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The Catalyst Interviews from Argentina Youth

Summer’s a long time, and as fun as the beach may be, it’s also a perfect opportunity to adventure, learn, explore, and give back.

​This past summer, after completing a writing program at Kenyon College in Ohio, I dedicated my vacation time to a project I created and about which I am very passionate. It is called “The Catalyst”. Over two years ago, I wrote a poem about myself, addressed to the larger theme of how, despite my circumstances as a child and adolescent, I still have the power to be the catalyst for the change I want to see in my community, and the world. I reached out to war photographer Sebastian Rich to see if he would accompany me on my quest to raise awareness of the challenges facing the world. I had the idea that I would produce a collection of poems and monologues, based on my interviews with young people between the ages of seven and seventeen from around the world. I asked Sebastian if he would be interested in photographing the children I interviewed so that the photography would personalize the children’s interviews. Fortunately, he loved the idea. This past August, we travelled to Argentina together and spent nearly a month interviewing children I met in the slums, on the streets of Buenos Aires, and in Iguazu Falls.

I could have never prepared myself for what a profound effect this journey would have on my life and view of the world. Not only did I meet some of the strongest, most beautiful young people I have ever had the honor of talking to, but I learned that no matter how different our lives may seem, we all have common loves and interests as kids and young adults! I also learned how powerful it is to give someone the opportunity to tell you their story, and be listened to. At the end of the day, we all share the need to be heard and the dream of being The Catalyst for change.

From La Matanza, a major slum outside of Buenos Aires, to the bustling subway systems of Argentina’s capital, take the time to hear these incredible teen’s stories, and if you’re moved, help them out by visiting:

Be The Catalyst for the change you want to see in Your world!

The Catalyst
by Emerson Tenney
July 2nd, 2012

Someday, I will be the catalyst.

I grew up in a large house, high in the air, with swings in the doorways and water on the wall. Jasmine blooming in the dining room and rainbows in the kitchen.

Someday I will be the catalyst.

In the winter it would snow, I’d wait outside the cafe that made the plastic mermaids, and I would open my mouth, tasting the cold metallic.
In the summer the heat would be too great, too strong. Strong enough to draw out tears. So I would stay indoors, making purple paper mache pigs and hopping down candied stairs.

Someday I will be the catalyst.

Two thousand miles away from doorframe swings and icy street lamps, I marched down the driveway to give away canned food.
(No glass jars)
(It’s only a Mommy-daughter thing)
And just months later, “it wasn’t my fault” that now daddy would move. And just minutes later we all tasted orange; cold and sweet, what I wanted to taste.

Someday I will be the catalyst.

I’d bounce like a red, rubber ball. Back and Forth.

Someday I will be the catalyst.

Forth to secret gardens and strong stilts of pasta.
(That’s not good, too much raw egg)
Back to poppy seeds and flower fairs, and bubbles
And forth t slip-and-slides and grassy thighs, water spraying in the air

Someday I will be the catalyst.

Flying high. In my own cave of soft and crisp and white. I am the princess.
I’d pass black cats, and phone booths, and fountains; the lingering taste of sweet wines and barnacles still in my mouth.

Someday I will be the catalyst.

High icy towers melting into steaming hot pools.
Travel, travel, fly. Beer. And Coke. And fruit.

Leave your keys in the bowl, the monkeys might get them. They break into mini refrigerators, you know.

I saw swirling, arching spirals of color and I was hoisted to the top of a human pyramid in a silver, sparkling skirt.

Someday I will be the catalyst.

I will switch schools, and not just because my parents don’t like the principal.
I will write something that moves people and makes them want to write.
I will kiss you because I love you when I see you in the rain.
I will ask the questions that are hard, and seek out my own answers when no one has them.
I will built my own castle.
I will be unafraid and able to love back as much as I am loved.
And one day I will look into the eyes of a man when he says to me,
“So you’re the little lady who started this great war.”

Someday. I Will Be The Catalyst.

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