Volunteering in Buenos Aires
Rosie Gold is a third year French and Spanish student studying at Manchester University. She spent the first half of her year abroad in Paris where she worked in a bank, and then decided that volunteering in Buenos Aires would be a nice change, having had it recommended to her about twenty times by people who'd visited. Here she tells us about her experiences with the organisation Voluntario Global.
What? This is a relatively small NGO based in Buenos Aires, it is a network of small local initiatives from teaching English to looking after underprivileged children to helping rebuild an eco garden for a local hospital - there's something for everyone and they are so laid-back and friendly that volunteering here is like working for your family...on holiday...if they were Argentinian. The months I spent trawling through different volunteering opportunities for my placement year were definitely worth the trauma, although it can be stressful finding a job (or in my case working for free!). I strongly recommend giving it a go. Most of the volunteer programs in Latin America were pretty pricey - like thousands of pounds for a month - but Voluntario Global is different, they offer accommodation but you don't have to take it so the sign up donation is $290 which goes directly to the organisation to keep the programs going. The rest (airport pick-up, accommodation) is optional. This was refreshing for me as I'm going in for the long haul (at least 4 months).
I'm in Buenos Aires at the moment, I chose to stay in the volunteer house for the first month to get my affairs in order and find my beautiful apartment (which has a great view of the city). This city is completely different to how I imagined, and it keeps surprising me. One minute you're perusing the bookshops and taking coffee in a bar à la Parisienne, surrounded by European architecture, the next minutye, you're walking towards the ecological reserve and you're amongst bikini-clad picnickers staring up at tropical flowers and humming birds. At night, you will be engulfed in Latino music and food - everyone here loves to dance and they're always willing to teach you. The nightlife here is just amazing. Boliches (nightclubs) often open around 2AM and stay open until 6 or 7 in the morning. Working for an NGO means I get lots of free time to explore the city and surroundings - they really understand the fact that volunteers are also tourists. For example, I'm off to the beautiful beaches of Uruguay tomorrow, and getting a bus up to Gualeguaychu for a cheeky Carnavale weekend at the end of the month.
I chose one of the 'internship programs' within the NGO, I'm working with the Communications team emailing potential volunteers, keeping the website and the Twitter and Facebook accounts up to date.The best thing is I get to visit all the other programmes like the Community Centre and the Kintergarden to take photos and sometimes do interviews - a bit like local journalism I guess. It's really good experience for me anyway because I'm looking to go into working for international charities. La lengua? It's really fun and although I study Spanish there are many people here who know less than 5 words and they're getting by pretty well - the NGO I'm with offers Spanish classes too (it's scary how good people's Spanish becomes with only just a few weeks of lessons and being dropped in the deep end).