Volunteering with PROUT Research Institute of Venezuela (PRIV) in Caracas
by Dave Heighway
[A Masters Candidate in Development and International Relations at the University of Aalborg in Denmark, he resides in Pemberton British Columbia, Canada and can be contacted at by email at daveinthe604[at]yahoo.com]
For a little over 3 months in the spring of 2007 I worked as an intern at the PROUT Research Institute of Venezuela (PRIV) in Caracas.
I’m writing this to describe a little of my experience for anyone thinking of volunteering in Venezuela, and hoping to get closer to the ‘revolution’, as it is aptly called.
By now you have probably read on the website a little about P.R. Sarkar, PROUT and the Mission Statement of the Institute. If you weren’t already familiar, what will strike you most is the spiritual aspect of PROUT and the conjoining of the spiritual economic spheres of life. This is of course what makes PROUT so rich and the type of experience you can have at the Institute in Venezuela so varied.
All of the staff are volunteers including Dada, the director, and all were welcoming and approachable, creating an instant atmosphere of friendship. The PRIV is a small internationally-staffed organisation (though part of a much larger PROUT movement worldwide) and is less than a year old. Since it is small, its identity is largely shaped by the people working there, meaning that every person is important. Peaceful communication skills are practiced and interpersonal skills are tested on a daily basis resulting in a general atmosphere of challenge and growth. Recognition of PROUT writings, including Maheshvarananda’s own book After Capitalism, within Venezuela and throughout the world provide legitimacy both to the philosophy and to the Institute.
Regarding potential projects, Dada was extremely flexible and was open to discovering work that would be beneficial to the prospective intern and the Institute. Together Dada and I agreed on a project that would provide a framework for understanding the role of the cooperative in ‘socializing’ the Venezuelan economy, as PRIV embarks on the larger task of cooperative education. That paper served as a project toward my Masters Degree in International Development Studies and it will appear in some form on the PRIV website (www.priven.org) in the near future.
Without sounding too much like a travel guide, I can say that Venezuela was a powerful experience. The people are warm, helpful and friendly and generally patient with those learning Spanish. Caracas itself, being a South American capital city, is not without its challenges. It is dirty, noisy and has its share of crime (though I personally had no problems). At the same time the streets are politically charged and filled with life. In terms of an internship experience it would be difficult to imagine a more historically important, revolutionary place to work than Venezuela. On a practical note, Caracas has little in the way of infrastructure for tourists, so finding a place to live may be difficult though the Institute may be of some help. Obviously some knowledge of Spanish or at least a willingness to learn the language is helpful and there are many opportunities to study. Lastly, I think it is worth commenting on the natural beauty of the country: from the Andes Mountains to the Caribbean to the Orinoco Delta, Caracas is within an overnight bus (costing less than $30 US) of nearly the whole country.
I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have about my experience in Venezuela.