Our organizations form what we call The Voluntario Global Network of Organizations and its work is sustained through the donations we receive from volunteers. At Voluntario Global, we consider volunteering to be a two way process in which the exchange between the local area and the volunteer is cultural too. It is also important that we recruit open-minded volunteers with professional skills, abilities and experiences and place them in whichever project suits these talents most. Consequentially, their impact on the community in which they are working can be maximised. For example, those studying education in their home countries are likely to be teaching English whilst our recent Psychology volunteer position is tailored for those with an interest in that field.
The organizations work in the following key areas:
Many of the kindergartens are based in community centres and were established by mothers and volunteer teachers because there was nowhere else in the neighbourhood that the children could play safely and eat well. Currently, we work with 6 kindergartens: 3 of them located in the city of Buenos Aires and the other 3 in the surrounding suburbs. All of them are run by locals who guarantee a place where kids, from babies to 5 year olds, can go to learn, play and have a healthy lunch.
We also work along two children homes in Buenos Aires that serve the same purpose as the kindergartens but around the clock. As they are managed as NGOs, they are entirely dependent on the help of volunteers and the donations that organisations such as Voluntario Global bring. Depending on each situation, the volunteers are expected to help out at mealtimes, plan and run their own activities and generally be attentive to the children’s needs. Particularly in these homes, Spanish-speaking volunteers are often most appreciated during homework hour, when the children might not otherwise be motivated to study.
During the Summer Break in Argentina, children are out of school. So a place where they can go to practice recreational activities is always pleasant and also a huge help for parents who have to work. The summer eduction project opens during the months of January and February and provides a place where kids and teenagers are safe.
Learning English is increasingly central to widening one’s future prospects, and as an organisation whose intake is primarily international, we can play a key role. Our volunteers may teach in one of the two after-school institutes located in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, or even in a local primary school. They both prepare and deliver classes whilst engaging with their pupils on a personal level and one of the main goals is to give them more tools to have better job opportunities.
We work closely with community centres across the southern suburbs of Buenos Aires because we believe that change must come from within the communities themselves. At the present time, we work with two soup kitchen that cook both for the community and for the kindergartens located in the same center. The soup kitchens feed up to 400 families every day.
Voluntario Global works with health centres in some of the deprived areas of Buenos Aires. The community usually depends on the health center services as hospitals might be too far away or difficult to access. Health if free in Argentina and these health centres have a particular focus on prevention work and promotion of health and hygiene with view of enabling social change. As a healthcare assistant, the volunteer is encouraged to get to know the local community and the doctors and nurses (who work for minimum salary). All health centers have 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. The role of the volunteer in the community health centers will depend on their own interests, volunteers usually start shadowing doctors on different specialties and taking part of the different workshops.
Currently, we work with 3 health centers: The community health clinic and the health promotion & prevention center, located in the suburbs of the city; and a third center located in La Boca, where the Psychology internship takes place. Volunteers in the Psychology project are not able to interact with the patients directly, but they become part of a multi-disciplinary team, making visits to homes in the neighbourhood as well as helping to run workshops for children and their parents.
In a slightly different vein to direct volunteer opportunities within the communities themselves, we also offer volunteers who have a particular interest in media, photography and communications the chance to enhance their professional experience whilst simultaneously developing a stronger understanding of how an NGO works, and particularly how one works in Argentina. We offer internships in film and photography and as our journalist and content editor for Voluntario Global’s communications department. Volunteer's specific role depends on their interests, experience and the activities going on within Voluntario Global at the time. As the volunteers work with our core team, they often have the opportunity to go and visit other projects, either to report on them or simply to acquire a greater understanding of the organisation that they are working for. It is a different way of working towards our vision, but one that is vital in order to maintain and increase an inflow of volunteers and outside interest.
We also work with 2 different community radio stations: One located in La Boca and another one located in Villa Soldati. Both work with the same perspective: they want to provide a space in which people from their neighbourhoods can come together and produce something cultural and educational, encouraging social participation and subsequently equality. On the other hand, both radio stations started with the aim of sharing what is really going on around their neighbourhoods, as mass media communicates only the things that are in its best interest rather than the reality of the community itself. That is why the topics addressed during the radio programs include problems within the neighbourhood as well as other cultural events and happenings.
This is where Voluntario Global has been putting all its efforts since the foundation in 2006.
It was our commitment to social equality and a fairer economy that led us to create a cooperative of our own, in which workers and members work together towards a common goal. Many Argentinians who have grown up in the suburbs of Buenos Aires have few work opportunities after finishing school, and do not have the motivation or means to pursue further education. The laundry project was set up in 2006 as a student-run cooperative in order to put a stop to this pattern. Those who work there are able to earn money for their families whilst gaining valuable work experience that brightens their future prospects. Furthermore, it is a chance to learn more about the ethics of economy and business and the value of working as a team. In 2008, the laundrette began holding monthly meetings, echoing our perception of youth empowerment as a vehicle for social change.
In its first year, the laundry project had five workers from the barrio and three washing machines. Over the past nine years, the project has developed its infrastructure, increased the number of washing machines to 7 and widened its clientele base as a result of its strong reputation. Initially, the project relied on various grants and donations in order to make such improvements and subsequent development. However, in 2014 it officially became independent of Voluntario Global and is now a fully-functioning student-run business.
Pacheco Community center was founded in 2014 and the goal of this project, just like Voluntario Global’s other cooperative, Su Lavanderia, is to give the young people from the community the skills necessary to find a job and be able to sustain their families. We believe that by creating more community experiences, we empower people, youth especially, so they can build their own future and have a better life.
There are courses in gardening and landscaping being held in Pacheco since early 2016. During 2016 and 2017, classes were taught to young people from the surrounding areas, and in 2018, we began offering courses for adults too. Here students learn how to use the machinery and how to properly tend a garden. With these proficiencies, it will be easier for them to find a job. In the Pacheco Community we also promote that young people, through the gardeners' trade, work for their own community. We hope that in the near future the products of the garden can be sold at fair prices to neighbors and community institutions in the neighborhood.
We believe that training young people in trades and cooperative values, they can achieve a generation of income that will be important for the whole community, as it will generate work and interest among the inhabitants. Thinking at a local level is linked to thinking about a new economy that allows to solve the daily needs of people and entire communities. In the past, the State and the market supplied and responded, however, that is not what happens today, so we believe a new economy is needed to resolve the inability of these actors.
We encourage volunteers to visit this project to learn the power of community and see that amazing things can happen when people come together. Working together and creating relationships can make change and growth happen.