Georgina Redfern - General Care Projects in Argentina
First things first, anyone who is thinking about coming to Argentina should most definitely do it! The people are friendly, the nightlife is amazing and you will come back with so many incredible memories.
I touched down in Argentina not knowing what to expect in the coming six weeks, but my fears soon turned into confidence when I was met by my Projects Abroad supervisor. He put me at total ease and answered all my questions. He took me to my home, where I met my host mother and roommate. I didn’t speak any Spanish so my roommate spent the majority of the time translating, but there’s always Google Translator if there’s any trouble!
The day after I arrived I had my induction. I got picked up from my house and my Projects Abroad supervisor - Roman arrived with another new girl, who became a really good friend of mine. Roman showed me which bus I should use to get into the city centre, where to change money and where to go shopping! He also treated us to lunch in a Bohemian restaurant. Then we got the N Bus to the Projects Abroad office where we were given our induction packs which included a map of where our homes and work placements were.
My Care placement
My first placement was in a girl’s orphanage. It was hard at first; especially as I didn’t know any Spanish (I would definitely recommend learning some Spanish before arriving). An important thing about volunteering in the orphanage was to provide activities that everyone can get involved in. The girls particularly loved making bracelets out of beads! They always ran up to us and grabbed our bag of goodies to see what the activity of the day was. They certainly liked being entertained!
I also enjoyed helping out the staff by helping to prepare tea and sandwiches for the girls. I spent around 3 hours there in the afternoon as a lot of the girls went to school in the morning. Being able to help with the homework helped improve my Spanish and I could tell them certain words in English.
My second placement was in a kindergarten just outside Cordoba. I absolutely loved working there. Of course, working with small children I soon learned to have eyes in the back of my head. One of my favourite things about working there was participating in the Spanish nursery rhymes.
There weren’t many staff at the kindergarten which is what made my role so much more vital. I spent around 3 and a half hours a day there, usually in the morning. For the majority of the time I played with the children in the garden, they particularly liked a four seated merry-go-round. I also helped in serving the mid-morning snack and lunch, and then of course the clearing up.
The kindergarten also acts as a charity shop that sells clothes and food, so if the children don’t keep you occupied enough, there’s always plenty of other work to be doing.
Projects Abroad socials
Anyone who loves socialising shouldn’t hesitate in coming to Cordoba. The Projects Abroad socials that I went to allowed me to make many friends from all over the world. One of the socials I attended was a salsa lesson. This was a lot of fun (and very Argentinian) and my friends and I continued to dance there until I left.
The nightlife in Cordoba is unlike anywhere I have ever experienced. There are many bars and boliches (the Spanish word for night club) to discover. My favourite was a club called Studio Theatre, just off one of the main Plazas. It was a beautiful old theatre that had been sold and transformed into a nightclub.
A popular Argentinian alcoholic drink is Fernet usually with Coca Cola. This is either a love it or hate it drink but it must be tried at least once! The other drink that must be tried is an Argentinian herbal tea called Mate (pronounced mah-tay). This is drunk in, what looks like, a small bowl with a straw with a sieve at the bottom. You’ll see people all over the city with flasks off hot water tucked under their arms holding their cups.
There is also a market that occurs every weekend at night which is a must see. All the items on sale are homemade and there are things being sold from art made of old CD’s to wooden ornaments to cake.
My Argentina recommendations
A memory that I will carry forever (and there are a lot that I will have) is horse riding through the mountains. This experience was amazing and really good value. We were riding for about 4 hours in total and then we were treated to a classic Argentinian asado (barbeque). Trust me; Argentina knows how to cook meat! However, if you’re a fussy eater then you’ll be absolutely fine in Cordoba. There are loads of Italian restaurants to be discovered, as well as the traditional Argentinian cuisine.
The Projects Abroad team were there whenever I needed them. I had some problems with my accommodation and when I told my supervisor he made sure I was rehomed as soon as possible. On the induction day you are told to buy an Argentinian phone (nothing fancy, just something not to make your home phone bill go crazy) and are given all of the staff’s numbers. They all make it very clear that they are available 24/7 which was comforting to know.
I would strongly recommend Argentina to anyone who wants to travel the world, see a different culture and learn a new language. I hardly knew a word of Spanish when I left home, but by the time I came back I could have a conversation with my host mother about European politics! It really is amazing at the speed you pick up a language when you are completely immersed in a different culture.
A top tip would be to keep a journal of your time away. It’s a great way to remember tiny details of your stay while you’re in an airport waiting room coming home! It also gives your family and friends the chance to better understand your daily life abroad.
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.