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Volunteer Review: Asha B., Care & Spanish in Argentina

Asha holds a young child at her volunteer Care placement

I had always wanted to do some form of voluntary work, escape the confines of the West London bubble I live in, and learn about myself and another culture. Projects Abroad had been highly recommended by family friends, so I called the offices and a kind staff member talked me through the programs on offer.

The High School Special Care and Spanish Project was for 15-18 year olds and combined two of my passions: languages and looking after children. The format of the trip also ensured that there would be other people my age there, and guaranteed opportunities to socialize with people from all over the world.

First impressions of Argentina

After 30 hours of traveling (from London to Córdoba via Chile), I was obviously quite frustrated to find out that my luggage had not made it from Chile, and it could be a couple of days until it arrived. This was quite daunting considering I had never been to the country before and had to communicate with the airport staff in Spanish and ensure I got my bag as soon as possible.

I was met at the airport however, by many other volunteers and two kind supervisors who took us to a bus transfer. Instantly, we all bonded and chatted about our lives, which were all so different from one another in our respective countries, and the journey from airport to host family was extremely quick and smooth. It was really cold when we arrived, but luckily I had mentally prepared myself for this and brought some warm clothes, which were of course in my check-in luggage sitting somewhere in Chile airport…

Our first day was an orientation day around the city. We went on an open top bus, exchanged currencies for Argentine pesos, and had lunch with the other volunteers. This was a really nice introduction, although I did worry what the other teenagers would think of me turning up in clothes borrowed from my 60-year-old host mother.

My Care placements

Volunteers spending time with children in Argentina

Honestly, the mornings spent in the care centers were some of the happiest of my life. Such simple pleasures really made the kids and us happy. The centers were run down, and lacked resources, yet the children found reasons to smile.

It was also a real test of our language skills, as the children spoke quickly and not always clearly. In the first center, after some days the boys finally let me play football (which was not really allowed for girls) and discovered I was quite a weapon in the goal. In the second placement center, I had endless fun running around and playing games with the children. My cheeks ached with smiling, sometimes even from the most ridiculous moments.

Staying with a host family

Cultural differences became apparent quickly, as I settled into my host family with the initial help of my supervisor for the fortnight. They don’t really do central heating in Argentina, so you just use lots of blankets, and you basically always wear shoes around the house to avoid blackened socks. These differences were small, but all part of the experience and a way of learning how people live in this part of the world.

It was just me in the house at first, but Dora made me feel very welcome and clearly explained how things would work. For the rest of the stay, four other volunteers stayed in the house - two girls in my room, and two boys downstairs. It turned out three of them were from London and I already knew one of the girls! We had a lot of fun in the evenings after days out, and all tried our best to practice our Spanish with Dora around the house and at dinner.

Learning Spanish

Volunteers working with children at a care centre

Having been taught peninsular Spanish and having taken part in an exchange to Barcelona, I quickly noted the different South American accent. Certain consonants are pronounced differently, and some words vary slightly. This tested my adaptability and ensured my language was idiomatic to the region and flexible.

Having been taught peninsular Spanish and having taken part in an exchange to Barcelona, I quickly noted the different South American accent. Certain consonants are pronounced differently, and some words vary slightly. This tested my adaptability and ensured my language was idiomatic to the region and flexible.

My overall experience

I learnt a huge amount of resilience from the trip, and I also learnt not to complain. Complaining or having a negative view on things doesn’t help anything and tends to just bring morale down. It is also hard to complain once you see how happy children who have few material possessions manage to be.

This adventure also helped me improve my social skills in talking to people from other countries, communicating despite language barriers, and adjusting to different customs and a hugely different culture. I will never forget my time in Argentina, and cannot wait to do more volunteering in the future.

Asha B.

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.

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.

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