Silvia Austerlic

Joined Feb 2016
  • Community Mentor
  • Vocal Contributor
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About Me

I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina to a Jewish immigrant family from Poland. I grew up during the military dictatorship as historical background, feeling very alone, not belonging, and with the despair of “not having a future. “

In my twenties, I studied Graphic Design at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, where I was a teaching assistant of Art History for 7 years. At the same time, I became intensely tuned to the potentials of the Information and Communication Technologies that were starting to impact society. I participated from engaging virtual conversations with Latin American pioneers in the fields of ICTs, including the Latin American Virtual University (an attempt to theorize the use of new digital technologies for cultural, social, and political ends different from the mainstream developmentalist tendencies of the moment), Quipunet (a network of discussion on indigenous worldviews and movements on the net), and the Latin American Humanist Network.

The focus of my independent research was “to explore the collaborative potential of the Internet as an emerging tool; and a good opportunity for peripherical communities and new actors—such as women, children, indigenous communities—to open conversations to reduce gaps between present problems and future solutions. My vision of the Virtual Peace proposes to use northern technology and southern people to acquire technical and cultural skills, to build local/global bridges, and to create empowering community networks” (Women on the Net/UNESCO/Society for International Development, 1997). Some of my writings were: Internet, Emergent Culture and Design ([email protected], Creating new cultures in cyberspace, edited by Wendy Harcourt, 1999); and Navigating Globalization through Info-design, an Alternative Approach to Understanding Cyberculture (Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems of the UNESCO 1999).

Tired of feeling disconnected, not understood, and unsupported, I left my homeland at 32, with the dream of finding a community where I could share my gifts and talents. In 1998 I came to the United States of America, where doors opened for me. I completed two digital media certificates at Cabrillo College and a Masters Degree in Counselor Education at San Jose State University. In 2008 I got a job that granted me with the permanent residency, and then I was granted American citizenship in 2014.

From 2005 to 2015 I worked as the Latino Cultural Liaison for Hospice of Santa Cruz County offering end-of-life care access, outreach and education; and providing grief support services to Spanish-speaking Latino children, youth and adults. This professional experience—of much learning, healing and transformation—was very deep and valuable for me, and made a difference at the professional and community levels for myself and others. Reference to my work was included in a book about the history of the hospice movement in chapter 13,“Cultural Revolutions.” (Changing the way we die, Compassionate end-of-life care and the hospice movement. F. Smith and S. Himmel, 2013). In 2014 I received the Community Hero Award from the Community Assessment Project of Santa Cruz County for contributing to the goal of health care for all members of our community. (Cultural humility and compassionate presence in end of life care e

So far this is the story of the “future” I made for myself in my new adopted country. But this is not all of my truth, just half of it.

My elderly parents stayed in Argentina, and since 2010 I have been fortunate to travel once a year to visit them. This gave me the opportunity to reconsider the personal, family, and historical reasons for my leaving my homeland; and to reconnect with parts of myself I had left behind. By doing this I had the chance to confront that deep pain that had been present in my heart and memory all these years.

In August 2015 I went to visit Buenos Aires with my Chilean partner Fernando, who asked me an important question, “Silvia, in the face of the adversity and hostility that you felt while growing up, what was it that you did (to overcome it)?”

What had I done? My immediate answer was: I suffered, did lots of therapy, and then I left the country con pena y sin gloria. But this was not really what he was really asking me about.

Thinking about this more deeply, I realized that since age 15, I had entered into a journey of self-discovery, healing and spirituality—a path of inner work. It was this restless search that allowed me to learn about myself; heal wounds of what-was and never-was; find internal resources and strengths that I didn’t know I had when I left Argentina; and make my “American dream” come true (always a work-in-progress!).

There is a quote I love by mythologist Joseph Campbell, “The privilege of a life is to be who you are.” For some people “to be yourself” does not sound difficult, no big deal. But for those of us that grew up feeling invisible and without a voice, it takes a lot of courage, commitment and determination to be who you are—and this is what I am talking about.

Today, at 50, I have learned that no matter how big the obstacles and challenges we are facing, life always offers us an opportunity to choose a bigger story, and claim the potential for learning-healing-transformation that we all have. This is inner work we have to do, an individual contribution to the collective good. Embracing my cultural roots meant to reconnect with parts of myself that had been blocking the path towards a fuller growth and development—yet at the same time, they gave me greater inner force to build the future that is now my present life. The task is to be oneself, reclaiming the right for self-expression, to grow, and to become all you can and want to be in the context of a new world story we are all co-creating.

Finally, another key life-skill I’ve learned is to reach out. This meant challenging my old belief that “the world was a hostile place and nobody cared.” It took believing in myself, listening to my needs, honoring my dreams… and learning to reach out, not from a place of weakness but of resilience and strength. Like Martin Rutte says, "You have to do it by yourself, and you can't do it alone.”

I think that this is the opportunity that World Pulse gives us, both leaders and mentors, to connect in a safe supportive online environment and be there for each other, as we share and breathe life into our visions of a better future for ourselves, the world, and future generations. I think this is one way in which we are changing the world, locally and globally, leading an authentic life, sharing our voices and building community from the inside out!


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