Of course, these two are connected, but how do we help them understand our social context? Becoming aware of the social context of the country you visit is key to understand the real cause of a social project and, ultimately, to make the whole volunteering experience a meaningful experience.
So the question we have been trying to answer at Voluntario Global for the past years is: How do we teach volunteers about social issues in Argentina?
As a community organization, we are politically active. We join different protests in the streets of Buenos Aires because we believe that people, united and organized, are able to conquer their rights despite the bureaucracies of the obscured world democracies. Oftentimes, this is quite hard to explain to volunteers who come from a more idividualistic culture. So, what we do is we take them with us to join the protests. But before we hit the street, we get together and explain why we do this, why it is important for our community and why they should join us.
Many volunteers ask: Are these protests useful? What is the reason behind all these protests? As it is shocking for them to see a protest almost every day in Buenos Aires. Well, we say, we protest just about anything really.
- Workers Rights
- Women's Rights
- Disagreement with the new government
- Hike in prices for transportation
- Disapproval of Uber
The list goes on and on.
Many volunteers, when they think of a protest, they think police barricades, angry, violent people, they think uproar and chaos. But protests in Buenos Aires are far from this. From young to old, Argentinians burst out in chants and dance their way down the streets waving their banners in protest. Thus, volunteers discover that every country handles issues differently but the one thing they all have in common is the determination to make change happen. In a way, joining a protest is like joining a party on the street, where you become part of a community: you walk along with them, you talk about their dreams and hopes, and the possibility of conquering rights.
So, we have found that when joining a protest, volunteers start to understand a few cultural facts about Argentina, they become part of the social context, part of the community they work with. They also learn about social issues and how these are connected with our history. And we learn from their perspectives and cultures as well. This is where the volunteering experience becomes meaningful in every way.