Canning Wynn - Human Rights in Argentina
Travelling solo all the way from Sydney, Australia, I was nervous to say the least. Not truly knowing what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised at the beauty of the country and how welcome the people made me feel. I spent four weeks on the Law and Human rights project, but looking back I wish I had spent a lot more time there. Volunteering in Argentina is something I will never forget.
After being picked up at the airport, I was taken straight to my host family. Vivi and her mother couldn’t hold back their excitement and I had to ask them to speak slower as my Spanish was terrible. I was shocked when they handed me the key to their house as if it was the most causal of things. I would only have ever given the key to my house to members of my own family. I soon learned that in Argentina, we are all family.
During my stay we grew close and engaged in many discussions that went into the late hours of the night. My host family would also let me tag along when they went out for the day and I was able to see a different side of Argentina that a tourist would never have seen. The fruit markets, the famous Argentina BBQ and the night we went to the observatory to use the telescope to see Saturn as it passed closer to the earth, were some of the highlights.
During my stay my Spanish improved greatly as my host family was eager to learn more English. We would always try and speak as much of each other’s languages and would laugh at all of our terrible pronunciations. Spanish is a beautiful language and when I returned home I continued to study to try and master fluency.
Law and Human Rights Office
After my induction, which consisted of a staff member taking me around the city and showing me the ropes, I was taken to the office. The office was the “base camp” of operations for the Law and Human Rights project. The volunteers and I would have meetings to plan work placements and assign cases to the correct people. Many of the volunteers were studying Law, but even though I wasn’t, it was still fantastic to be a part of this team of genuine people that were trying their hardest to help those in need.
The staff members at the office were very friendly and helpful. They were made up of locals that were working hard to make a difference in their community. They welcomed each member with open arms (the Argentinian way) and made sure that people had the necessary resources.
Law & Human Rights Placement
The work placements were by far the most important part of the Law and Human Rights work. This involved working in a variety of locations. Some days I worked at the free Legal Clinic that was set up for people that could not afford legal advice, other days I worked in the juvenile detention centres that housed boys that had committed non-violent crimes.
At the Legal Clinic, I was able to take on real case work such as people that needed help gaining the deed to their house, accessing their pensions and settling disputes between tenants and landlords. I was always paired with a fluent Spanish speaker so that I never missed anything important, which I was thankful for.
At the detention centres, I was able to connect with the boys and slowly they opened up to the volunteers about their lives and future aspirations. One of the boys was set on learning English and traveling to The United States. The joy on his face when, with our help, he was able to introduce himself in English was priceless.
The language barrier was the hardest thing for me to get past. I had only studied one semester of Spanish in Australia. Even though I only knew the basics, the Argentinian people are very patient and grateful that I tried. A little goes a long way.
I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Argentina. The people I met and the experiences that I had were incredible. I would strongly recommend this project for someone wishing to immerse themselves in a real South American experience.