2011-06-15

My Third Year Abroad with Voluntario Global

Written by Olivia Puddicombe
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For the last 9 months I have been volunteering with Voluntario Global fulfilling the compulsory third year abroad part of my university degree.  I had volunteered before on my gap year in Ecuador where I spent a month in three different locations helping to build whatever was needed.  It was that volunteer organization who introduced me to Voluntario Global.  However despite my previous experience I was nervous before I flew out here.  Firstly my stay in Argentina was going to be three times as long as my previous stints abroad, secondly I was only going to be based in Buenos Aires (which as a girl from the English countryside I was terrified I would not like!) and finally it was helping in a totally different way than I had experienced. Needless to say within weeks of arriving here I knew I had made the right decision and I was already thinking that time was going by too fast.  Buenos Aires is a wonderful city even if you do not think you are a city person.  There really is something for everyone and you can never be bored.  Voluntario Global’s projects are based all over the city, so you get to visit lots of different areas and communities that you might not have otherwise seen.   The reason that I chose to spend all my time abroad in one place was that I wanted to go home feeling that I had really got to know the city and for ten months part felt like a local.  Thanks to volunteering I was given the opportunity to see the true city or rather the non tourist side, and I am leaving with much wider knowledge of this wonderful city than I could ever have imagined. I volunteered in three different projects during my time here.  I started off working in a local health centre in one of the poorest areas in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, Jose Leon Suarez.  I worked in reception dealing with administrative tasks, making medical history files, handing out the government provided milk and helping the locals complete any paperwork required.  It was a great project and suited me perfectly as it was quite hands on and everyone was so friendly. 

The locals and other staff were patient with my poor and nervous Spanish and I grew in confidence working there.  It was also where I first begun to appreciate mate!  I then started working for the Voluntario Global communications team. 

I visited projects and wrote blogs for the website, helped translate information and emailed the volunteers about the weeks social plans and other events.  It was a great way to get to know other parts of Voluntario Globals work and see yet more examples of their invaluable help. 

My final project was in the famous barrio of La Boca.  I worked in the “prensa” section of the Comedor de los Pibes, a local community and political centre.  I translated news articles and also other relevant documents such as a wikileaks US government document about the Argentine “piqueteros”.  As a student of Spanish and Politics this project could not have been more perfect and thanks to my increased confidence with my Spanish after months here, I felt like a proper translator/journalist!  Everyone in the centre is so friendly, we ate lunch together every day and I always felt so welcome. 

On my last day I was given a flag of Argentina with the centres logo printed on – I was overwhelmed by their generosity and gratitude and I have already thought of the perfect place to hang it in my bedroom back home in England! My time here has been eye-opening and I cannot begin to thank everyone enough.  If anyone is thinking of volunteering with Voluntario Global in the future I highly recommend it.  I have never felt more like part of a team, nor felt so appreciated even if it was for doing what seems like a simple or irrelevant task.  All those involved in the projects, be it the locals, the coordinators or the volunteers have made my time here so special and I will always be thankful for all I have learnt and hopefully I have taught others something too.

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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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