The NGO that runs the houses was founded in 1999, and the first house started working in 2000. Voluntario Global has been helping with this project since 2007. The NGO tries to maintain a bond between the children and a family member, even if it's not a direct parent, as they want to rescue the relationship they can have with the children in the future.
The ultimate goal is to allow the children to grow up in a safe environment and give them the attention their own families cannot. Each home houses around 15 children and two people taking care of them at a time. These people are called "tías" (aunts) and are responsible for cleaning and taking care of the children. Volunteers help in many different areas according to the needs of children and coordinators.
The children that live here need constant support and the main goal of the organization is that they live in a secure environment, have a safe upbringing, and quality education. Because of the hardships, these kids had to face, they need attention, patience, and a lot of love. Many of them experienced situations of violence within their families, mistreatment, abuse or their parents are in prison or in rehabilitation for mental problems. There also are HIV+ kids who were abandoned by their parents.
The organization tries to work like a family, ensuring that all children are surrounded by caring people. The word "orphanage" is rarely used because it has a negative connotation —and most of the children are not orphans—. Instead, we use the word "home" and the children call the people that work there "tía" or "tío", which means "aunt" and "uncle".
Why is this project important for the community?
Projects like this are an essential part of the community's wellbeing as they aim to educate the children who will build the future. The people that work with these children act as their parents and take full responsibility for them. This includes taking them to the doctor when they're sick, attending therapy visits, participating in school activities, and taking care of them during holiday periods. They also try to work on educating them and begin to build a more stable life. NGOs like this one work with very little support from the government, therefore, they must look for private funds to be able to provide the children what they need to have a safe and decent life.
Taking care of these children requires a lot of patience because many of them experience complicated moments that impact their everyday lives, which can sometimes drive them to be violent. These children have to fight against their past and need stability in their lives. The best way to help them is to try to understand them, listen to them, and take care of them, to show them that they are not alone.
Role of the Volunteer
The volunteer has the opportunity to do a multitude of things such as help the "tias", organize activities, play with the children, help to feed them during lunchtime, help in the cleaning process, and much more! This help is invaluable for both the children and the organization.
The standards of living of some of the children take a toll on their behavior as well. They can sometimes act violently, thus adults have to try to subdue them in case of fights and explain to them that violence is not the solution. One way to help them release their anger and energy is through art or sports activities. The volunteer represents an adult and responsible person they can trust and refer to in case of a problem or emergency.
What can you learn as a volunteer?
Volunteers will bring into play their social and communication skills. They will learn how to carry out activities, games, and workshops with children who have a difficult background and require patience, energy, and love. The volunteers will have the freedom to plan and develop activities with the previous acceptance of "the aunts". Besides, it will allow them to have a broader idea of the social context, the country, and a new culture. This project is perfect for those studying careers in Pedagogy, Psychology, or Social Work and it is also a place to put your Spanish skills into practice and learn from a new culture.
Long term volunteers can apply for a soft skills certificate from GLORE, a Project from the EU. You can choose up to 5 skills to certificate according to your experience and will.
These are the soft skills that volunteers are most likely to develop during the volunteer period in the home for children:
- Comm and Active Listening
- Critical Thinking
- Decision Making
- Ethics and Work Commitment
- Multicultural Awareness
- Problem Solving and Conflict Management
- Self Awareness
- Stress Management
How does your work impact the community?
The volunteer is like a new member of the family, whose main role is to play with the children and try to give them any additional support they might need. In such full houses, there is also a multitude of things to do such as helping with the food, cleaning, or picking the children up from school or kindergarten. Every day is different and so are the children. Some of them can live there for a very long time, and others only stay during a time of hardship. Thus, it is necessary to be attentive, understanding, and to have the imagination to set up various activities and entertain the children. The volunteer's personal experience and different cultures make them an important influence for the children as well because it provides them with an opportunity to learn.
The Homes are open all year round, but volunteers usually work Monday through Friday either during the morning or afternoon. Volunteers will be assigned a specific schedule according to needs.
Location and first day at work
The House is located in the middle-class neighborhood of Olivos, North of Buenos Aires. It is about an hour away from the center of Buenos Aires and easily accessible by public transport. On your first day, the volunteer's tutor will take you to the project so you learn how to travel by train, present you to the main coordinator and the teachers so you are confident to go by yourself the following days.
- 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.
- 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.
- Spanish Level Required: Intermediate (B1-B2)
- Minimum Stay: 8 weeks