A little bit of fundraising

This Friday Voluntario Global hosted a fundraising event for one of our projects .  The event was a benefit concert organized by ‘Music Is My Sanctuary’.  I had attended the previous fundraiser which was during my first week in Argentina back in September and I had absolutely loved it.  It was alot more fun than any fundraisers I had ever been to back home and showed me a great way to raise money and have a good time - through music.  So I had widely promoted this next one to my friends.  Part of me thought that maybe my newness to Buenos Aires was the reason that I had enjoyed the last one so much.  But I was wrong, this fundraiser was just as fantastic as the first if not better

It was hosted in a different, bigger location which changed the atmosphere of the event; people were able to dance and did so all night long.  The music was mostly great, minus a rather bizarre middle-aged English duo – they did my country no favours amongst the avid music fans beside providing comic amusement!  Some bands had performed at the previous fundraiser but there were new ones there aswell, including a great band called The TenSixties who took full advantage of the fact that it was Halloween on Sunday and took to the stage in varying degrees of costume!  My favourite band from last time, Mala Macumba, was the final act and they were just as good second time round.  Some musicians took part in more than one performance and all supported and enjoyed each others music which was great to see.

Everyone that came seemed to be having a great time especially as the evening cost a mere 10 pesos - all of which went to the project.  The event raised a total of 560 pesos which was great.  The money is going to be used for building repairs in the orphanage - mending the walls and replacing the plumbing.  These improvements are so badly needed in order to continue providing a safe and comfortable home for the children.  It is rewarding to know that the money we raised is going to be used in such an important way - you almost feel guilty that we had so much fun raising it!

Asignación Universal por Hijo Part I

An Argentina program, Asignación Universal por hijo para protección social, has been enforced by ANSES, Administración Nacional de la Seguridad Social. ANSES is an organization dedicated to national social security such as grants and pensions, family allowances for people in business and family benefits to people in passive period, and unemployment benefits, which are financed by national employment funds.

An Argentina program, Asignación Universal por hijo para protección social, has been enforced by ANSES, Administración Nacional de la Seguridad Social. ANSES is an organization dedicated to national social security such as grants and pensions, family allowances for people in business and family benefits to people in passive period, and unemployment benefits, which are financed by national employment funds. This program is designed to increase the percentage of children enrolled in primary and secondary schooling in Argentina. It is geared towards motivating families to pursue education within Argentine society. With proof of a birth certificate, family identification, compliance with mandatory vaccination schedule, and recorded attendance at a public educational establishment, families receive an exchange of money for each child’s enrollment within the education system.

The program is proposed for the unemployed, the non-registered working families, and/or domestic workers who are receiving less than the minimum wage. Children must be under 18 years of age; they must be Argentine, Argentine-born, naturalized or resident, and a legal resident no less than three years preceding the application process. Once the proper paperwork has been completed, families of non-registered workers (receiving less than minimum wage) will receive $180 per month, per child. Unemployed families will receive $144 per month. This amount equals 80% of the final allowance received.  Initially, 80% of the child’s allowance is given directly to the family with the remaining 20% deposited into an account under the owner’s name, which can only be removed once a year. The allowance limits out at five children. For disabled children, ANSES provides an amount of $720 for the direct deposit. Families of disabled children need to complete a PS 2.3 form including a medical testimony and Blackeye 2 Employer Report in addition to birth certificate, family ID, and attendance records, in order to fulfill the requirement of ANSES. In July of 2010, ANSES announced that family allowances for children increased 22.22%. Diego Bossio, the Executive Director of the National Social Security said, “the universal child allowance is not the product of chance, but a policy of inclusion.” Argentina has great hopes for this program, Asignación Universal por hijo para protección social. The program hopes to strengthen the state and provide tools to get closer to the needs of the people.

Crying at Plaza de Mayo

By Olivia Puddicombe and Tiffany Grabski.


Yesterday afternoon was an afternoon that we will never forget.  Being fortunate enough to be living in Buenos Aires at such an important time for the country, we went down to Plaza de Mayo to spend the afternoon with the people of Argentina witnessing and sharing their grief at the death of a dearly beloved ex-president. Nestor Kirchner’s untimely death has been a sad shock and has affected millions of people. Yesterday however it became clear that the Argentines are not ones to dwell in sadness and grief.  While there was an obvious sense of general upset, we were overwhelmed by the feeling of celebration, their joy for the life of a great man. The closest either of us had experienced was the death of Princess Diana. While both of our experiences of this event were very different, based on where we were, and how young we were, we remember it being a far sadder occasion.  Yesterday instead of people crying in the streets we saw people dancing and singing.  There were tears streaming down their faces, but the overall atmosphere was something much more positive.  Their message was clear – it was aimed at Cristina, to tell her ‘you are not alone, we are here, you have our support, we mourn with you.’  It was one of the most powerful and moving afternoons of our lives.

From speaking to various people, we were surprised by their willingness to help us understand their culture and their interest in how our cultures differ so greatly.  We were initially quite confused as to whether everyone was there to show support, as some seemed to be there in protest.  However a gentleman named Lucas explained to us that the protests were not anti-Kirchner, but against the vice president, who has angered many people by being rather rude and abrupt since the ex-president's death, and failing to follow through with his promises to Argentina. Lucas told us that he was there to express his sadness and to be with the people of his country in such a difficult time. He had arrived the night before at midnight, and remained there to support his government, and show his love for his country. This cleared up a lot for us, giving us a new perspective to the protesting we often see against the government and a completely different view from those expressed from the middle and upper class families we both live with.

Elida, a teacher in La Boca further explained that the people in and around the plaza were feeling a lot of pain for Nestor and for their president.  They were sad and worried about the future of their country.  Nestor did many things for both his country and for Latin America, and this became clear by the amount of supporters that have turned up to pay their respects.  Elida helped us understand the method by which they show their support.  She explained that it was normal to unite, and be together in times of pain, and their way of expressing their support is through music, chants, and being together: Something I think countries like ours could learn a lot from.  This wasn’t a funeral, or a wake, it was a celebration of all Nestor had accomplished, a thank you for his help and support within Argentina and throughout Latin America, and an offer of support for their country and their leader Cristina, who no doubt is having the hardest time of them all.

Former President Néstor Kirchner Dies

Nestor Kirchner passed away in his home of Santa Cruz at the age of 60 from a heart attack. Kirchner was a key policy maker in the government of his wife, Cristina Kirchner. During his term, the country registered the biggest continuous economic growth, declining poverty from 42.7% in 2003 to 16.3% in 2007. The people of Argentine will be grieving over Nestor Kirchner’s death for the next two days, closing down shows and events. If you have already purchased any tickets to shows or events, I would recommend calling the venue to see what actions need to be taken or to reschedule the event. As a secretary of Unasur, Kirchner had many relations with presidents of Unasur nations which include, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Due to these relations, many presidents and other important figures will be visiting Buenos Aires to mourn the ex-president’s death. If you desire, you could visit Casa Rosada to express sorrow for this tragedy of the Argentine people, and to visit the body of Nestor Kirchner.

Argentina and the environment

October is the month of the environment in Argentina and this week I attended a reunion on the environment and responsible tourism.  The talk began with some mini speeches by various important people do with Argentina's environmental plans.  The first to talk was the Minister for Education who highlighted the importance of the fact that there is not one simple solution to the environmental problems.  The next to talk, and my personal favourite, was a Japanese representative who bravely spoke in Spanish (I would never have had the nerves to do that!). 

The Argentinean government has brought over some Japanese experts to help them sort out their environmental problems.  I could relate to much of what she said as we both come from countries where recycling is an advanced and established process.  She said she was astonished that people do not recycle in their houses here - but that the government pays people to sort out the rubbish.  She mentioned programs aimed at educating school children about the 3 R's - reducir, reciclar, reusar (reducing, recycling and reusing).  The next to talk was a Province Minister who claimed that he represented the millions of worried Argentines.  He highlighted the problems of pollution especially in the rivers due to all the rubbish.  The final person to speak was the Minister for the Environment who spoke about ways of promoting awareness and protecting the animals and plants at risk.


The next stage of the talk involved the people that are trying to carry out all the big talk of the politicians.  Four women representing various foundations and organizations that promote responsible tourism and sustainable development spoke about their plans and aims.  The final person to speak was a Japanese man called Hisakazu Hirai.  He gave a very long presentation on the history of waste disposal in Japan comparing it to that of Argentina.  In broken English and a little Spanish he explained that the main problem for Argentina was overcoming the prejudices and discrimination that exist concerning rubbish and waste disposal.  This he believes can be done through education.  He finished with the powerful phrase ‘What is important for the environment is communication and collaboration’.  I could not have put it better myself! What became clear to me after all the talks was how incredibly behind Argentina is compared to other developed countries and also the lack of knowledge concerning all things environmental.  However what is important is the desires the Argentine’s have to learn and to improve.

Health Education in Argentina

Last week I was fortunate enough to be able to witness some Argentinean health education.  My boss asked me to accompany him to a local 'jardin' where he and a group of women, the 'promotadores de salud' were going to give a talk about dental care.  The women spend their days arranging and giving educational health talks all around the town.  I had sat in on a few of the meetings prior to the talk and seen them planning every detail.  They made a huge billboard-esque poster showing a playground full of flowers (personally cut by me!) and teeth!  This was the stage for the play they had written about dental hygiene - four puppets are playing in the park and one tells a joke.  As they laugh they notice the joke tellers black tooth.  This leads to the talk given by another of the promoters and Fernando, who used to be a dentist.  Using a plastic mouth and toothbrush they teach the children how to brush their teeth, how many times a day etc.  Fernando then sang a teeth-brushing themed song which the children adored!  The talk finished with the promoters handing out free toothbrushes and despite uttering the fatal words 'what colour would you prefer?', everyone ended up with a colour they liked and the children went out to play very happy! 

I was amazed that dental hygiene was a subject that the children needed to be taught about.  I was taught to brush my teeth by my parents, I definitely do not remember having people come to my school and teach me how to brush my teeth.  However in Argentina dental hygiene is a problem and a lot of people tend not to bother with it.  Having seen how many adults and children come into the 'sailta' with awful teeth you understand the importance of trying to educate the children.  The amount of effort that was put into the talk was great - from the amazing poster, to the well thought out play, to Fernando's song.  Everything was purposely meant to make the children pay attention, learn and have a good time as well which they definitely did! 


Small Changes are important

Mario is the headmaster of a primary school where volunteers combine teaching English with creating links, cultural exchanges and experiences. Below is a story he told us called “Little revolutions”.

‘I would like to tell you about a small revolution that took place the day of Iain’s arrival.  I was going down to the first floor and whilst I was on the stairs I heard shouts from the children that sounded more like football hooligans celebrating a goal.  The songs were overlapping with each child singing a different one.  I arrived at the ground floor and found children from the 4th to the 7th grade returning from their break time surrounding Iain, hailing him and demanding his attention.  The volunteer (who never imagined he would be subject to such enthusiastic demands) was smiling despite not knowing what to do nor understanding why they were chanting his name or fighting to walk beside him.  Rather an amazing experience for a Saxon in a country full of Latinos (especially as they are children). Mariela told me that when Iain introduced himself to one of the classes, the children got up and asked him for his autograph.  Mariela thought that he did not understand what an autograph was and explained to him that they wanted his signature, as one would ask an artist, a sports star or someone you admire.  Iain replied saying that he knew what an autograph was but as he was not famous he did not understand why they were asking him for his.  The affectionate Scot became an idol in 15 minutes. The new enthusiasm and motivation that the appearance of Iain brought to the school may seem to be only a small change.  However changes like this are very important because when you put them all together they become a revolution.'

Volunteering in a Health Center

The English could learn a lot from the people here. They will happily wait hours for their turn and then there is no fuss - top off, injection in, sign here and done.

This week marks my one month anniversary working at a Centro de Salud in Jose Leon Suarez and I can genuinely say that I have never learnt or experienced so much in a month before.  Working at the salita has not been easy or at times even enjoyable, but it has been incredible. There are lots of salitas in Suarez, each is for a specific barrio and they offer all sorts of help. 

There are doctors, a dentist, a midwife, a psychiatrist and more!  Centro 15 is painted bright yellow and it looks like a ray of sunshine in the town. Fernando, the director, has put a lot of time and effort into making it look inviting and professional.  Yet one of the main problems the salita faces is getting people to come.  At first I did not understand how this could be an issue.  Everything to do with health care is free in Argentina.  All people have to do is turn up and they can have whatever they need.  Yet when people have so little, health is not a concern.  It is shocking to see the poverty here.  It is a totally different kind of poverty to England.  There are no awful council houses instead the people live in shanty town-esque houses, if you can even call them that.  Many of the people who live here are immigrants who I assume came here in search of a better life.  Sometimes I wonder if they have found one. There is a trend in Suarez for young girls to get pregnant as early as possible, at 13 or 14, because of the improved benefits available. 

It has been a shock to see girls who are no more than children themselves come in either pregnant or already mothers.  However what is almost more shocking is to see how much they adore their children and how well they look after them.  There have been cases concerning abuse of children and women which have really upset me.  I know that it happens in England but to see it first hand is entirely different and I have never felt more helpless in my life as doing anything about abuse here is hard because it involves money. As I have no medical training or knowledge I have spent my time mainly with the nurse, the paediatrician or in reception.  Administering the injections with the nurse has been very interesting.  The English could learn a lot from the people here.  They will happily wait hours for their turn and then there is no fuss - top off, injection in, sign here and done. 

The children behave amazingly well and their patience is admirable.  I love working with the paediatrician, he does the control of the children - height, weight and head circumference.  There seems to be a lot more that can go wrong with children here so the control is very important to spot any problems early.  Working in the reception has been fascinating.  I think that is where they need the help.  They only have one computer in the whole centre unlike in England where you have a computer in every room!  All the paperwork is done by hand not online – that was my job to get people’s names, addresses, national security numbers etc – easier said than done as a lot of people here cannot read so do not know where they live.  The people I work with are all fantastic and everyday feels like you're helping - even if it’s only finding someone’s medical history file (easier said than done!) or helping with the injections, it’s all important.

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Voluntario Global helps local communities by being available to discuss anything that local organizations need, and offering ideas for further change and development.


Location: General Pacheco. Buenos Aires. Argentina
Email: jfranco@voluntarioglobal.org

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