Jessica Baron - General Care Projects in Argentina
Hi, my name is Jessica Baron, but I go by Jessi, I’m 18 and volunteering has become my passion. My passion to help those less fortunate started when I met a boy named Hunter Brown in school. Hunter Brown was, and still is, my inspiration. Hunter struggles with severe autism. Hunter joined an extracurricular singing group I was a part of, and working with him dramatically impacted my perspective on life. Soon, I began working as part of Best Buddies, helping kids with autism and other similar diseases. These children taught me lessons on strength and bravery, as they never thought twice about why they were different from other kids and they approached each day with a smile on their face.
Because I come from a very privileged background, I have never known how it feels to be raised in a very poor or unhappy environment; however, my dad, being born in Africa to an impoverished family, always reminds me how lucky I am. Being raised this way contributes to my desire to help kids less fortunate than I am, as I want to help children feel a small piece of the happiness that I have been so blessed to receive. This devotion led me to volunteer abroad, where after a lot of research on many different networks; I decided to volunteer with Projects Abroad. And let me just say, I have not regretted this decision at all.
Volunteering in Argentina
As I am still in school, I wasn’t able to spend months abroad so I decided to stay closer to home and visit Argentina to volunteer on the Care project. While I do wish that I had been able to stay longer, my time abroad was absolutely amazing! From the moment that I arrived, the Projects Abroad staff members met me with full support and, although I was extremely nervous to be by myself in a foreign country, unable to speak Spanish, they quickly helped me adjust. I was immediately taken to my host mom’s house, where she greeted me very kindly and then allowed me to sleep off my jet lag.
From the day I arrived to the day I left, my host mom was wonderful; she loved to have conversations, she told me all about Argentina and its history and the food she prepared for me was ridiculously good. On my first day there, she took me to this place in Argentina called the Artisans Market, where she showed me all of the hand-crafted, homemade items some Argentinian people were selling.
On my second day in Argentina, I was picked up by a staff member who gave me a tour of the city, showed me how to get to the office, my placement and a general idea of how to navigate around the city. For me this was so helpful, as I am absolutely horrible with directions yet with his help I found myself able to navigate around the city with ease. He answered any questions I had and made sure I found the Projects Abroad Facebook page, so that I would be able to easily connect with other volunteers.
Care in Argentina
I was only in Argentina for a week, so I wasn’t able to volunteer as much as I would have liked; however, I still had an amazing experience. I was placed at a childcare centre on the outskirts of Cordoba, Argentina where I helped care for toddlers. I was there around Easter, so we were able to make chocolate Easter eggs for the kids and decorate the centre!
I will say that being around kids who only speak Spanish was a little intimidating at first; however, I found that communicating with three year olds isn’t necessarily the most difficult challenge, so I resorted to playing games, puzzles and watching cartoons with the kids. One of the little girls kept pointing at a bracelet I was wearing, while asking me what it was, but I found that if I just kept smiling at her, or pulled out a different puzzle, she would quickly lose interest in my bracelet. (I couldn’t answer because I have absolutely no idea how to say bracelet in Spanish.)
Overall, volunteering in Argentina was an amazing experience; the country is beautiful, the people are so kind and the Projects Abroad staff in Argentina was so helpful and they constantly made sure I had everything I needed.
I’m so happy I was given the opportunity for such a wonderful experience and I am already planning a second trip through Projects Abroad for next year! I also highly recommend that anyone looking for an organisation to volunteer with, check out Projects Abroad because they truly are a one-of-a-kind organisation.
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.