A new cycle of human development workshops has begun in the prisons of Buenos Aires. The workshops are given online by volunteers from the Humanist Movement based in different cities and involve more than 3,000 people deprived of their liberty. The content of the workshops is aimed at recognizing and resisting violence within and without us, as well as learning how to give coherent answers in the different situations of our lives.

Josefa Salazar is the coordinator of these workshops and confirms that the 2024 cycle has just begun.

What do these workshops consist of?

We are framing this proposal within the system of ideas developed by Mario Rodríguez Cobos, known as Silo. A thinker who made a great contribution to psychology, as well as to the recognition of our inner world and the spirituality of the human being.

The workshop leaders are a group of friends who, voluntarily and from different cities, give these works to people in the context of imprisonment. Each leader presents a theme or a work that they consider important, themes related to overcoming mental states such as anxiety, fear, resentment, lack of future, also with the spirituality of the human being, with universal myths or with the contact with the inner energy of each of us.

Human beings have a physical body but also an inner world and through meditation and self-observation we can discover this inner landscape, we can see with our inner eye. Through this work we bring hope and faith to people wherever they are. In the workshops we encourage exchange between the people who take part in the context of imprisonment; during the week they develop with their companions the themes discussed in the meetings and present and comment on them in the following session. Above all, they are spaces for sharing and discussing important life issues.

When did the workshops start?

We started in 2021, in the middle of the pandemic, when we were all locked up. Gastón Vázquez, a young Argentinean who initiated the project, spent 15 days locked in his house thinking about what to do to put an end to external and internal violence. He found a friend who was the director of the Ministry of Justice and she opened the door for him to reach the children who were in the context of imprisonment. We have been with them throughout 2021, 2022, and 2023 and now in 2024, they are organizing themselves. There have been many very positive changes, both in themselves and in the environment in which they live together.

How many people are involved?

The first year we could be about 3,500 people, the second year about 2,500 and this year about 3,500, but I don’t like to talk about numbers because we are not a number, we are people. Above all, we are friends, because they say that we are friends, and they never tire of thanking the whole team that participated in the workshop. This is a team effort.

Can you tell us about any testimonies from people who have taken part in the workshops that have moved you?

Yes, of course, I have many, but the most impressive is to accompany the process that friends go through in the context of imprisonment. With their means, in their way, they organize themselves, they know the importance of education, of training, of overcoming mental conditioning. Some of them have succeeded in doing so and have brought it to their fellow prisoners, thus changing the atmosphere in each cell block. They run literacy courses and teach handicrafts; those who know electricity or carpentry teach others. Some of the children are also teaching Braille and translating story books into Braille and donating them to associations for the blind, others are making furniture and donating it to low-income families, others are making wooden toys for school children, they are also forming a rap music group, they are doing theatre, everyone is developing their best qualities. The most impressive thing for me has been to accompany this whole process.