Arianna Rahimian - Care & Spanish in Argentina
Volunteer work is constantly brought up at my high school, as community service is a pre-requisite. After a few Google searches, Projects Abroad seemed like the best programme choice because of the High School Special programme. Before I actually left for Argentina, a Projects Abroad staff member did an excellent job of answering any questions my mother had.
Arriving in Argentina
When I arrived in Córdoba, a Projects Abroad coordinator was there to meet me. We waited for another volunteer and then took a cab to my accommodation. My host family immediately made me feel welcomed with hugs and a kiss on the cheek. This was a tradition that I eventually got used to, as everyone you meet kisses you on the cheek.
The family I stayed with spoke fluent English, but we spoke Spanish as well. There were five volunteers at the accommodation and two bedrooms. The other four girls and I spent the majority of our time together both at home and at our work placement. We got along well and I was glad that I had the opportunity to meet them.
We all took turns doing the dishes each night after dinner, but lunch was taken care of for us and breakfast was so minimal that there were hardly any dishes to do. Argentinians eat differently than Americans, so instead of breakfast being a large meal to sustain you for the day, breakfast in Argentina was usually a piece of toast and coffee. Our host father was a cook, so we were always fed well for the other meals of the day.
The house was quite nice and we were able to shower every day. There were five volunteers, plus two parents and a baby, so we had to plan when we would shower. We either showered before work in the morning, or after class. We were all responsible for keeping the bathroom and shower clean, and we all pitched in with the work. Staying at my accommodation taught me to keep my house in the United States much tidier.
Volunteering in Argentina
Our placement on the first day was Los Boulevares and they care for kids and also provide a free meal to the elderly residents of the neighbourhood and those who can’t afford food. We were expecting to work with kids that day, but it was extremely cold. Many parents won’t send their kids to the placements if the weather is harsh because they don’t want to risk their children getting sick.
That first day, no kids showed up so we gave the placement a new paint job. We created a new sign and re-painted the play area outside. While some volunteers painted, others helped prepare food. We made a cake and iced it with dulce de leche. We had so much batter that us volunteers ended up eating about half the cake and still had plenty left to give to the locals. All the elderly people who came for food lit up when we asked if they would also like some dessert.
The rest of the two weeks we worked at El Vagón. We would arrive around 9am every day and stay until around 1pm. The kids at El Vagón were some of the nicest I had ever met. I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t understand their Spanish, or they wouldn’t understand mine, but communication proved to be quite easy.
The placement provides the kids two meals every day. When we arrived each morning, we helped serve milk and bread for breakfast. One boy would always offer me his first piece of bread. I always declined, and next he would offer another volunteer or the teacher in the room. It was so touching that he would offer his bread to someone else before he started to eat it.
After breakfast every day the kids would play with the limited amount of toys they had in the room. On our first day at the placement we brought paper and some art supplies so that the kids could try something new.
We sat at their breakfast table and laid out all the art supplies so they could pick what they wanted to use. The paper and art supplies easily lasted the two weeks we were there.
Outside time was always allowed every day. The children were all different ages, so a volunteer always had to stay near the room with the babies. One was always on slide duty, and a few stayed near the field to supervise football games. Outside time was my favourite part of the day, because it was when we spent the most time with the kids. We played with them as we supervised them; some wanted to play running games, some wanted to dance and some just wanted to sit and talk about their baby dolls.
I found hanging out near the classroom watching the babies the most enjoyable. One girl in particular was the happiest baby I had ever met. She was constantly smiling and walking from one wall to the other. Every once in a while she would need some help, but she loved doing everything by herself; she even tried to feed herself at lunch!
The placement was definitely my favourite part of the day. I was really glad that we learnt a lot about Argentinian culture at our social events and in the Spanish class, but the main reason why I made the trip was for the volunteer work. Overall my trip was amazing. I wish I had stayed longer than just two weeks. There were so many people I would have loved to get to know better, and I wish I spent more time with our kids. I would recommend this project to anyone who likes travelling or just wants to try something new.
This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.