This project was created in 2005 by Silvia in a very special moment of her life, when she was trying to get pregnant after several tries. Doctors had recommended her to reduce her work schedule, her parents owned the land at Pablo Nogués and she had the idea that it could be a good moment to create a family project. This is when she thought about creating the english institute, where students could take international exams and have a strong schedule just like every good english institute but with accessible fees for the kids of the neighborhood. Ale, her friend from school, has been with her since the beginning and still works at the project. Later on, the former students that were interested in helping, started working as teachers a few hours a day so they could keep studying at university and also in this way the english school could pay them a salary since they can’t afford paying full time employees. Nowadays everyone has a very beautiful relationship since they all know each other and this english institute has helped them a lot along the way.
This English School is located in Pablo Nogues, a humble town that is about 40-kilometers from the city of Buenos Aires. In the past, this school has had to face many problems which have completely changed Silvia's original plan. She began the school with three other teachers through the concept of an affordable school for the children of the town whose parents belong to the working class. However, because the school functions without any funding from the government and because of the economic crisis, the lack of financial support almost forced Silvia to declare bankruptcy because she could no longer pay the teachers. Without change, the school would have had to close but thanks to Armin, one of the founders of Voluntario Global, they were able to find a solution and keep the doors of this invaluable place open. Instead of paying teachers, Armin helped with the creation of a cooperative that will give older students the opportunity to teach younger students with the help of volunteers. So now the school hires their own graduate students to teach in the classrooms and thus gives them the opprotunity to have experience in order to find a formal job.
Why is this project important for the community?
Although there are no professional teachers, the volunteer teachers provide a rich and cultured education. Other English schools are between three to five times more expensive than this one, therefore, parents living in nearby neighborhoods are not able to send all of their children to study English. This is why the school is important for the community; it allows all the children to have the same opportunities and access to education, and it is also a way to fight for social justice. There is a lack of infrastructure, such as running water and paved roads in this particular neighbourhood and it is also known to be “left aside” because the state does not intervene. However, the school helps the families and also the young people of the town, because it also provides a first-job opportunity to students that are more advanced. This allows students to have a disposable income with which they can travel; an almost foreign opportunity to most.
The volunteers use their knowledge of English to help the students in group classes. The presence of native speakers evidently is very helpful to the children’s learning of the language.
Your role in the school will be proportionate to your level of Spanish and the amount of time you can volunteer for. Consequently, this program is ideal for undergraduate students of modern languages on a year abroad, particularly those interested in teaching. If your Spanish and/or time is limited, you will be able to assist classes.
What can you learn as a volunteer?
Learning is a two-way street because the volunteer also learns through this experience. Their official duties are to assist the teenaged teachers, help them with pronunciation or grammatical rules, correct homework, read and explain to the children the basic elements of the language. Moreover, they can also help the oldest students get ready for international exams. This work allows the volunteer to exchange with people from different cultures, mainly thanks to the mix between communities from various countries of Latin America. Furthermore, teaching is the perfect exercise to learn how to speak to an audience and to get its attention. The volunteer learns to communicate with the youngest children who don't speak English correctly, and is able to learn how to adapt quickly and use other means of communication. Above all, the volunteer is able to create relationships with their students that will go beyond the classroom.
How does your work impact on the community?
Not only does this school offer the families a chance to further their education, it also provides a center for community. It is a place of exchange and hope, based on the idea that the children are able to study and to have a good future, because their parents were not awarded with the same opportunities even if the schools and the best universities are free. Students are able to connect more intimately with the volunteers and share their cultural differences, their accents, theirs travels and more. The volunteers also symbolize hope for the students that admire them because they are role models. They make the students believe in a brighter future and instil in them the motivation and aspiration to achieve their goals, no matter how big and regardless of their current socioeconomic status.
The school is open from March to mid-December and works Monday through Friday, 16.30 to 19.30. It welcomes between 80 and 90 students of all levels and ages, for two-hour lessons. They also teach on Saturday morning to adult students, but the volunteer will be able to choose if to attend on the weekends or not.
You can take the bus or metro to get to Retiro, a station in central Buenos Aires. From there, you can take the train to Pablo Nogués, which takes approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes. On your first day, you will have an informal chat with the program coordinator, Silvia, where she will explain how the school runs and tell you in which classes you can help. Pablo Nogues is a working class neighborhood located in the province of Buenos Aires.
1. Valid Passport & Visa: Most travelers do not need a visa to enter Argentina. Volunteers enter the country as tourists and can stay for up to 90 days. Extensions on visas are possible; our coordinators will advise you on this process.
2. Medical Insurance: Voluntario Global requires the volunteer to have adequate medical insurance for the duration of the program and must be provided with details of such insurance coverage at the time of confirming their placement.
3. Spanish Level Required: Not required
4. Minimum Stay: 2 weeks