ACORN International takes the wealth of that experience to the world.

CLUB ACORN

ACORN International is currently running a community education center that provides free after school homework support in english, art, theater, and dance classes to children and young adults from the low-income southern cone neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The center is entirely run and funded by ACORN members (families in surrounding neighborhoods) and volunteers. Every day, there are anywhere between 20 and 50 children and 5 to 8 volunteer teachers and helpers at the center.

Not only does the center function as a “safe space” where kids can attain useful skills, expand creatively, and work on their schoolwork provided, but it also does something unique that not many other educational programs provide—it provides a space where parents, children, and other neighborhood residents collaborate on projects that benefit the overall community. ACORN members who are working on ACORN Campaigns—for example our campaign to increase communication and trust between residents living in dangerous areas and local police —bring their children to the ACORN Center, where, amongst other things, they make colorful posters pertaining to the campaign that can be used as visuals in meetings or other actions. In this way, the children feel like they can contribute to an important project that their parents, and other members of the community, are also involved with.

We need your help to expand this valuable program.

Please consider volunteering, donating, and making Club ACORN International possible!

We are already a success in Argentina and we have all of the energy for Dominican Republic, India, Perú and Mexico, but we need your support.

CONTACT AT rossiacorn@gmail.com and esahores@gmail.com to learn more on ways you can share the experience!

 

 

 

ACORN International expands organizing expertise abroad

ACORN International was formed to share U.S. members’ grassroots organizing experiences with families and friends in their home countries and to improve the lives of people around the world.

Because low-income workers are often forced to migrate for work opportunities to support their families, many have connections in other countries. Corporations also cross borders in search of cheaper workforces and more lenient government policies. For this reason, U.S. ACORN members want to share their successful strategies, fighting exploitative corporations and abusive economic policies.

ACORN has expanded throughout the Americas and to India, defending citizens and workers suffering from globalization in the 21st century. Corporations often rely on the separation between nations to take advantage of workers despite the similarity of their issues. ACORN focuses on the challenges faced by all low-income families, regardless of nationality.

ACORN’s history began 38 years ago in Little Rock, Ark., in the wake of the U.S. civil rights and social movements of the 1970s. Now, ACORN takes the wealth of that experience to the world.

ACORN International Latin America Director Shares Experiences with U.S.

NEW ORLEANS – Ercilia Sahores, Director of ACORN Latin America, said low-income people in Latin America face similar challenges as those in the United States.

Sahores, who gave a presentation at ACORN’s national headquarters in New Orleans on June 6, said ACORN began organizing internationally because ACORN members in the United States had family members in Latin American countries who were interested in organizing there as well. When ACORN began to organize in the Dominican Republic, people joined in record numbers. Many of the doors organizers knocked on were opened by people who

 

had heard of ACORN from their family members in New York City and who invited the organizers inside with a warm welcome.

ACORN began its Latin American organizing in Lima, Peru, where low-income people were forced to pay 25 percent of their income in taxes on their homes, plus back taxes. ACORN Peru also organized for potable water, which was made more difficult by the dictatorship ruling the country and the lack of infrastructure.

Peru has produced compelling ACORN leaders, such as Ricardo, who was born blind, and Violeta, whom Ercilia described as one of the 10 reasons she works for ACORN. Violeta started out afraid to speak publicly or with politicians – she spoke Quechua, not Spanish. But through ACORN, she learned that she is just as important as anyone else, and now she can be seen at every protest as the one holding the bullhorn.

As in the U.S., ACORN chooses where to organize based on income and all the problems that go along with having little of it, such as lack of education and poor healthcare. ACORN Latin America is currently organized in Peru, Argentina, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic.

Core issues for ACORN Argentina, Ercilia’s home country, include improving infrastructure, housing and security. They are also working to implement comunas, which would allow low-income people to have a say in their local government. Children are active members of ACORN Argentina as well – they make the signs that people carry during protests.

ACORN Dominican Republic got off to a great start in October of 2007, where just two staff and one head organizer signed up 600 members in their first month. Unfortunately, the Dominican Republic was devastated by Hurricane Noel at the end of that month. ACORN responded to the disaster, shifting the organization’s focus to storm recovery and disaster preparedness.

South Korean Organizer Speaks to ACORN about Organizing in Asia

NEW ORLEANS – What is the meaning of community? With that question, South Korean community organizer Hyo-Woo Na began a presentation to a room full of listeners at ACORN’s headquarters in New Orleans May 16.

In South Korea, the most-wired country in the world and one of Asia’s wealthiest nations, internet communications have expanded the definition of community, especially for younger generations. Na said that the internet has become a useful tool for helping people make initial contact, but after that, face to face meeting is still the best way to proceed.


 

Community organizing, applying the philosophy of Saul Alinsky and other progressive thinkers, began in many Asian countries in the early 1970s, just as it did in the United States. South Korea was first organized in 1968. The Philippines, Indonesia and India were also among the first countries to bring about changes for the poor through grassroots organizing. Countries that are still ruled by brutal dictatorships, such as North Korea and China, are not yet organized.

Wade Rathke, ACORN’s founder, introduced Na and told listeners that Na had been very active in the democracy movement in South Korea. In North Korea, however, Na explained that military rule remains so powerful that very little information gets beyond its borders. Na has had no word from his grandmother in 40 years.

In the early days of community organizing in his home country, Na saw many of his friends go “to jail or to Heaven” in the struggle to bring about democracy in a country that was at that time ruled by a military dictatorship. Now that democracy has been achieved in South Korea, organizers can focus on winning changes for the poor and labor organizing.

In South Korea, community organizations get much of their funding from the Catholic Church. Speaking with ACORN organizers from the United States, they learned about ACORN’s dues-based model and found themselves presented with a challenge: how could they organize without being dependent on existing institutions?

Na experimented with the ACORN approach. He found it difficult to collect dues, especially when he began with a staff of five organizers that after the first week was down to three and a half. But they soon learned some tricks. The apartment buildings where the poor lived were gated and guarded, but entrance could be bought by offering a guard a cigarette or two. Once they were in, people were more interested in speaking with the organizers if they offered a slice of watermelon. Na found that when he came across people who had just one issue they felt passionate about, he found members.

Many South Korean organizers are women. While women and men have equal rights, they tend to fill different roles in the community. South Korea is an industrial country, so most of the men are working in factories outside of the community. Women, on the other hand, spend most of their time in the community, close to their neighbors, so they often have an easier time building a grassroots movement.

Na and his 3.5 organizers knocked on 8,000 doors in two and a half months. Accounting for population differences – South Korea has about one-sixth the population of the United States – the two countries have comparable numbers of organizers – 300 in South Korea; 2,000 in the U.S. The challenge before us all now, Na concluded, is to find a way to work together, to use grassroots organizing to bring about positive change in a global community.

Community Organizations International Gains Safer Streets in Lima

ACORN members in Lima, Perú often live in constant insecurity in the street and even in their own houses. In an attempt to protect the residents the city has put gates and bars in the streets, creating blockades. This is often counter-productive, however, as then emergency vehicles cannot pass, and at times it hampers victims’ escapes. As well, residents have had to pay for not only the installation of the blockades, but also pay private security guards that are of the same National Police force that should be protecting them. Security in Lima is a matter of money where those that have it can access security and those that do not have to face greater danger due to their lack of resources.

The members of ACORN initiated a campaign in the communities of San Juan of Lurigancho (Motupe) and Palomino to push the Police to assume the role of public safety servant they are supposed to fulfill and these are some recent achievements:

In Palomino an ACORN held meeting with Major Lujan, who is responsible for the Precinct, gave these results:

• increased police patrols

• better response times to the emergency line, which was slow in the past

• better monitoring in the grade schools and high schools of the area Motupe. Here the problems are greater, as it is a young town with many needs, after an action the members negotiated with Major Malaspina with the following results:

• policing of the Educational Center, due to the fact that thugs attacked youths as they left at the end of the school day

• police patrols that included community members during the nights

• officers working in known areas of drug sales

At a meeting of over 350 people Lima ACORN’s demands were signed by Colonel Aguilar, the chief of security of the national police for the seventh zone, and the Commissioner of Palomino.

In Lima, Perú ACORN continues actions to achieve a true level of security, and to reform laws that support crime and that currently do not permit the police to do their work.

Earthquake damages ACORN Peru

ACORN members collect donations at Palermo, Lima to deliver to earthquake victimsin Chincha..A severe earthquake, measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale, struck southern Peru at 6:41 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 15. Officials are currently reporting almost 500 deaths and more than 1,000 injured as a result.

Most of the damage occurred approximately 74 miles from Lima, in the cities of Pisco, Chicha, and Ica, where 70 percent of the buildings were destroyed.

The effects of the earthquake were also felt in Lima – where ACORN Peru has its office – and in the communities where ACORN is organizing chapters. Lima is experiencing power outages and damaged roads and buildings. Health Minister Carlos Vallejos has also declared hospitals in a state of emergency.

The homes in the informal district of San Juan de Lurigancho are the most vulnerable to earthquakes due to their structural instability. ACORN communities in this area have suffered from falling rocks and weakened housing foundations.

ACORN Peru members and staff continue to work through these difficult times and search for the best means to support those affected by this disaster.

Please take time now to make an online donation to help ACORN Peru.

ACORN Dominican Republic

ACORN Dominican Republic was formed in the wake of tropical storm Noelle, which hit the DR in October of 2007. This birth of ACORN Dominican Republic was also catalyzed in part by the emergency relief efforts in wake of tropical storm Noelle. ACORN DR organized initial recovery efforts, which included mobilizing Dominicans living in the US to donate clothing and other supplies to the victims of the storm.

In spite of this rough start ACORN DR has blossomed. Since the strom we have expanded to Los Salados Viejos, Los Salados Nuevos and Vuelta Larga. In just a few months, our membership base has grown to over 700 people from low-income neighborhoods in Santiago de los Caballeros. Thus far we have conducted several successful public health campaigns, collectively removing over 40 tons of trash, winning a bi-weekly trash pick up service from the municipality, and working with the public health ministry to eradicate rats and conduct trainings around important home sanitation issues. Then, during the 2008 presidential elections, we partnered with Participción Cuidadana (a non-partisan civic participation group with whom the American Dominican Council collaborated during the 2004 presidential elections) to monitor voting spots and ensure the transparency of election results.

Our Chapter in the Dominican Republic came out of an initiative of Dominican ACORN members from New York City, whose positive experience of ACORN in the States (and intimate connection with their families and friends in the DR) lead them to explore the possibility of opening up an ACORN branch back home. They formed the ACORN Dominican Council (ADC), which made two trips to the Dominican Republic to meet with community and labor organizations and to the groundwork for ACORN’s future efforts in the country. After several years of exchange—and a successful bi-national campaign to allow Dominicans living abroad to vote from abroad for the first time in 2004.

Newsflash 4

ACORN International’s goal is to empower low income people to achieve financial and social justice by working together through direct action, negotiation, legislative advocacy, voter participation, and coalition building.

Newsflash 5

ACORN Argentina is improving basic rights in its capital city of Buenos Aires, including the rights to public housing, education, clean air and water by fighting for protection from health hazards caused by traffic pollution and cellular antennas.


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