Environmental Consciousness

Last week, Jesica and Valeria, Voluntario Global coordinators, visited a site that has recently become part of our volunteer network. Another important aspect that we value at Voluntario Global is environmental awareness and sustainable development.  We want to learn from the organization that we visited so that we can mirror their habits in all of our organizations. It is an “Ecological Park for Yoga and Meditation.” There, volunteers can help in the organic garden, build environmentally-friendly houses, and participate in yoga or meditation. One can also learn about the oriental culture and live an experience “closer to nature.” This new program offered by Voluntario Global offers its volunteers the opportunity to become more familiar with our objectives as a network of cultural exchange and mutual knowledge.  If you have at least a week of free time, don’t miss out on this great life experience.

The Way I See It...

A United States citizen´s perspective of an Argentine World Cup match.

The Perfect Cross-Culture

It was a lazy Tuesday in the Previgliano household as I dropped my stuff at the entrance of the duplex in Belgrano.  My host brother Marco had been let off work for the Argentina vs. Greece World Cup matchup and was already busy in the kitchen – read that as Marco was already yelling wildly in celebration after every successful Argentine pass.  Clearly I was late for the action, but I hurried into the kitchen to cheer on my second home. The game was already thirty minutes in, yet no one had scored yet.  Of course, I already knew that since I did not hear any honking or see any 65-year-olds parading around outside when I got off the bus.  I took a seat at the table and picked up a factura – although Ms. Previgliano, Marco, and his sister all had something on their plates, they were too firmly glued to the television to have taken a bite yet.  I was going to ask if there was any marmalade left, but I figured I had better wait until halftime. "Ma!  Como no fue adelantado!?"  Marco was wrong, the Greek player was definitely onsides, but I was not going to be the one to tell him.  "Siempre dicen que Messi esta adelantado!  No es justo."  I guess I can’t blame him for being so tense.  After all, if the United States had the perfect team I would be disappointed by anything less than perfection as well. The halftime whistle sounded and was accompanied by a round of coordinated audible sighs from the Previgliano family.  "Parris, vamos a sacar Indio."  A quick walk around the block with Indio, the family dog that has to be AT LEAST as old as Maradona, would certainly help to calm the nerves.  Marco slipped the dog-sized Argentina jersey over Indio and we were off.  We couldn’t pass a single person without either hearing or initiating a conversation on the game.  From what I heard, the reason Argentina had not scored was a mix of bad refereeing, Greeks fouling Messi, and a conspiracy against Maradona.  I must say that I was not aware of all the forces working against the Argentine soccer squad. Whipping out his cell phone as the ring tone went off, Marco let me know that the second half was about to start.  Whether Indio was done going to the bathroom or not, we had to hurry up and get back in the apartment.  We plopped down in front of the television just in time to see the kickoff – and to see Maradona cross himself approximately 14 times (I may or may not have actually counted.)  If quantity of blessings had anything to do with it, Argentina was definitely going to come out on top. Thirty minutes later, the score was still tied at 2-2.  Even with the windows open, I could tell that the neighborhood was uncharacteristically silent.  I did not even hear the sound of a colectivo honking at a taxi driver.  Another corner kick for Argentina.  The ball comes swinging in on a perfect cross and… Demichelis gets a foot on it… but a teammate is in the way.  I smiled at the bad luck while the Previglianos let out a string of delicately chosen Spanish profanities, but the play had not ended.  As Marco stood up in excitement and disgust at the missed opportunity, I watched as Demichelis collected his own rebound and slammed it into the net.  I was trying to get Marco’s attention, but it was not necessary.  Through the windows rushed the sounds of air horns, car horns, adults screaming, children screeching, and Coto employees abandoning their posts at cash registers to celebrate in the streets.  I followed Marco onto the balcony – read that as Marco yanked me by the arm out onto the balcony – to wave the Argentine flag and sing “Vamos vamos Argentina!”  I turned back to the television in time to see Maradona crossing himself a few more times. With two minutes left, it looked as if victory was sure for the Argentine team, but I would not dare say anything to jinx it.  Silence pervaded once again as we all anticipated the final whistle.  Messi and the rest of the boys seemed to be playing keep-away now just to waste away the clock.  That must have been what Greece was thinking too, because they sure were not ready for the shot taken in the 89th minute from just outside the box.  The ball rebounded off a Greek and, of all people, Palermo was just in the right place to send the ball right into the back of the net.  For this game, no final whistle would be needed to call the game.  The neighborhood erupted once more and Marco shrieked through the house shaking his mother, his sister, and me by the shoulders.  (He might have even shaken his sister’s baby, but I don’t think it was hard enough to cause shaken-baby syndrome.)  I caught a glimpse of the screen as Maradona jumped onto one of the assistant coaches.  Despite all of the doubts, he had coached his team through the group stage. The final whistle sounded after 92 minutes of play, and I took to the streets.  At first, it looked like a horrible traffic jam with everyone honking, but given then I realized that it was just a giant celebration.  People were leaning out of their cars and shouting “Palermoooogolllllll” or “ArgenTIna, ArgenTIna!” As an American, I can’t imagine such a celebration in the United States, especially for a soccer game.  I have played soccer all my life, but I realize that the rest of my country does not see it as a major sport.  This actually baffles me.  Americans are said to be some of the most patriotic people in the world, but have I ever walked outside of my house after an Olympic basketball game to hear my entire neighborhood cheering?  No.  Have I been dismissed from school because the United States had a World Cup match?  No.  Have I ever truly felt that the United States was ALTOGETHER “united” under one cause?  My honest answer would have to be “no.”  Sure, soccer is just a game, but shouldn’t that make it even easier for all of us to support it unilaterally?  We may be ahead of Argentina in some aspects of society, but we certainly can’t claim to be more patriotic.  After experiencing an Argentine World Cup match with a true Argentine family, I am beginning to rethink what we really mean when we say “The United States of America.”  I’ll let you know when we get the “United” part right.

The Dark Truth Behind a Cosmopolitan Facade

The Paris of South America. The New York of South America. South America's most cosmopolitan city. We have all heard various names for the Latin American cultural centre. Buenos Aires is well-known around the world for its beautiful European-style architecture, legendary nightlife and trendy shopping. However, this is only one face of the city. The great restaurants, hip bars and expensive stores are reserved for rich porteños (Buenos Aires locals), expats and moneyed tourists. When you walk around the neighborhoods of Palermo and Recoleta you see fashion-conscious European and American tourists browsing fancy boutiques, businessmen having lunch in overpriced "fusion" restaurants and Argentinean women with botox faces carrying little dogs. Everyone who comes back from a trip to Buenos Aires raves about the city's fashion scene, diverse restaurants and cosmopolitan vibe. Those people do not get to see the other face of Buenos Aires- the villas (shantytowns). These areas are dominated by poverty and drugs and the police does not even enter. The inhabitants of the villas suffer from social exclusion and lack of opportunities.

On top of everything, the governor of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri wants to eliminate the villas and expel their inhabitants out of the city. As a volunteer for Voluntario Global you get to see both sides of the city. It is a very strange feeling to visit one of the villas during the day and then go out to bars and clubs in Palermo at night. The contrast between rich and poor could hardly be more drastic and makes you think about social inequalities in the city. I am not saying that you should not enjoy the nightlife and the nice parts of the city. Do take advantage of the city's fantastic cultural life. However, keep in mind that behind the gorgeous cosmopolitan facade there is severe poverty. This is why it is so important to show solidarity with the poor and underprivileged communities. Voluntario Global works with exactly those groups of people that have been left out and suffer from social exclusion. With various educational projects the organization's goal is to encourage young people to do well in school and go to university. Seeing and working in the poor marginalized communities makes you understand the city in its entirety. So when you go back to your home country you will be able to tell people what Buenos Aires really is about and that apart from a kicking nightlife and awesome shopping there are shockingly poor communities that certainly cannot participate in the cosmopolitan lifestyle of Buenos Aires.

Visit to Pablo Nogués

This week Tanya from Montréal had her first day as a volunteer at the English school "By your Side" in the neighborhood of Pablo Nogués. The school: 

Tanya in the class room: We were greeted by Silvia, the founder of the school. 

We also met Camilla, who has been studying English at "By your Side" for five years and said that "English is her life". She impressed us with her fluency in English and eagerness to learn. Camilla demonstrates that the school with the help of volunteers has been successful at motivating children and teenagers to learn English.

 

Linda in Jujuy - Part II

At the end of March we helped inaugurate a church in Casti which involved sharing a splendid Lama “asado” (barbeque) and spotting ostriches. On the first weekend of April, we visited a youth camp in Solazutti near Aguas Blancas. There, I learned about Guarani people, heaps of new songs and made new friends.

Many people told me that I would bore myself to death while volunteering three months in La Quiaca. On the contrary, time flies by and I can´t believe I´ve already been here for two months! Classes should have started at the beginning of March, but school-doors opened only on the 7th of April due to a teachers´ “paro” (strike). Thanks to broadcasts we launched with national and local radio-stations in my second week here, many youths took – and continue taking – advantage of my English classes. Having hung around with nothing to do for a long time the kids are struggling to catch up material and get their brains working again. When classes began, the community-centre started its comedor (canteen) for more than 110 young people which has made daily life very busy. This service is mainly for students living alone La Quiaca while their families live far off in the campo (fields). My tasks lie in the organisation and administration of the comedor. Also, I give a meditation to the adolescents while they are eating. I need to use a good deal of creativity, authority and confidence in my Spanish to catch their attention and initiate a dialogue. The weekends have a different rhythm and are focused on church activities near and far. Sunday afternoons we often spend with Lorenzo and his family in Sansana Sur, a tiny place near La Quiaca. Many vegetables for the comedor come from there.[gallery] From 16th to 18th of April, we took part in a convention in Jujuy Capital where I performed songs together with youths of the local church – great fun! On my birthday, my host-family and friends surprised me with a party. I feel truly blessed to be surrounded by such lovely people and to be able to be part of the team working for the youngsters here in La Quiaca!

Buenos Aires Volunteer Experience!

All volunteers who came were all really fun and everyone who works at Voluntario Global is lovely – I can’t wait to come back again!

Hi! I'm Kim and I’ve just finished volunteering at Voluntario Global as the Responsible Tourism Co-ordinator, working with the volunteers to help them get the most out of their stay in Buenos Aires. Working in the office of Voluntario Global was a very interesting and rewarding experience, giving me the opportunity to see how the organisation is run and get to know everyone who works there. When new volunteers arrived I helped with their introduction meeting, where we explained about the organisation and projects, as well as giving them tips on how to survive in this big city! Following the presentation I took the volunteers on a tour of Plaza del Congreso, explaining about the buildings and history around the plaza. One of the best aspects of the volunteering experience was organising weekly volunteer activities…from football matches and tango shows to experiencing the BA’s great night life or seeing Oscar winning Argentine films, there was always something to do in this buzzing city. Overall it was fantastic, the volunteers who came were all really fun and everyone who works at Voluntario Global is lovely – I can’t wait to come back again! Check out photos of our events on facebook!!

Bernadette Hoste – a Volunteer at Voluntario Global

Back in 2006 Bernadette Hoste saw a Poster of Voluntario Global at her Spanish classes in Buenos Aires. She applied through an email. Since then she has come back every year for a couple of months, to volunteer at Voluntario Global. Her first day started off in Villa Soldati. In 2007 she continued working in La Chispa, in order to help out and teach the students. In the following year she gave English classes to the kids at the same place.

She started a project in February 2008 to collect money through her friends and family in Belgium, France and England. This can also be seen on her website, which was created two years ago: www.la-chispa.org. Bernadette enjoys teaching and continued doing this the last two years. She started giving English classes to many different students and also preparing them for their upcoming exams. In addition she went to the home in Beccar, helping out with the younger kids.

This year she also went to the Kindergarden in J.L. Suarez and had great fun playing with the little ones and helping with handing out lunch. In 2010 she already helped out at the kindergarten and therefore wants to enlarge her project to collect funds, not only from family and friends but also from other people. For that, she will soon make her project “official“. We wish Bernadette all the luck for her new project and are looking forward for her coming back next year. 

Nelson Mandela and Latinamerica

Cinemas across Buenos Aires are now showing *Invictus*, a Clint Eastwood film about Nelson Mandela and the troubles he faced when first coming into power. Although your personal opinions on the film may vary, one message remains clear: despite being set directly after the abolition of apartheid, in the film the entire South African nation is united through an international rugby match against Australia. We can use this example to highlight the importance of recreational activities in bringing together groups of people. Indeed, this is something Voluntario Global does on a daily basis as VG international volunteers interact with more marginalised groups in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentina. It goes without saying that Nelson Mandela's achievements are nothing short of remarkable, and in the years following his presidency we have been able to witness progress in other previously divided nations. For example, Evo Morales became Bolivia's first indigenous president and is now able to offer equal treatment to this group of people that had been neglected by all the country's previously unrepresentative leaders. As history progresses we shall see instances of many more incredible stories, in which disadvantaged people defy all odds and achieve success, be it in the political sphere or elsewhere. We at Voluntario carry out this mission too. Although the people whose lives we change may not be the next great politicians to serve their nation, we always strive to help them fufill their potential. We believe that social differences should not hinder social equality and through our diverse projects we try to make our vision a reality.

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VOLUNTARIO GLOBAL

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

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

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