Volunteer Review: Anneke C., Human Rights in Argentina
After graduating high school, I decided to take a gap year. When I start college, I want to study public policy. I am particularly interested in the non-profit sector, lobbying, and advocacy.
Why I chose Human Rights in Argentina
I knew I wanted to find an overseas opportunity as soon as I had decided on a gap year. I came across Projects Abroad immediately, having looked up volunteer organisations on the Princeton Review. The projects that caught my eye were those oriented towards human rights. I have family in Brazil so Argentina was an obvious choice. Argentina offers an excellent immersive environment for Spanish beginners, and has the widest range of activities available. I made my decision and applied for the Human Rights internship in Cordoba. I joined for ten weeks!
Living in Argentina
I lived in Cordoba for more than two months during my project. My host family was the perfect fit for me. My host mother was always kind. She often gave us recommendations for things to check out, and was very patient with my limited Spanish. I had two different roommates, both of whom I made friends with quickly and often planned activities with on the weekends. It was a really positive environment and a comfortable place to return to after work each day.
Cordoba was a really wonderful place to live and work. It was my first time ever living in a foreign city for an extended period of time! I lived right in the center of Cordoba and I loved being able to walk everywhere. The public transportation was great and could easily take me to the suburbs where many of the other volunteers lived.
My Human Rights Project
The work I did for my internship was as rewarding as I hoped it would be! We had three key focus areas during the project. We worked on supporting organisational and research work for a national non-profit organisation. We acted as peer mentors for young women in juvenile correction facilities, and assisted with social/legal outreaches for the homeless population.
My favorite of these activities was the peer mentorship. We would visit the girls twice a week to chat and maybe teach them about healthy habits or women’s rights. But, for the most part we were there to be a low-stress source of fun and to show them some rare dignity, approaching them as equals. I formed a friendship with all of the girls and I was sad to leave them. I also formed some friendships with many of the homeless people we visited in our outreach efforts, especially those who lived right around the corner from my host family’s home. Though we mostly focused on those three main projects as Human Rights interns, we also tried to fit in extra activities.
Additional activities on the Human Rights internship
Twice, we sat in on crimes against humanity hearings at Cordoba’s provincial courts. We listened to the testimony of victims from the dictatorship period. It was very but it was also a necessary experience for anyone looking to study human rights in Argentina. Our project coordinator explained that, even though we were foreigners who couldn’t always follow the Spanish dialogue, it was important that as many people show up to those hearings as possible. This shows that those crimes will not be forgotten and that civic participation can lead to more constructive outcomes.
Additionally, we visited the Museo de Memoria, which used to be a holding jail for those who disappeared during the Dirty War in Cordoba. It has since been transformed into an educational center and place of remembrance. I also worked on an analytical essay to be featured in the Projects Abroad Argentina newsletter. This allowed me to research the incredibly fascinating topic of Argentine ritual protests, or escraches, in comparison to the #MeToo movement, originating from my own country. My favorite extra activity, however, was our participation in the women’s march on International Women’s Day. We walked alongside a league of feminist lawyers holding signs that the girls from the correctional facility helped us make. It was a powerful experience, with thousands of women simultaneously celebrating and fighting for themselves and others.
Free time and exploring in Argentina
My favorite parts of Cordoba were its art museums, its street festivals, and its location. There were lots of wonderful day-trip destinations nearby. My favorite of which was Capilla del Monte, Las Cascadas, Cosquin, and Alta Gracia. All of these places were no more than an inexpensive three-hour bus rides away. This was great, especially for a more inexperienced traveller like myself. Within the city, I loved going to Paseo de las Artes on weekends and the many art museums with diverse collections. Though I was prepared for the South American heat, I was pleasantly surprised when, even on the hottest days, the air was never too humid (a nice change from Virginia, a coastal state adjacent to several swamps).
Cordoba is also great for travellers on a tighter budget. I am a student earning minimum wage, and was worried about budgeting throughout my trip. However, Cordoba is not nearly as tourist-dense as other cities like Buenos Aires, and I was able to comfortably live off of the prices there.
Overall, my time with Projects Abroad in Argentina was a tremendously rewarding and, more importantly, fitting experience. I am at a time in my life where I am really looking to stretch myself. As a young adult starting college soon, I wanted to make sure I went into school with context for what I want to study. As a person privileged enough to get a higher education, I need to use what I learn to elevate the voices of those with less privilege. I needed first-hand experience to be able to truly contribute to progressive change, and Projects Abroad provided that for me - with the bonus of new friends, new language skills, and a great first-time abroad experience!
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.