Born in Buenos Aires, Patricio Lorente can be described as a Renaissance Man.
“I’ve always been attracted to learning about diverse fields of study. This made finishing college a bit difficult since I changed my major between fields like literature, philosophy, computers, law, etc. I wanted to learn them all!” jokes Lorente.
Luckily, his curiosity about the world has always brought him to the helms of new adventures. In 1991, Patricio found work that would capture his interest for many years to follow. He began working for an international development agency as a “field rep,” where he assisted in giving out microloans, spearheading social aid programs, and helping families secure medical care and food.
“It was important work. I was helping people that were without resources, and that were really going through a hard time…However, it was about me empowering them to help themselves, about giving them tools so that they could build a better future for themselves,” Lorente says.
Patricio states that during this time he became deeply aware of the disparity that existed between those that “have and don’t have.” It was also around this time that he was introduced to Wikipedia.
“In my work experience, what I have learned is that the only way to truly help people, is if they are the protagonists and not passive receivers. Wikipedia makes every human a protagonist. That’s what attracted me to the project. It is an encyclopedia that anyone could use, that anyone can participate in, and that it is the biggest collection of information that humanity has ever created,’ states Lorente.
Patricio’s first entry was for his local “futbol” team, however, he soon began editing on more complex topics, and became a regular contributor. His passion for the site would continue to increase as he became more aware of how it was helping the same communities he was serving. Within a few years, Patricio would help establish Wikimedia Argentina, a volunteer group dedicated to cultivating the Wikimedia projects on a local level. The group was officially created this past September.
“Wikimedia Argentina has a very ambitious agenda in front of us. Next week we are getting together with native tribes, hoping to stimulate the creation of Wikipedia in their own languages. There has been a lot of discussion between the tribes on how to write these oral languages. The irony is that we are not only introducing Wikipedia to them, but also introducing the wiki way of consensus decision making, so that they can figure out how to best do this,” he says.
According to Patricio, Wikimedia Argentina is also researching ways to help underprivileged students and schools in Argentina: “One of our many ideas is to create Wikireaders, or textbooks created with Wikipedia’s free content. There are many schools that don’t have resources, not to mention Internet connection.”
Today, Patricio is married with two gorgeous children. He has changed jobs, and is currently heading up a University of La Plata department, responsible for allocating scholarships to underprivileged students. He believes Wikipedia and its sister projects can transform the reality of many underprivileged people in his homeland into something positive and hopeful.
“All Wikimedia Argentina needs is time.”