Cerca de Ti Social Program

By David Manrique

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David Manrique, MP, has been a minister in Venezuela since 1996 and a member of Cerca de Ti Venezuela Organizing Committee, since its beginnings in 2013. He has also worked in Youth and Personal Ministries and ADRA for approximately nine years and is the Youth Ministries director of East Venezuela Union Mission.

Cerca de Ti (Close to You) is the name of the most important and complete social program organized by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Venezuela and recognized by major communication media in the nation due to its social and spiritual contribution.

In 20121 the East Venezuela Union voted, as part of the nationwide initiative, Impacto a las grandes ciudades (Impact to the Large Cities),2 to organize Impacto Caracas (Caracas Impact), beginning August 2013.3 They had two specific objectives: form an Adventist youth force in eastern Venezuela to preach the gospel and help church members to evangelize the Venezuela capital.

Taking these objectives into account, a group of lay professionals, university students, and church leaders designed a program based on the slogan, Sonríe, Dios cree en ti (Smile, God believes in you.) Eventually the name was changed from Impacto Caracas to Cerca de Ti, Caracas (Close to You, Caracas), with the purpose of giving a more personal tone to the program.

Objectives and Focus

The purpose of the program is to celebrate community days during one week a year, where various social and spiritual development programs directed to the majority of the population and sectors would be offered. The main objectives are:4

  • Promote the Seventh-day Adventist Church image in the entire territory.

  • Motivate Adventist members to establish permanent community ministries.

  • Obtain personalized contacts with neighbors, coworkers, passersby, etc, to offer them Bible study courses, instruction seminars, etc.

Prior to the event, awareness of the Church was developed through the press, radio broadcasting, television, and digital communication at a local, regional, and national level, as well as street activities in major traffic zones, thanks to an efficient network of activities and community events organized by the local churches in different areas of the city.

Basic Elements

Tents are strategically placed in different city areas, allowing trained personnel to interact with local passersby by teaching them how to take better care of their bodies and giving them spiritual advice. They are also trying to “catch a million smiles” from passersby, drivers, etc. to later share in social media. At streetlights, volunteers with speakers pray for vehicle occupants as others mark vehicles with the programs’ images and slogans.

Blood donation is a key event of the program, as well as reforestation, hair donation, maternal milk, and other services for the most needy people. The opening and closing events in strategic places of different cities, also have a positive impact in the communities.

Volunteers get together in their communities to conduct activities to reach out to their neighbors. Vacation Bible Schools are exemplary and aimed to children and adolescents. Medical and family seminars are given, and prayer groups are organized to go door-to-door praying with families. All these events are planned according to the original program objectives.5

Scope and Outreach

The first event, which took place August 3-10, 2013, had more than 3,000 volunteers, many of them arriving from the eastern part of the country. Ten attention-seeking tents were set-up and 220 volunteers planted 270 different species of trees. Together with Quimbiotec (The State of Venezuela Technological and Pharmaceutical Complex) and the Municipal Blood Bank of the Capital District, 250 blood and plasma donations were collected.6 From August 4 to 9, 2014, 2,000 volunteers got together and decided to add a different activity to what was already offered.7 They added a project to donate, along with Senosayuda and the Children with Cancer Foundation, 268 pony-tail hair donations to make wigs for chemotherapy patients. More than 35,000 people were approached, and the amount of blood and plasma donations was also increased to a total of 380.8

During 2015, the challenge to organize Cerca de Ti was expanded to 29 cities and municipalities in central and eastern Venezuela. There were 12,118 volunteers in 159 strategic places; 1,215 blood and plasma donations were made; 482 trees were planted; 10 beaches were cleaned up; and 233 pets were vaccinated.9 From August 7 to 13, 2016, Cerca de Ti was disseminated throughout the entire nation, with assistance rendered in 50 different cities in the central and eastern parts of the country. A total of 27,650 volunteers assisted, 549 tents and attention centers were situated on the streets, 2,619 blood donations were collected, 3,611 pony-tail hair for wigs were donated, 3,611 trees were planted, and 28,849 people were serviced in different health events.10

By 2017, the strength of Cerca de Ti was demonstrated throughout the territory of Venezuela by surprising figures: 23,180 volunteers, 453 tents and attention points installed in strategic places, 976 blood and plasma donations, 23,549 people serviced with health issues, 1,223 trees planted, and 943,194 people reached through all services offered.11

Outside of Venezuela

Trained volunteers duplicated variations of the social program to other places, such as: Bogotá, Colombia; St. Maarten, in the Caribbean; and Charlotte, North Carolina, United States.

In Social Media

Throughout the years, media providing information about Cerca de Ti include the printed press, radio, television, and digital media. Television channels like Venevisión, Venezolana de Televisión, TVEs, and Globovisión were some of the most important television media, as well as El Nacional, El Universal, Últimas Noticias, etc., who also transmitted the program in different versions.

Challenges

The major challenge the Cerca de Ti program has is to recruit a large numbers of volunteers to greatly benefit Venezuela society by giving more and better attention to people in each area. Increasing the number of events like Vacation Bible Schools, donation and medical drives, evening seminars and workshops, will help reach the goals. By these means, the program tries to teach volunteers on how to treat others the way Jesus would. Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people.

Sources

“Adventistas participan de impacto comunitario en toda la capital” [Adventists participate in community outreach in the capital]. Accessed July 15, 2019, https://news.adventist.org/es/todas-las-noticias/noticias/go/2014-08-20/venezuela-adventistas-participan-de-impacto-comunitario-en-toda-la-capital/.

Manrique, David Alberto. General Presentation of Project Cerca de Ti, May 2013. East Venezuela Union Mission records, Maracay, Edo. Aragua, Venezuela.

Esperanza TV, Summary video Cerca de Ti, Caracas, August 2013. East Venezuela Union Mission records, Maracay, Edo. Aragua, Venezuela.

Prieto Sierra, Moisés. Cerca de Ti: Action Plan to Testify and Preach the Gospel, Caracas, December 2017.

“Proyecto esperanza para las grandes ciudades” [Hope for large cities Project]. Accessed July 12, 2019. https://www.adventistas.org/es/misionglobal/projeto/esperanza-para-las-grandes-ciudades/.

East Venezuela Union. Board of Directors Minutes, June 20-21, 2012. East Venezuela Union Mission records, Maracay, Edo. Aragua, Venezuela.

Notes

  1. East Venezuela Union, Board of Directors Minutes, June 20-21, 2012, East Venezuela Union Mission records, Maracay, Edo. Aragua, Venezuela.

  2. “Proyecto esperanza para las grandes ciudades” [Hope for large cities Project], accessed July 12, 2019. https://www.adventistas.org/es/misionglobal/projeto/esperanza-para-las-grandes-ciudades/.

  3. East Venezuela Union, Board of Directors Minutes, June 20-21, 2012, East Venezuela Union Mission records, Maracay, Edo. Aragua, Venezuela.

  4. David Alberto Manrique, General Presentation of Project Cerca de Ti, May 2013, East Venezuela Union Mission records, Maracay, Edo. Aragua, Venezuela.

  5. Marcos Salas, interviewed by author, St. Marteen, Caribbean, July 10, 2019.

  6. Esperanza TV, Summary video Cerca de Ti, Caracas, August 2013.

  7. “Adventistas participan de impacto comunitario en toda la capital” [Adventists participate in community outreach in the capital], accessed July 15, 2019,
    https://news.adventist.org/es/todas-las-noticias/noticias/go/2014-08-20/venezuela-adventistas-participan-de-impacto-comunitario-en-toda-la-capital/.

  8. Moisés Prieto Sierra, Cerca de Ti: Action Plan to Testify and Preach the Gospel, Caracas, December 2017, 48.

  9. Ibid., 48.

  10. Ibid., 49.

  11. Ibid., 51.

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Manrique, David. "Cerca de Ti Social Program." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 10, 2021. Accessed January 21, 2021. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8HGB.

Manrique, David. "Cerca de Ti Social Program." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 10, 2021. Date of access January 21, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8HGB.

Manrique, David (2021, January 10). Cerca de Ti Social Program. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved January 21, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8HGB.