2012-03-02

A Review of the 'Los Pibes' Community Centre and an Interview with our Volunteer: Stefi

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By Andrew Furness (communication volunteer) Stefi Seitz is one of current longest-serving volunteers, from Germany having arrived in Buenos Aires in October. With only a few weeks left we wanted to reflect with her on her time at ‘Los Pibes’ community centre and discuss a bit about their work, thoughts and her experiences.   What made you want to apply to the Los Pibes community centre? I wanted to come to Argentina to teach English, Voluntario Global were really helpful and told me that there would be holidays during two of the months I was here so placed me in Los Pibes where I was able to teach English when possible and take part in school support for the other days of the week. Los Pibes is a diverse centre and so there were always many activities to do as well as my English teaching. How long have you been there now and what are some of the best moments for you around the centre? Oh that’s hard! I’ve been in Buenos Aires for 4 months now working both with school support and English teaching but so much more has gone on. For me I’ve really got to know the feeling of community and family in Los Pibes through events like the wall painting. Now outside the centre there is a big mural which local artists, the community staff, the kids and the volunteers all helped to complete; I painted a maté cup. Also the panadería hosted classes in Empanada and Medialuna making which was really fun. Probably the most emotional day was when they had a celebration for the official name-change of the centre... we saw a video explaining the history and development of the organisation and at the end everyone began to sing and dance which really made the event feel like a family celebration. In terms of work I’ve loved seeing the development of the people I have helped to prepare for their exams. Normally Berta would tell me who needed help with what or some of the children would have specific homework tasks. If they didn’t have any homework I really enjoyed playing with them or doing some drawings to display in the centre! My Spanish has improved so much thanks to all this, but it was definitely helpful to have some fellow volunteers who could co-ordinate in Spanish and English at the beginning. What is the political mentality of Los Pibes like? It’s obviously quite a politically active centre. I went on a march near Congreso where everyone brought ‘Los Pibes’ flags to support the rights of a farm worker who had been forced to leave his land due to some government development plans. It was really interesting and amazing to be part of this. Actually every month the centre hosts political meetings to discuss how to improve the work of the centre and decide what the mindset should be. This is a good way of getting to know where ‘Los Pibes’ stands. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations to look forward to for any volunteers that will be taking part in the community lifestyle? I think it’s really important to embrace the openness of the place and talk to as many different people inside the community centre as possible. Even if your Spanish isn’t great it’s worth getting to know everyone. Then, like me you will find that you can get involved in all the different aspects on offer such as the bakery, helping to organise and clean different rooms, painting some of the walls or whatever needs doing. Everyone has an open mind so go in with a similar attitude and you’ll really get to know the environment of ‘Los Pibes’. Stefi is extremely complementary of her time in La Boca, calling her feelings “a sense of community, almost family” and personally this is a sentiment I think easily attachable to many of the aspects of Voluntario Global’s work. While Los Pibes is one of the best and clearest examples of a community working for a developing life, projects like the Travesuras kindergarten and the organic garden take underprivileged people and help them reach new opportunities. Similarly I know many volunteers feel “La Casa” brings a family-like atmosphere. As discussed above there are several aspects to the community centre. The compañeros run a textile area, a bakery, a soup kitchen, boxing classes, English classes and school support so as you can tell from the interview having an open mind in your first few weeks will gain you access to a range of opportunities in this seminal La Boca area. The final bit of advice to give is perhaps the most important: while it is great to experience if you can only spare a couple of weeks, joining the ‘Los Pibes’ community for a few months will really give you the chance to get to know the way of life and you will see progress with the people you work closely with. Just like Stefi felt she made a difference with a girl who passed all 3 of her exams after studying with Stefi we hope any volunteers coming in 2012 will feel a sense of achievement after settling in as one of the Pibes. Stefanie Seitz is part of VG advisory volunteers team. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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