Despite already being deep in the 21st century, there remains a worldwide trend associated with volunteering. As you scour the internet for volunteer opportunities, you will undoubtedly come across an image of a smiling 20-something girl with a child in her arms. While there is nothing wrong with a twenty-year-old girl, fresh out of school, embarking on an adventure and benefiting the lives of others, it's important in this day and age to break down this stereotype. Volunteering will only ever reach its key objectives if a wider range of people participate, bringing their diverse skills and experiences to make a difference to a community. In this way, it will be possible to break down the barriers that exist in certain communities as well breaking the barriers which plague the current stereotype surrounding volunteering, all while entering into a new age of diversity .
One of Voluntario Global's most significant projects is currently helping to change this situation. Functioning as a kindergarten, an organic garden, and a soup kitchen – three very important components for a happy and healthy community - it welcomes volunteers from all over the world, boys and girls, young and old, to work in each area of the project. Today’s focus is on two volunteers, James and Paul, who are going to provide an insight into the wonderful world of the soup kitchens!
They may be from opposite sides of the Atlantic (James is from the USA, and Paul is from Ireland), but here in Buenos Aires they are working side by side as part of the soup kitchen team to supply meals to the local community as well as to those who are homeless. Every day they work with a group of about ten ladies who are from various provinces in Argentina as well as countries such as Paraguay and Bolivia, so it’s always an interesting mix! In fact, one of Paul's favourite things about the soup kitchen is the energy that everybody brings! What's great about the project is the diversity of the women in the kitchen and the diversity of the volunteers too. Despite being different nationalities, Paul and James also belong to different generations, so they arrive to the kitchen each morning with different ideas about how best to approach the day.
This is vital for the ladies in the soup kitchen, because no day is the same and the tasks are constantly changing. They have to cut, chop, clean, peel, slice, wash, dry, serve... the jobs are endless! Every task has to be completed to ensure the smooth running of the project, so the women welcome a variety of volunteers with open arms. Diversity is essential for them!
Here, James is working hard peeling potatoes. It might not seem that difficult, but tonnes and tonnes of potatoes are to be peeled, so it becomes almost a workout for him!
Paul worked so hard on his first day in the kitchen that he managed to break a potato peeler! Today, he was in charge of measuring out quantities of food to give to the locals so that they could cook it later in their own homes. It’s a great way for them to be sustainable, and this is just one example of how important the soup kitchens are to the community.
But the volunteer's work does not just stay within the walls of the kitchen. Some people like to eat in the dining hall at the project, so it's important to set up all the many tables and chairs before they arrive.
Throughout the day, the volunteers have to keep on top of the washing up and drying up as well. Since there is so much food to cook for so many people, it’s vital that there is a constant supply of clean pots, pans, plates and cutlery! Once all the hard work is done, the volunteers and the ladies are able to take a well-earned break! They all sit around together and tuck into a hearty meal – today’s menu included soup, fried eggs, a lentil and meat stew, a filling pasta dish, and a rich chocolate dessert. Lunchtime is a great opportunity for the ladies to quiz the volunteers on their lives, and in turn the volunteers are able to learn about the ladies’ lives. It’s a great cultural exchange and the perfect opportunity for the boys to practice their Spanish as the women in the kitchen speak very little English. According to James, the language barrier isn't a problem in the slightest because "laughter is the universal language" in the soup kitchens!
Both Paul and James point to the energy, laughter and relaxed atmosphere as being some of the best parts about participating in the soup kitchen project, so it's evident that they're really enjoying their time here as volunteers! In return, the women greatly appreciate the time that the boys dedicate to helping them. Volunteering organisations need diverse volunteers like Paul and James. They also need 20-something girls who have just finished education. Essentially, anybody who is dreaming of volunteering should apply to volunteer! If you are already in that mindset, you are exactly what projects need. Age, gender, language and nationality are completely irrelevant - the only requirement is a willingness to help, share, and ultimately make a difference.