Matt in Jujuy - Part II

...continued... Wednesday. We left San Pedro for La Quiaca, a quiet town on the Boilivian border. Despite the 6 hour journey ahead, we left in high spirits apart from Gloria who cried for leaving her town. After stopping at a 60ft Jesus statue and having lunch, we were back on the bus and ''treated'' to German's pole dancing to ''Like A Virgin'' by Madonna. Seriously. Later on we passed through the beautiful mountain range of Quebrada de Humahuaca. Photos can't really do justice to the breathtaking landscape, after a quick photo opportunity.

We soon arrived in La Quiaca and the Comedor Verdurita where we were greeted by Antonio and Anita the co-ordinators there. They were very friendly and nice people, they had organised it for us to stay in a local hostel. Hot showers and sleeping in a bed felt like a great luxury so we were very grateful. I was really enjoying my time and felt a part of the group, especially when Mario mentioned it at dinner. Thursday was another early start and the usual fight for the shower. After breakfast in Verdurita, the 1st meeting began but not for long as the kids arrived to eat. When introducing ourselves to them, I was told to do mine in English...predictably the only parts they understood were ''Comedor'' and ''La Boca''. It was marginally better in Spanish. After lunch and helping/doing some English homework, we had an interesting tour around a pre-Inca site. Later on we were able to start again with the 2nd meeting. The highlight for me was meeting a young man called David who exemplified how to improve your own situation on your own hard work. He started from scratch making and selling bread in the area about 5 months ago and he now sells 70 kilos of bread a day, (although I don't know Jujuy was so bread crazed) but his idea of working for what you want and not asking is the only option for me.

Friday was a relaxed day, no meetings, no video recording. We left the hostel early and after saying goodbye to Antonio and Anita at Verdurita, we made the short trip to Villazón, Bolivia to do some shopping at ridiculously cheap prices. I filled my bag with the usual gringo tat and we were back on the bus heading home. There was a general review of yesterday, what I said seemed to go down well which was pleasing especially as they understood me. Nadia said she was very pleased with the week had went generally and it was worth the 4/5 months of planning. I felt more and more involved in the discussions as the week went on and felt that gradually I became more of a compañero than a volunteer which was obviously very pleasing. Even La Negra threatening to kidnap me and hold me at the Comedor was nice. We arrived back at the Comedor on Saturday afternoon, tired from the trip but very pleased with how the week went. It was a great week, getting to know the compañeros from Los Pibes and meeting new people in Jujuy. Most importantly I hope I helped in getting information sending volunteers there in the future as there is a need for them.

Matt in Jujuy - Part I

Hello. I'm Matt and I've been volunteering for Voluntario Global for 3 months. I've spent most of my time in the ''Comedor Los Pibes'', a social political organization in La Boca. I recently spent a week in the beautiful province of Jujuy with 11 compañeros from the Comedor under the catchy title of ''Comunitarian self management for the exchange of knowledge''. The idea being to exchange information and ideas between the Comedor and the sister organizations there. I went for Voluntario Global to look into possibility of volunteers working there. I'll try and give you an idea of how the week went.

We left at the barbaric time of 8am on Sunday to cover the 1,600 km to Jujuy from La Boca. Having worked there for a few months I felt comfortable in the group although more as a volunteer than a compañero, for this I was a bit unsure about how the week would go but they were very welcoming and friendly, especially La Negra (not as racist as it sounds) who continued to call me ''Hello'' until Wednesday. Sunday was basically the journey and Argentina's finest service stations, it ended well with celebrating popular compañero Pedro's birthday.

On Monday we arrived early in San Pedro and at our temporary home of Romina Fernandez, the co-ordinator for Comedor Los Pibes San Pedro. The first of many many meetings began soon, I had been charged with video recording the week for the Comedor which can best be described as learning by error. The meeting went well with a good exchange of ideas and after lunch and a walk around the village, the 2nd meeting began. It was again productive but a bit of a stretch at 3 1/2 hours, people were literally falling asleep at the end which is usually a good time to call it a day. In the evening we celebrated dia del niño with the towns children and some unbelievably dressed clowns, after some delicious home made empanadas, we were about done and the 1st day was over. The solidarity and generosity between the groups was something I quickly noticed, be it opening their house to us and feeding us for free or Los Pibes donating a computer or a projector, it was touching to see such humble people prepared to share so much.

On Tuesday we went to Tupaj Katari in the capital city San Salvador. Tupaj Katari is similiar to the Comedor in that it fights for social justice whilst also providing a service to the community. It made a good impression on me, I found them driven and intelligent people based on the principles of ´´action and talk´´. Perro Santillan, the Tupaj Katari leader and a prominent Argentine militant also stressed the importance of solidarity. After a tour around the town and its beautiful countryside, and creating a panic by going for ice cream without telling everyone. The meeting began, it was again positive but more so the assembly later on as there was a heated debate with where our compañeros spoke passionately about their work. It was an unusually passionate meeting but for this reason, successful. We returned to San Pedro pleased with the days work. For the 1st time in Argentina, I felt I had arrived in the true Latin America today. For a province where 40% of the people live under the poverty line, the problems and injustice were brutally clear, I think any volunteer would feel enthused and motivated working there.

To be continued next week…

Goodbye from Ed

If we do meet again, we'll smile indeed; If not, 'tis true this parting was well made. (‘Julius Caesar’, Shakespeare) So this is it! My last blog for Voluntario Global. I have to say, I’ve had the most wonderful time. Just looking back over the last ten weeks, I’ve taught English in a ‘villa’ in Barracas, translated for our tour of La Boca, made cakes at Comedor Los Pibes, visited an orphanage, been to a radio station, attended the opening of a new education centre in Travesuras and been to Casa Vela, a day centre for HIV-affected children (amongst many other things), and all of this has been thanks to Voluntario Global. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with them, and I hope to come back to Buenos Aires very soon indeed. All that remains is for me to introduce our next bloggers, who will be our very own Kelly Hall and Marisa Elliott. Join them next week. Thank you for reading and see you soon!

The greatness of a nation

Fine beasts. Happy faces. And look at this strange horse! The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. (Gandhi)

Morning campers, Thank you for joining us at the Voluntario Global blog. Last Saturday a group of children from Comedor Los Pibes and several volunteers (Yvonne, Marisa, Pedro, Bertha, Valeria, Johan, Stefanie, Amelia and Zoe) went to the zoo to say hello to our furry friends from the animal kingdom. The whole trip was the result of our very own Yvonne's hard work fundraising with her friends and acquaintances back home in Holland. Thanks to her fundraising skills, we were able to hire a micro and take around 20 kids to the zoo in Palermo on Saturday.

The children, aged between around eight and thirteen, had an absolute whale of a time (pun ahoy!). They were split up into little groups and were given maps to find their way around. They saw lions, elephants, giraffes, hippos, rhinos, a polar bear, some strange little beaver-like creatures that no one could quite identify, and the kids particularly enjoyed feeding the goats and reindeer. There was even a little boat trip, which they also love. It was, all in all, a wonderful day out and very many thanks to Yvonne for all her hard work in organising it. There is another fundraising party coming up on July 11th in Puerto Madero, details of which will be going up on our Facebook page later today. See you next week!

Nothing is built on stone

On Wednesday, I went back to Comedor los Pibes in La Boca to interpret for Pedro and Roxana. A group of about twenty business students from San José, California had come to do the tour. After a hearty lunch of milanesa and rice, we started in the clothes production department of Los Pibes, where school uniforms are made and subsequently sold (other products are T-shirts, hats and even Che Guevara bags). The mini-factory started with just two sewing machines which workers and locals contributed towards, but through their own hard work and government funding they have managed to buy several machines and to create more jobs.

The cage in the corner, boss Walter assured us, was not used to imprison lazy workers, but to transfer equipment between the ground floor and the first. We moved on to the bakery room (not the massage parlour, as one of our company thought), where fresh bread is baked three times a week. Again, the bakers started with one small oven and have managed to buy two much bigger, more powerful ovens and various other tools through their own efforts. We then visited the “cooperativa”, the huge apartment block that will eventually be able to house thirty families. Construction started five years ago and ground to a halt about a year and a half ago due to lack of government funding. From the top floor, Pedro points to two towers ten blocks away in Puerto Madero, the richest and most expensive area in Buenos Aires; it is a sad contrast.

Pedro explains that Mauricio Macri, the Chief of Government of Buenos Aires, is keen to sell the land on which the locals currently live to build more luxury housing. It was, all in all, a fascinating day and one discovers something new with each tour. They were a highly intelligent group, who asked sensitive questions, and we look forward to hearing from them soon. By the way, our new Volunteer Club is looking fantastic, it is all painted and will be ready as soon as next week. Two volunteers are moving straight in with others on the way, so the Voluntario Global family is growing. Next week I am going to another of our projects, so join me for that one. 

The same Sky

The Same Sky

The sky is the same for everyone...just like natural resources and the Earth, which are the right of every individual.

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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.


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