I've volunteered in every country I've lived in, with the exception of my native China —something that I'll be changing when I go there in April this year—. What I've found is that it is the best way to get to know a community beyond what you'll find in Lonely Planet, a characteristic that sets volunteering apart from traveling as a tourist somewhere. Every time, I have left feeling gratified that I've contributed to society, but grateful that I've received a lot more in return. Volunteering breaks up the daily grind of working for money. Instead, you work to give, and in exchange, you grow.
Reflecting on this last month I've had here at Voluntario Global, I can't even begin to process the range of emotions, thoughts and perspectives I've been exposed to since arrival. Apprehension, comprehension, elation, revelation, curiosity, anxiety, affluence, poverty... Blessed with so many memorable firsts on this journey:
Quite disoriented from arriving early from a red-eye out of the US, I was greeted with a prompt message from Samuel, one of the coordinators, to check if I'd landed safely. Just that tiny gesture went a long way to quickly put me at easy in this totally foreign environment.
My first face-to-face human connection began with the lovely Spanish girl I met in the hostel Voluntario Global had organised for me; my first friend!
Later that day, at the introductory meeting, I met my fellow communications volunteers Kristine and Jackson —that was where all the fun began—. The learning curve spiked shorty thereafter, as we delved into the ins and outs of communications and what would be expected of me in the coming weeks.
First Voluntario Global outing
My first visit to the Pacheco Community Centre was only a couple of days after my arrival. This was my first immersive exposure to what Voluntario Global is all about, as this community centre is one of their own babies. So many beautiful things were shared: moments, mate, merienda, messages of love, missions with a vision. We returned to the big city feeling both accomplished and renewed at the same time.
First Fundraising effort
Our first fundraising campaign came when news that the kindergarten in Suárez was at risk of shut down due to the illegal antics of its previous tenant. The news was infuriating and triggered a profound sadness and indignation in me that mobilised our quest to help Liliana, the founder, and all the adorable children and families in the neighbourhood. It was a very touching project and I'm so grateful to have been able to be a part of it.
First Communications Video
Making this video about my role and our team with my fellow team members was a definite highlight of my time with Voluntario Global. It's the first time I attempted video making and editing. The copious number of cuts was matched by number of laughing fits. One of the best memoirs one could ask for at "work".
All in all, my experience with Voluntario Global has simply been invaluable. One just can't put a price tag on the people I've met, the places I've seen, the stories I've heard, the lessons I've learnt. I feel that I have gained a more profound understanding of what life is all about in Argentina. This is certainly something I would do this again in a heartbeat and look forward to continuing the life-long relationships I've forged on this journey.
While I arrived with no expectations, I am leaving full of hope and expectations for my inevitable return to this fantastic city and organisation in the future.
This is what makes life worth living!