Many of the volunteers that work in the soup kitchen in Barracas, a neighbor outside of the center of Buenos Aires, come away with a sense of family. This kitchen serves families in the surrounding area and prepares food for the children of the kindergarden next door.
Over the past month I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of these volunteers including Mina, 19 year old Norwegian who has lived in Buenos Aires for over three months now. Mina came to Buenos Aires with the idea of volunteering along with studying Spanish. Back in Norway, Mina always volunteered particularly with refugees and children. She connected with Voluntario Global through her language school in Buenos Aires and the rest is history.
While working in the soup kitchen, Mina says she gains 15 grandmothers.The kitchen is run by women and Mina says, “The most inspiring thing is that these women do this voluntarily,” in addition to having other jobs to support their own families. A unique aspect of Mina’s volunteer experience is her willingness to embrace these women and their lives. She has been inducted into their own families, going to some of their homes for a meal or to watch a rugby match. She says, “It’s like my second home.”
Mina is not only committed to volunteerism while in Buenos Aires, she is also dedicated to learning Spanish. Upon her arrival, she’s lived in various housing arrangements with foreigners especially those from other Spanish-speaking countries like Columbia. She has also been taking classes with a local language school in the past month. “I studied a lot in school (in Norway) and could understand somethings but now I can say a lot more, with more speed, and I’m happier with my skills,” she says. The Spanish spoken in Buenos Aires is different, so when asked what her favorite word or phrase she say, “Como andas? Because it’s very simple but very useful and Argentine.”
In the coming week, Mina will say goodbye to the “ladies of the kitchen,” but hopes to bring the openness, warmth and love for everyone in Argentina to Norway. She says, “I hope to take back the idea of reaching out to others, the solidarity of giving back.” She plans to travel around to other countries such as Mexico and Cuba where she wants find another volunteer program that involves children. Mina has many goals for her future including, “making a difference.” She says, “Although volunteering is important, I want to make a bigger impact. I want to get a higher education studying economics to help raise funds and make structural changes” for an organization she’s passionate about. ¡Buena suerte, Mina! We can’t wait to see what you’ll accomplish!