Volunteer Review: Jennyfer D., Dentistry in Argentina
Ever since high school I’d wanted to go to Argentina. When the opportunity presented itself I jumped on the next airplane out. For one month I breathed, ate, and lived like an Argentinean. I volunteered in Unquillo and Mendiolaza with Dr. Sandra Fantini in dental clinics.
Ever since I was seven I’ve known that I wanted to be a dentist, so I wanted to go to Argentina and learn more about the profession. Volunteering at the dental clinics was an amazing experience. Meeting all the people and learning a little bit more about them every day was great. I loved my time and Argentina and wouldn’t trade it for anything.
As a dental volunteer I got to assist Dr. Fantini. In the beginning of my placement I would take patients’ medical history and just observe. As time went on and I learned more I got to do more things. One day she asked me if I wanted to press the button that took the x-rays. Of course I said yes and I was so proud of it. The next day she told me to take an x-ray and realized I didn’t know how to take one. She promptly taught me how to and for the rest of the time I was the x-ray taker. I also learned how to develop the x-rays. I had the opportunity to take and develop x-rays, something that I would have never been able to do in the US.
It was cool learning how things work without the fancy equipment that we have in the States. The doctor had to work strategically because they don’t have the best instruments or resources. The other volunteer and I called it the MacGyver method to dentistry. One day the water pump wasn’t working so I had to help irrigate by using a syringe. It was great working in a dental clinic and learning how to truly be a dentist.
My host family in Argentina was indescribable. Even though I lived there for only one month I love them so much. My host mother is an amazing woman with the biggest heart I’ve ever known. She took me in and treated me like her own daughter. In the afternoons I would sit at the table with her and talk. We would talk about the news, life, and anything else that came to mind. We laughed and cried and cooked together. My host dad would come in at night and regale us with stories about his day. Occasionally their grandchildren would come to play. Those were the cutest kids I’d ever met and loved to play. I truly felt like I was at home and belonged there.
On weekends some of volunteers would go camping. We hiked for hours until we got to the makeshift campsite be it a clearing in a field or a spot right above a waterfall. We would sit around the campfire and tell stories and of course drink mate. We acted like gauchos though we were far from being gauchos. We would go exploring and swimming around the trails. Sure it was winter and it was way too cold to camp, but the campfire kept us warm and some of the volunteers even slept outside just so they could fall asleep under the stars. Other weekends we would go into Cordoba and go to the markets. The outdoor craft markets were beautiful and full of life. People from everywhere would come and sell their artifacts or antiques as well as tell their stories. The atmosphere was fun and full of life.
The best day of my life happened in Argentina. Traveling with new friends around the center of the best country I’d ever been to was a day to remember. Along with another volunteer that worked with me at the dental clinic, we went for a drive around Cordoba and the surrounding mountains with a friend we actually met at the dental clinic. We had helped treat his father one day and to repay the favor they decided to take us out for a day’s drive.
From sunrise to sunset we drove around in the red Chevy Ram to some of the most beautiful places in Argentina. We went to the geographical center of the country and gawked at the amazing display of flags beating with the wind. Had our breaths not been taken away by the sight surely the winds would have done it. Afterwards we drove to the mountains and had an asado. We hiked around a Buddhist campground while the meat was cooking on the fire. It was an amazing experience stepping foot inside a Buddhist camp and learning so much about a religion that you wouldn’t think existed so far into South America. After stuffing ourselves with meat we drove further into the mountains and watched the sunset over the mountains.
Driving back drinking mate and eating medialunas I realized that this was the best day ever of my life. With a heavy sigh I looked out the window and caught a glimpse of the last sunset that I would ever see in Argentina. I was so thankful for these generous and friendly Argentineans that opened their hearts and gave me the best day I’ve ever had.
Living and volunteering for one month in Argentina changed my life. I met so many amazing people that I know I will be friends with for a life time. We still talk and dream of the day when we can all meet up again, hopefully in Argentina. I’ll never forget the chilly mornings and alpaca sweaters or the warm campfire and the beautiful sunset. I can’t wait for the day I get to come back and say hi to my host mom, dentist, and friends I left there and of course hi to the best country I’ve ever been to and my second home.
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.