Catherine Maughan - Care & Spanish in Argentina
When it was confirmed that I had a place on the Care & Spanish placement in Argentina, in the summer, I was so excited. With the help of my family and friends, I raised the money to go and suddenly I was at Heathrow Airport, being waved off by my mom and dad. In terminal 5 I met other volunteers heading for Cordoba. We boarded the plane together, and so it was goodbye England! During our second transfer in Santiago, Chile, I remember looking out of the window where the sun was rising over the Andes, and feeling excited and nervous…I’m in South America!
My arrival in Cordoba
At the airport in Cordoba I was met by a Projects Abroad staff member, Lourdes, and together with 3 other members of my group we went to our host family’s house! Our host mum and dad were fantastic, cooking Argentinian specialities like “empanadas” and “milanesas” and always making sure we were happy.
The night that we arrived we went to a local bar to meet volunteers who were with other families, whilst watching the football World Cup Final, Argentina vs. Germany. So with my brother on a school trip in Germany, it was going to be a memorable coincidence whatever the outcome!
At the Care project
The next morning we met everyone else at the Projects Abroad offices, where we were split into groups for our Spanish lessons and given an induction about our Care placement. I was going to be placed at Copa de Leche, a day centre where local children would go to have fun, play football and other activities including a lot of colouring in the afternoons.
The first day that we went to Copa de Leche I was nervous. Our host mum Sara had advised us to take nothing with us, and I really had no idea what to expect. However on arriving, I knew the following two weeks would only be good. The children were easy going, and launched us into the football filled timetable that they envisaged!
I grew to love Cope de Leche over the 2 weeks that I was there. Having done A-Level Spanish I had a reasonable proficiency, but any language barrier didn’t matter anyway, they made themselves understood through hand signals and mimes, which we did as well. I have no doubt that my Spanish improved while I was in Cordoba, especially in Copa de Leche, where I learnt a range of random vocabulary, but to me, that’s what makes learning another language fun!
As well as playing football and doing arts and crafts, one day we had the opportunity to take the children to a children’s museum, which was fantastic. They played in a bubble factory, used sand pits and fun science related equipment. It was fantastic to be a part of that trip, to see everyone there having a huge amount of fun. The only sad moment was when it was time to leave!
Lourdes our coordinator and ourselves tried our best to make everyday a bit different, whether that was using beads to make jewellery (no surprise the Argentinian colours of white and blue were fought over) and Emma, Iris and Laure, my housemates, creating an obstacle course. I think it would be fair to say that we had as much fun as the children, seeing them happy, although that did mean giving endless piggy backs!
My five housemates and I were the volunteers at Copa de Leche. I loved how we all had different personalities, which I think made us get on even better, and there definitely were some entertaining moments! After we finished work at Copa, almost every day we went to Freddo, a cafe on our way home to relax and talk, and then home. It was a tiring, but absolutely a worthwhile experience.
Projects Abroad organised a range of social events for us, from bowling to tango lessons! However the event that has stuck in mind was our weekend trip to La Cumbrecita, which was in las Sierras Chicas. This was on my 18th birthday, and it’s certainly not going to be a birthday I will forget!
I remember texting my mum on the bus journey, while most people were asleep but I couldn’t take my eyes away from the environment we were driving through. The mountains we were driving through were glowing red from the sunrise, and the day only got better. At La Cumbrecita we zip lined, used high ropes through the trees and we went rock climbing.
My final thoughts
I have always been interested in different cultures and the way people live differently, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to go to Argentina. During the 2 weeks, I learnt a huge amount about the beautiful country, other people, but also about myself. I made new friends from all over the world, including from America, Poland, France and the Netherlands.
Having continued to improve my level of Spanish, the experience also led me to have the confidence to continue Spanish, which I now study alongside geography at university. If I ever had the chance, I would love to go back to Argentina, particularly to Copa de Leche and I would recommend it to anyone that has the chance. It is an incredible, fulfilling experience, and one that I certainly will never forget.
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.