Celine Haynes - General Care Projects in Argentina
I arrived at Cordoba airport to be greeted by my smiling host mother Susana and the director of Projects Abroad, it had finally sunken in that I was in Argentina and would be for the next few months. After a lot of kissing and hugging I was driven in a jeep to a restaurant for my first meal of, typically, steak, which was very enjoyable even though I couldn't understand most of what was being said to me in Spanish. One thing that struck me in Argentina throughout my stay was the friendliness of the people and how interested they were in us foreigners.
Living in Argentina with Projects Abroad
I was the second volunteer to go to Argentina with Projects Abroad but quickly got used to the relaxed lifestyle of Unquillo, the small town where I lived about an hour on the bus from Cordoba city. It had lots of cafes and bars, a few restaurants and some shops along the two main streets. I felt quite homesick the first weekend mostly I think because of the language barrier but after about two weeks I was able to understand more and it all became less scary.
My care placement in an Argentinean orphanage
The orphanage where I was working was called the Casa del Nino and was about 20 minutes walk from the centre of the town. It consisted of about 10 houses on campus and many more spread around the outskirts of the town, each of which had 20 or 30 children of all ages living with a 'mother'. We went in the mornings for about 3 to 4 hours (after which you are knackered!) and worked with the primary or pre-school age children, as the older ones were at school in the morning.
The children were lovely and wanted attention so much that we made friends very easily on our first day! We did activities such as drawing and painting, making jewellery and even tried cooking which was very messy but great fun. One of the highlights was when the volunteers organised a picnic on a Saturday lunchtime. Luckily it was really sunny and about 50 children turned up, the day even ended with the obligatory water fight!
I really enjoyed playing, chatting and generally cuddling the young children and they absolutely adored my digital camera and seeing photos of themselves. There was also a house for disabled children with very few facilities and kind but over-worked staff. I really felt my presence had an effect there because I was able to feed the kids, take them for walks in their wheelchairs and give them a bit of stimulation give and the staff a welcome break.
Exploring Unquillo and travelling after my placement
In the afternoons we went to nearby sites, visited Cordoba city and its many attractions, did a bit of horse riding or just sunbathed and chatted to friends. The other volunteers and I went to the local nightclub in the next door town of Rio Ceballos every Saturday night. We also went to a football match with some young Argentinean people which was a must for the atmosphere! I always felt very safe in Argentina and have made some great friends both local and other volunteers. I travelled around this beautiful country after my placement and definitely want to return here very soon to visit even more of the country and of course to perfect my tango!
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.