Michela Steet - General Care Projects in Argentina
Waiting at the baggage carousel at Cordoba airport, I was wondering who would be waiting outside to meet me. Having travelled nearly twenty-four hours to Argentina, including three connecting flights, I was keen to reach my destination. I was pleased and surprised that not only had the Projects Abroad representative, Agustin, come to meet me, but also my new host mother and sister, plus another volunteer with whom I’d be sharing a room for the next three months.
Such a warm welcome was contrasted with the freezing weather outside, but I was too busy testing out my Spanish on my new little sister to notice. On arrival at the house, I was told to go and unpack and freshen up as friends were coming over for a small welcome party. The celebrating kicked-off late, in true South-America style, and I was overwhelmed by the feisty Argentinean women shouting across the table, although was soon keen to join in. This friendly, festive welcome set the tone for the rest of my time in Cordoba.
My care placement
On Monday, I was taken to El Hogar San Francisco, the children’s home where I would be working, and introduced to the girls and the nuns who lived there. I was also introduced to a twelve-year-old girl named Paola who I’d be giving one-on-one English lessons to. My work at the home mainly involved helping the girls with their homework and occasionally with their chores. The girls, ranging in age from six to thirteen, were lovely to work with, and I’d regularly receive letters and poems professing their love. Every day without fail the girls would beg me to stay for lunch, which I occasionally did – then feeling obliged to go home and eat the lunch my host mother had also prepared for me!
Twice a week I had private lessons with Paola, and we developed a close relationship. One day, she took me to school with her and begged her headmaster to allow me to join her English lesson, as apparently her friends all wanted to meet me!
Extra activites on my placement
I worked in the home until lunchtime, but my days were always full, as we soon developed other projects and did their activities outside of work. For example, one of the nuns at the home asked me to stay on in the afternoons to help with her English homework, as she was doing a course. Along with three other volunteers who joined me at the home in the first month, we started work on a vegetable garden for the girls, which involved much backbreaking work and a constant look-out for snakes!
Other activities were twice-weekly salsa classes, with visits to the show put on by the dance school every month, and teaching English in a night-school for adults.
Travelling during my free time
Over the course of my time there, many other students came out to Cordoba to work on various projects, and we became a close group of friends. Weekends were filled with trips into the city centre to visit the huge market, trips to the beach, hikes up to waterfalls and nights out with our Argentinean friends, fuelled by the local drink, Fernet with coke. Occasionally we organised weekend trips away, where the whole group piled into the super-luxury coaches for the overnight trips. We went to Mendoza, where we did breath-taking tours into the mountains, and Tucuman, were we stayed high up in the mountains and went horse riding.
Every aspect about my time in Cordoba was fantastic, but particularly the family I stayed with. I was made to feel completely as one of the family, and was always invited to parties, birthday celebrations and barbeques with family and neighbours. They, along with the Projects Abroad staff, ensured that my time in Cordoba was above all safe and enjoyable.
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.