Reviews from Past Volunteers

Reviews from Past Volunteers (222)

A Summer in Buenos Aires

By April Bohnert I arrived in Buenos Aires at the beginning of January, excited and unsure of what to expect. I had come to travel and explore, improve my Spanish, and of course, volunteer, but what exactly I’d be doing or what it all would mean to me, I didn’t know. Upon arrival to the volunteer house, any anxieties or apprehensions I may have had, vanished. Each new person I met was friendly and welcoming. There was, distinctly, a buena onda, or good vibe, to this place. In a matter of a couple hours, I was out with some fellow volunteers, exploring the famous Caminito in La Boca and getting to know one another. Now it is nearly three months later. My time in Buenos Aires has flown by so quickly it hardly seems real. In that time, I have met so many wonderful people and experienced so many incredible things. So for my final blog, I want to look back on these past few months and share a bit about the life of one volunteer in Buenos Aires.

The Volunteer Work: Working with and getting to know everyone at Voluntario Global has been such a rewarding experience. The people here care so much about one another, about the organizations that we work with and about the people that we help. In the few months that I have been here, I’ve come to feel like part of a big, diverse family. My particular position has been in the communications team at VG, working to improve and promote the organization. I was immediately drawn to this placement because I had just recently graduated with a degree in journalism, communications and Spanish. Foregoing the job hunt awhile longer, I wanted to travel while still doing something meaningful. Working on the communications team has given me a glimpse into the public relations and marketing world, has allowed me to continue developing my writing and editing skills, and has given me the opportunity to continue working toward my goal of Spanish fluency. All of these have been valuable experiences for me both personally and professionally.

The Experiences: Of course, my time here has not been all work. My volunteer schedule has been flexible enough to allow plenty of time for play as well. In my free time, I have thoroughly enjoyed all that Buenos Aires has to offer. I’ve hit all the main tourist attractions; from the many famous parks, plazas, and palaces to the cemetery in Recoleta and the Obelisco. I’ve also frequented the bustling artisan markets and the amazing parillas, where you can eat steak like you’ve never tasted (pairs very nicely with malbec and good company). Additionally, the nightlife in Buenos Aires is unbeatable. I’ve spent many nights dancing until sunrise at one of the local boliches or tucking into a quiet, dimly lit bar for some good cocktails and conversation. In the past two and a half months I have also traveled to the stunning Iguazú Falls, saw the beginning of Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, wandered the historic cobblestone streets of Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon in the nearby delta town of Tigre. Now, as I end my time in Buenos Aires, I’ll be setting off on a month-long journey through Patagonia.  

What I Wish I’d Known: Buenos Aires is a massive city by any standards. With well over 13 million inhabitants and an endless list of things to do, there’s never an excuse for boredom. The city can be overwhelming though, and getting to know your way around takes time. Looking back, there are a few things I wish I’d have known when I first arrived. - First of all, carry a map with you everywhere you go. A good city map can easily fit in a purse or wallet and, I promise, will come in handy on more than one occasion. It will not only save you a lot frustration but also a lot of time wandering around. - Mapa Interactiva is one of the greatest resources for navigating public transportation in Buenos Aires. As long as you know where you’re going and from where you’re leaving, this website will give you step by step instructions on how to get there. It also lists the many bus and metro options and even tells you how to find the stops and stations. -Guia Oleo and Whats Up Buenos Aires are two great guides to culture and dining in the city. Look here for ideas and reviews on restaurants, bars, concerts and events happening around the city. The best part of living in Buenos Aires is experiencing the culture here, and these are a couple good places to start.

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

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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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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Location: General Pacheco. Buenos Aires. Argentina
Email: jfranco@voluntarioglobal.org

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