The "Centro de Atención Primaria" (Basic Health Care Center) is located in J. L. Suárez, an hour and a half away from the city. This Health center was founded in 1983 right after democracy was established in the country again. Currently, the center has 23 professionals who work as a team to receive 3000 patient consultations per month. Patients come from neighborhoods that are near Río Reconquista, a vulnerable neighborhood. The director of the health center is Fernando who has been working there for over 30 years. Their main idea is to share their understanding and knowledge of preventive health with the community to avoid that the patients get sick. In this way, besides taking care of patients they also work a lot in educating them and giving them tools so they can learn to take care of their health.
In this Basic Health Care Center, they see patients at the first level of sanitary assistance, they don't cover emergencies. Here doctors work a lot with health conscience, with trying to give a friendly service so they can reach the most vulnerable places in the area. Their idea is to work mainly in prevention that's why they work with contraception, fast HIV test detection and they do workshops in the schools, go and walk around the neighborhood. They face many difficulties, such as seeing patients with different illnesses due to the pollution, poor sanitary conditions, and the precarious sewage of the neighborhood. Despite all of this, at the moment they are developing a plan to improve their facilities and in this way make the health center better and more comfortable for the whole community.
Why is this project important for the community?
This health center has a comprehensive concept of "health" that goes beyond the biological fact of the illness. Health is understood as a process affected by various causes, including poverty. Therefore, doctors work in an interdisciplinary way, as a team, that integrates the different specialties for better care. Furthermore, they work to promote community participation in preventing and finding solutions.
Along these lines, the health center works integrally with the neighborhood without leaving aside the context of the population to which it serves. This perspective seeks to break with the idea of the doctor as the owner of the truth and tries to demonstrate that scientific knowledge along with popular knowledge can have a greater impact and better results.
Among the specialties that the center includes are: Pediatrics, general medicine, gynecology, obstetrics, odontology, psychology, social work, nutrition, psychopedagogy, and nursing. They also organize different workshops and activities for the community.
Photography by Connor Garrett
Volunteer's tasks will depend on their commitment and interests, anyway, volunteers will start as spectators so they can learn how the health center and the professionals work. All areas, activities, and workshops are open to the volunteer who can participate both in the activities inside the center and those carried out in the field according to their interests. Moreover, volunteers learn a lot about the Argentine Health System, how to work in a team different from what you learn in universities, you can share your own knowledge as well as learn a lot from the people you share your experience with
For this reason, an intermediate level of Spanish is required, so that the volunteer can become more involved with those who work in the center and with the community. The volunteer must develop an outlook of communicating with people, taking into account that this is an institution that serves the community and that their concern is to understand the people living there and their health problems.
What can you learn as a volunteer?
It is an opportunity to put into practice previous knowledge about medicine, learn new modalities, and ways of running a health center. Volunteers will also learn about the culture and functioning of the public health system in Argentina from a health promotion and prevention approach. Therefore, volunteers will learn how a prevention approach on health works in a community and it's importance. The volunteers will get the chance to shadow doctors from different areas and, after the first week, the volunteers will get immersed in those of preference.
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 at the health center:
- Comm and Active Listening
- Critical Thinking
- Ethics and Work Commitment
- Multicultural Awareness
- Organization and Time Management
- Self Awareness
- Stress Management
- Team Work
The Health Center is open from 8 to 17 from Monday to Friday all year long, with less work during January. It is recommended that volunteers go during the morning, which is when most of the activities happen, but the same may change and will be agreed with the Director of the Health Center, Fernando, who will also be their coordinator in the project.
Location and first day at the project
This health center is located in Jose Leon Suarez, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. It's easily accessible through public transportation (train and buses), about one hour from Buenos Aires downtown. On the first day, you visit the Institution accompanied by the volunteer's general coordinator so you can know how they get there, to be aware of the facilities and staff. Then you have a meeting with the director to arrange a precise schedule and activities.
On the first day, your Volunteer Coordinator will join you so you learn how to get there and introduce yourself to everyone. The first day will begin with a meeting between the volunteer and the coordinator of the project, a presentation, and a tour around the Centre. He will explain to the volunteer about the activities and introduce them to the rest of the staff.
- 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.
- Studies related to the health field.
- Spanish Level Required: Intermediate (B1-B2)
- Minimum Stay: 8 weeks