My name is Bree and my friend Izzie and I came to Buenos Aires from Sydney, Australia two and a half months ago. We have been volunteering with Voluntario Global in orphanages known as ‘Querubines’ (meaning ‘Angels’) outside of the city located in Beccar and Olivos. Their purpose is to give children from complicated backgrounds a second chance at a family lifestyle in a caring and stable environment.
I (Izzie) was placed in an orphanage situated in a suburb called Olivos. Like Bree’s is as well, Olivos is a middle class suburb on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. The house was donated with the intent of providing a comfortable, safe neighbourhood for the kids to grow up in. I remember my first, not-so-shiny-impressions of the 1.5 hour commute to Olivos, however I quickly became accustomed with the help of my iPod and easy ability to power-nap!
The orphange (or ‘homenage’ being its preferred name) turned out to be a sweet, little, yellow house. One seems to picture an orphanage in a certain way, but I soon learnt that it was not dissimilar to a typical home- only one which houses a larger sized family. The homenage in Olivos is home to 10 children at the moment. With all girls except for two boys, the youngest is 3 and the eldest, 16. With that great range I have been able to a do a variety of activities with the different kids as well as helping out the ‘Tias’ (the women who work there). An average day may consist of helping the elder girls with their English homework, singing along and teaching the words of ‘Baby’ to some Justin Beiber-obsessed tweens, playing in the plaza and copying out pictures of Hello Kitty! For Bree, having a houseful of little boys, it’s a bit of a challenge but they’re always happy to muck around outside and get their hands dirty with colouring and paints.
Being as hard-working as they are, the Tias couldn’t always give me things to do for them. This combined with the language barrier certainly made things difficult in the beginning. I would sometimes find myself feeling like more of a nuisance than a help, but no sooner learnt that like any other household, plates need to be washed and clothes need to be folded and by talking more with them I would no longer feel like a stranger in their home.
When I initially started fundraising, I didn’t really know what I was fundraising for! All I knew was that I would be working somewhere in need of donations and I knew that 3 months with the same people was enough time to become emotionally invested. I created something called ‘The Buenos Aires Project’, writing a letter to friends and family explaining what I knew about what I was doing and that, with promised updates and a final report, we had a chance to make a contribution to something worthwhile and see it in the process.
For me (bree), I created a Facebook event inviting friends and family to a cinema fundraising night I held at my local cinema and I found that everyone was more than happy to help. Like Izzie, I also sent an email around to friends of my parents who were also more than willing to contribute to what I was doing in South America.
In our second week in Buenos Aires, we had a meeting at Voluntario Global to give us information of where we would be volunteering, the days and times, and also a brief overview of the organisation. We found it very helpful and well managed and we were given timetables of our placement days and the addresses of the orphanages we would be volunteering at. On our first day of volunteering, a Voluntario global staff member came with us to introduce us to the Tias and to make sure everything was going smoothly, and that we knew our way there and back. It made the day less daunting and we felt more comfortable.
During the two months we have been volunteering, we have never had a problem at the orphanage or with Voluntario Global. They send regular emails and updates and we know we always have that help there if we need it. So when we were thinking of how to donate the money raised in an appropriate manner, we emailed Voluntario Global and they got back to us immediately and arranged a meeting to discuss what was to be done.
We found the meeting very reassuring as they told us the money would go directly to the orphanage and they also spoke to the Tias and emailed us a list of things they actually needed. With the money raised we are in the process of purchasing a freezer, stoves and medications for the children. Sadly we know that Querubines’ needs extend far beyond what Izzie and I can provide. However, we are glad we can help and do something that we are sure others have done and will do later.
We were really lucky to get to work with this project as with everything the children have been through, the boys and girls are still able to experience family atmosphere and just act like normal kids! We would recommend Voluntario Global to anyone thinking of doing something like this as they are a reliable volunteer organisation and are always willing to help and provide information. It has been a great experience!