Volunteer Review: Nicole R., General Care Projects in Argentina
The last words I said to my mum as I left to board a plane for my first trip (longer than a week) away from my parents to Córdoba Argentina, this place on the other side of the world, as she was crying and hugging me was “Don’t worry I’ll be seeing you at Christmas” little did I know then that I would extend my two month trip to three and not only miss Christmas in England but also New Year!
Why I chose Argentina
The thing was I took this trip to Argentina in order to gain some work experience because I really want to work in international development, for charities and NGO’s.
I also took courses on Latin America and learnt how many countries here, especially Argentina are not seen as “poor” so don’t get as much aid as places in, for example, Africa. But actually the people who need the aid are still just as poor, and so I wanted to help here because I know how it is needed and forgotten. I told Ines, my host ‘mum’, this when her and her husband Jean asked me why I choose to volunteer in the first place and why South America specifically Argentina.
This trip gave me a lot more than just work experience. It gave me the feeling that I had accomplished something in my aim to give aid somewhere in the world, and help just a fraction of the people who need it. It also gave me an experience that I will never forget, because here I also gained a family.
My host family
My host “mother” was Ines; she works for Projects Abroad, and is only in her 20’s so referring to her as a “mother” seemed a little odd! The thing was, Ines wasn’t just my host, in fact calling Ines, Jean, her parents and brothers my host family is not right, because they are now and will forever be my family. I still have my parents here and my sister but now I have gained a brother and older sister forever; when I speak of them I say “my family in Argentina”.
I spent most of my free time either playing in the garden with Ines dogs, helping them in their clothes shop, helping jean with his vegetable garden (he is a chef- another bonus!!!) or being pushed in the pool fully clothed by Ines (she ended up in with me every time). I enjoyed every minute of my time with Ines and Jean.
My time off in Argentina
We even did a weekend trip to Buenos Aires, with poor Jean driving the full 10 hour trip whilst Ines and I slept! Here I got to experience a Buenos Aires that was worlds apart from the one I took with my volunteer friends. I met their friends, was shown the important sights, went shopping for stock for the boutique around an area of Buenos Aires tourists probably don’t even know exists, and even went to Temaikèn a bioparque - way better than a zoo!
With my host family I spent the Christmas holiday’s of Navidad y Año Nuevo con mi familia and I loved it. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend it! Although my mum was not quite as impressed when I told her instead of going to church at Christmas I went to a Casino...my first one!!!
My care placement
My weekday afternoons were spent at Residencia Eva Peron, a children’s home for children from 0-10 years old. When I was there the largest number of children was 13 and lowest 7 around Christmas time.
For Christmas I asked my parents to please tell my family that instead of buying me Christmas presents that I will open a month late, could they please give me the money so that I could spend it on presents for the children, and so this is what I did.
We had 7 children and everyone got a special present just for them, as well as group toys and a towel each for summer camp. Although at times it could be hard working at the orphanage, I didn’t let it phase me. I knew those children had had a hard life so far, most had been abused and all mistreated in some way. However for all the tantrums and violent reactions to silly things, these children were the most wonderful and precious gifts, and I hope to have had even the tiniest influence on their lives.
One thing that will have an effect and they will probably never forget is “Derecho al Verano” in Santa Catalina. Translating as “right to a summer” a summer camp program insuring all children get the right to a summer holiday. Here the children were free to be children, but in a safe environment where they could play for hours in fields or walk to the animals and watch the sheep being herded, horses run, or just go searching for things only a child can conjure in their imaginations (like when we found a horse skeleton and the boys were convinced it was a “dinosaurio”).
At Santa Catalina we also played sports games with the kids, and went swimming every day to the river which they all loved!! I even made friends with two local girls from Córdoba who I stayed friends with and went out with in the city after we got back.
Making friends and traveling in Argentina
I did also make close friends with a group of volunteers from all over; we had Europeans, Americans, Canadians, Australians, and even a couple from Bermuda! With these new friends I not only spent days and evenings hanging out or at socials, but with some I traveled. We visited other parts of the country such as las cataratas del Iguazu, Buenos Aires (for the 2nd time) and did some horse riding in la Cumbre.
For one of our socials we also visited Mar Chiquita, a huge salt lake also home to flamenco birds that go there to breed. Each of these trips were amazing, but seeing Iguazu was just breathtakingly beautiful; before I left England I saw the photos and thought it was beautiful, but no photo could ever do that place justice, it was phenomenal!
Those were my experiences of Argentina, when it was time for me to go I really didn’t want to leave, and right now all I want to do is return! I missed my family back home, in fact the first thing I did was run and hug my mum when I walked from the airport arrivals. My first words back to her as she started crying all over again were “I realized I told you I’d be home for Christmas and then I didn’t come back”.
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.