During the semester, I’ve been volunteering with an organization weekly and with another periodically. Volunteering with these organizations shaped my study abroad experience in multiple different ways: I was forced to speak Spanish, I got to meet many locals and people from around the world, I was able to learn a different aspect of Buenos Aires, the capital and the province, and contextualize the social issues and statistics we talk about.
I volunteered with two organizations: Pilares and Techo.
Pilares is an organization that works in different slums located in a neighborhood of Buenos Aires. It works with the families that live in the slum it works in to empower development. They have different programs, such as nutrition-based and education-based programs. I was volunteering for an educational program at a daycare center.
People who have to be at work during the day drop their kids at the until they go to school in the afternoon. At the center, the kids get breakfast and lunch, along with educational assistance. Therefore, every Tuesday morning, I took a bus at 8:15 am to get to the neighborhood where I met the other volunteers to walk over to the slum. We helped kids with their homework, played with them and organized activities in English. After the kids left for school, we’d have lunch with the other volunteers and workers where we chatted or discussed how to improve the program.
On the other hand, Techo is an organization that works to alleviate poverty by providing living spaces. Therefore, they construct houses for people living in slums and in need of more space. It is an international organization that exist in many Latin American and Caribbean countries. Techo has different volunteer programs, such as detection and construction.
Construction is a two-day program where you go to a slum in the capital or the province to build a house for a family. I volunteered for construction twice and they were both very memorable experiences. Both times, I was assigned to slums in the province. The first time I went, it was early fall and we slept in a school, I didn’t understand a lot of things and my group mates didn’t speak English. The second time I went, it was early winter, we slept in an entertainment center, I understood almost everything and I tried not to speak in English :-)
It was very interesting to see how different it was to volunteer with each organization, in terms of the environment and what we did. The slums we went to for Techo were very different than the slums of the city of Buenos Aires. Although the city of Buenos Aires faces a lot of problems, people have resources to make it to school or work. What I saw in the province was different than any other experience. There was no sewage system, no drinkable water or no heating in houses… What I saw at Techo was a whole different level of poverty that I didn’t know about before.
One thing that was in common with both organizations was that they both had people who were dedicated to their cause. Both at Pilares and Techo, there are regular volunteers who dedicate so much of their time helping out. Also, people who work at the organizations are so passionate about their cause, about the social change they are making.
As temporary volunteers, our role is to be a part of the social change and support it, because it is for a reason and it is for a reason you get to experience once you step in those slums. Through the change in smell and scenery. The poverty statistics we discuss are right there by the garbage can that hasn’t been picked up in a while. A scenery you don’t get to see in Recoleta. A scenery that has a lot to say.
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<p>Hello hello! I am Idil and I am a junior at Lafayette College studying Economics and Anthropology & Sociology. I am from Istanbul, Turkey and I am studying abroad in Buenos Aires this semester. I am an adventurous person who loves trying new things and meeting new people. I love spending time with locals and learning more about a city from their perspective. I cannot wait to take on this experience and bring you all with me!</p>