It was only my third day in Buenos Aires, and I'd been lucky enough to join the Voluntario Global coordinators as well as my fellow Communications team members for a day at the Pacheco Community Centre in Tigre, 90kms north of Buenos Aires city centre.
Pacheco is an initiative by Voluntario Global that started in 2014 to promote sustainable living through horticulture education for the youth of some of the poorer neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires. This is necessary not only because the less privileged children require an avenue to gain trade skills for earning a living, but also because Argentina's astounding urbanisation levels, now at a staggering 91%, means there is a severe skill shortage in agriculture.
The day started with the team meeting at Plaza Italia Subte station (Green Line D) in Palermo. From there we hopped on the bus #60 and monopolised the back row of the air-conditioned vehicle. The conversation was flowing second #1 and so before we knew it, an hour had gone by and we arrived at "the station after the station with the red wall" (words of Milena to help us remember where to get off in case we come unaccompanied next time). It was another 15min walk before we arrived at the Pacheco property, where we were greeted by two of the four dogs on site. The surroundings were so green, it was lush at first sight!
We met with Valeria who introduced us to the team at Pacheco; gave us a brief tour of the gardens and greenhouse where Jackson and I sampled the most juicy and flavourful tomatoes we've had in a while; then swiftly proceeded to the first order of business - repainting the wall of the shed with some colourful birds to honour the nature and bright ambience of the community centre. Kristine and I were in our element at the news of this therapeutic task led by the Creative Director Dani and couldn't contain our excitement at stretching some of our artistic muscles.
Next, we spotted the guys drilling holes into a piece of polystyrene. The unusualness of the contraption fuelled our curiosity and enticed us to give the activity a try. Something about the combination of the geometric drill and snow globe-like polystyrene flakes flying all over the place inspired my enthusiasm to finish drilling the entire board. It transpired that the contraption is actually a floating seed nursery which is to float in water and allows seedlings to be self-watered in its primary days.
Meanwhile, Milena, Sami and a volunteer from New York City, who's on holiday in Buenos Aires, were helping to weed the garden under the instruction of Matías, one of the main Horticulturist teaching at Pacheco.
Amidst all the goings-on, Valeria was making her way around the garden with Tereré in hand (the sweet cold version of the renowned somewhat bitter Mate
tea) to keep the teams refreshed and energised through their tasks.
Later, we received a Frisbee lesson courtesy of Jackson before all heading the to classroom to enjoy a merienda (Spanish for afternoon tea, typically served at English dinner time around 6pm) of Argentine treats. This included Dulce de Cayote
(pronounced cashote) con queso y pan casero (with cheese and home-made bread) and, goes without saying, Dulce de Leche (a caramelised milk). These guys sure love their sugar! All the chatter was peppered with notes from Jackson and a guitar.
The hearty consumption of sugar triggered an impromptu yoga session on the grass led by yours truly, followed by cool off in the pool (for Kristine anyway).
What a treat to be able to experience life beyond the standard hustle and bustle of the big city. It was an informative day to say the least, with no shortage of gratifying sweat and contagious laughter.
We will surely return!