Serena Dhanani - Care & Spanish in Argentina
Arriving at Cordoba airport I had no idea what to expect of the next two weeks. As it was my first time travelling this far away from home, let alone all the way to Argentina, I was full of apprehension. I was greeted at the airport by a Projects Abroad supervisor and driven to the house that I would be sharing with another volunteer.
Almost instantly after meeting my host family and sitting down to a glass of hot chocolate with them I began to feel at home. My apprehension had quickly turned to excitement and I couldn’t wait to find out what the upcoming weeks had in store.
First Impressions of Argentina
Before going to Argentina I had never been to any part of South America and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I had no first-hand knowledge of the customs and culture of South America but was readily put at ease by the laid back attitudes of everyone surrounding me. Having been immersed in the language, my Spanish rapidly improved and it was becoming increasingly easy to communicate with the locals. My host family played a major role in introducing me to the city. They often took us out to typical restaurants and malls as well as advising us on the best ways to get around Cordoba.
On my first day in Argentina we had an induction day at the office, in which we met the other thirty or so volunteers (a particularly large group) and received welcome packs introducing us to our specific placements. We were given our timetables which set out where we had to be and at what times. We were given bus cards as well as a tour of the city and its sights. We were then taken to a restaurant in the centre of the city which gave us a chance to socialise with the other volunteers. My first day of work began the following afternoon at the Eva Peron orphanage, a short bus drive from where I was staying in Cordoba.
Going to Argentina not only allowed me to meet the local people but also gave me the opportunity to make friends with so many people from all across the globe. The numerous social events organised by Projects Abroad, such as dinners, tango lessons, sight-seeing and physical activities all really helped to bring us together as a group. We often had a few hours of free time in the evenings and frequently met up with other volunteers to explore Cordoba for ourselves.
My Care Placement
My placement was assigned at the Eva Peron orphanage along with three other volunteers working from 4pm until 8pm. We helped to care for around twenty children; however we would occasionally be pleasantly surprised to find new additions to what seemed almost like a second family. We would be there in time to give them their afternoon snack when they arrived home from school as well as dressing them, helping with their homework and playing with them. We bonded individually with each child and after a few days we never wanted to leave.
Speaking to the children gave us a different atmosphere to utilise our Spanish in and it was amazing to see just how much the children loved staying at Eva Peron. They were always full of energy and I really feel like we helped take some of the pressure off the staff who work there all year round. We often brought the children little gifts such as bracelets or pencils so they could remember us personally. On our last day at Eva Peron we organised an evening of games and face painting before we said an emotional last goodbye to all of the children.
Over the two weeks I stayed in Argentina I was exposed to so many different things I would have never had the chance to experience otherwise. My Spanish has significantly improved and I have met so many people from all over the world. The local people are so friendly and were always willing to help and I’d love to go back for even longer next time!
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.