Reviews from Past Volunteers

Reviews from Past Volunteers (224)

Volunteering in a Health Center

The English could learn a lot from the people here. They will happily wait hours for their turn and then there is no fuss - top off, injection in, sign here and done.

This week marks my one month anniversary working at a Centro de Salud in Jose Leon Suarez and I can genuinely say that I have never learnt or experienced so much in a month before.  Working at the salita has not been easy or at times even enjoyable, but it has been incredible. There are lots of salitas in Suarez, each is for a specific barrio and they offer all sorts of help. 

There are doctors, a dentist, a midwife, a psychiatrist and more!  Centro 15 is painted bright yellow and it looks like a ray of sunshine in the town. Fernando, the director, has put a lot of time and effort into making it look inviting and professional.  Yet one of the main problems the salita faces is getting people to come.  At first I did not understand how this could be an issue.  Everything to do with health care is free in Argentina.  All people have to do is turn up and they can have whatever they need.  Yet when people have so little, health is not a concern.  It is shocking to see the poverty here.  It is a totally different kind of poverty to England.  There are no awful council houses instead the people live in shanty town-esque houses, if you can even call them that.  Many of the people who live here are immigrants who I assume came here in search of a better life.  Sometimes I wonder if they have found one. There is a trend in Suarez for young girls to get pregnant as early as possible, at 13 or 14, because of the improved benefits available. 

It has been a shock to see girls who are no more than children themselves come in either pregnant or already mothers.  However what is almost more shocking is to see how much they adore their children and how well they look after them.  There have been cases concerning abuse of children and women which have really upset me.  I know that it happens in England but to see it first hand is entirely different and I have never felt more helpless in my life as doing anything about abuse here is hard because it involves money. As I have no medical training or knowledge I have spent my time mainly with the nurse, the paediatrician or in reception.  Administering the injections with the nurse has been very interesting.  The English could learn a lot from the people here.  They will happily wait hours for their turn and then there is no fuss - top off, injection in, sign here and done. 

The children behave amazingly well and their patience is admirable.  I love working with the paediatrician, he does the control of the children - height, weight and head circumference.  There seems to be a lot more that can go wrong with children here so the control is very important to spot any problems early.  Working in the reception has been fascinating.  I think that is where they need the help.  They only have one computer in the whole centre unlike in England where you have a computer in every room!  All the paperwork is done by hand not online – that was my job to get people’s names, addresses, national security numbers etc – easier said than done as a lot of people here cannot read so do not know where they live.  The people I work with are all fantastic and everyday feels like you're helping - even if it’s only finding someone’s medical history file (easier said than done!) or helping with the injections, it’s all important.

My perspective on a Children's Home in Argentina

The first thing that struck me when I walked into the house located in the middle-class neighborhood of Beccar was that I felt like I was walking into someone’s living room. It did not feel anything like an orphanage and so it made sense to me that I was informed not to call it one, especially in front of the children.

Admittedly it is a big house, with 15 children living there at any one time; however it seems to me much closer to a foster home rather than an orphanage. The only difference being that instead of parents there are staff and volunteers. I was impressed by the number of people working there and how relaxed the environment was. The first child I met was a little girl who came up to me and asked for ‘un beso’ (a kiss) and was going round the room having different people kiss her and pick her up. I certainly didn’t feel like the children were under stimulated or lacking in attention. This of course would not be the case without the volunteers from Voluntario Global.

I must admit that I find it a little strange that a number of the ´orphans´ are not technically orphans. An orphan is a person who has lost both parents in some way. At this home however, some children receive visits from their parents at the weekends and may on occasion go to stay with their parents for a short period of time. Thus in some cases it is simply that some parents are unable to take care of their children and so the home acts in the same way that we would expect social services to. Also some children who have parents in rehab for example can expect to be returned to their parent(s) at the end of the designated period of time. All of the children come from different circumstances and it is therefore impossible to treat each child the same or expect them to behave the way a child from a stable and supportive background would behave.

We took four of the girls to the local playground where they took it in turns playing on the swings and pushing one another. For an outsider it would be impossible to see that there was anything ´different´ about these girls, they looked full of energy with smiles all round. It makes me happy knowing that such places exist which can save children from an otherwise very unpleasant upbringing and that there are people willing to give their time for nothing to ensure such children never need suffer again.

 

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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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CONTACT

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

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