Q&A with Volunteer Cole Sterr: Soup Kitchen Insight

Written by Lauren Hoffmann
Rate this item
(0 votes)
Volunteer in Argentina: Cole Interview Volunteer in Argentina: Cole Interview Giuseppe D'Addurno

The communications team visited Cole while he was working, and had the chance to ask him a few questions about his experience.

Volunteer Cole Sterr has been working in a soup kitchen for Voluntario global as part of his service learning subject through college. Cole has spent close to a semester studying abroad in Buenos Aires through a program at his college in Minnesota, United States. The soup kitchen Cole has been working in during his time here services a kindergarten and local community.

What is your favorite dish you have been preparing during your time at the soup kitchen? 

My favorite dish is defiantly the desserts, it’s like a sweet roll so it’s a piece of bread and I spread dulce le leche in the middle of it and roll up. I usually prepare them every Tuesday and that’s a lot of fun for me, it’s what I most look forward too. Otherwise I just usually do random tasks in the kitchen, lots of chopping vegetables.

Did you face any difficulties?

In the soup kitchen? Well yes obviously the language barrier is hard I’m not fluent in Spanish, I’m proficient but not fluent so that’s a struggle because sometimes they tell me what I need to do and I don’t know what they are saying so it usually requires a lot of pointing and a lot of hand gestures. Also it was a new environment, new place and neighborhood of Buenos Aires that I had never been in so that was hard, and getting here is always a time because it’s an hour from where I live. So just making sure I get here on time, energized and ready to work because all the ladies in the kitchen are super energized all the time so sometimes it’s hard keeping up. I’m not a proficient cook by any means so sometimes I feel like I’m not as fast or feel like I’m slowing them down but nothing too bad.

Being a vegetarian: was it easy to sustain your vegetarian lifestyle here?

In Buenos Aires yes it would be. I actually decided not to be a vegetarian during my stay in Argentina just because I know they eat a lot of meat here. Had I made the decision to continue to be a vegetarian here I think it would be easy, my host mum is actually a vegetarian and everywhere I go there is always a few vegetarian dishes and vegan and vegetarian restaurants too. I don’t think it would have been that hard, vegan yeah it would have. Here in the soup kitchen it would have been difficult if I was vegetarian, they always feed me and I find that such a wholesome gesture so even when its meat I’ll accept it and eat it.

Not having done so before, how did you handle preparing the meat?

It was an interesting time cutting up the meat, I didn’t even know how to cut it up they just handed me a knife and I just watched the woman next to me for reference and went with it. That was interesting because I’ve never really cut raw meat like that before. Because I’ve been a vegetarian for a while now seeing raw meat was a little disturbing but it doesn’t matter, I would do the task anyway if asked.

Speaking of food: Have you changed your perspective on food since working here?

Not really I would say, obviously the soup kitchen tries to feed the community around here so I guess just have to do whatever they have to, to get that done. I’m just happy to help in whatever way and I don’t really care what the food is in my opinion, because this area is scarce in resources just having something to nourish the people in the area is better than nothing I guess. I would say my own personal preferences about food haven’t really changed I am probably still going to be a vegetarian when I go home.

What will you take home from your experience working here?

I would say that I would take how that it’s good to be out of your comfort zone. When I first came here and it was a lot of Spanish at first and like I said I’m not fluent in the language. So the language barrier was really tough and just being in a new environment I felt like a fish out of water, but as I started to talk to the ladies in the kitchen and get into a routine I felt a bit more comfortable. I would say defiantly getting out of your comfort zone is important and I guess I’ve really seen how collectivist it is, coming from the US it’s a really individualist culture and here it’s very collectivist so it doesn’t really matter who you are and what you do in the kitchen or even if you make mistakes just as long as your helping, were all working towards the same goal. There was a lot of times where I was really self conscious about things and then I realized it didn’t really matter and they didn’t care so I would say I’ve seen how collectivist it is and I will take more of that behavior with me back. All the workers always give me a kiss and always greet me and some of the people who have done that I’ve never even actually spoken to. I guess I would just reinforce that no matter who you are you’re always welcome here.

Read 3630 times

Related items

10 years remembering Armin: A local hero in a world of international heroes

 In 2008, almost 10 years after my first visit to Latin America having just qualified as a Spanish teacher, I arrived in a cold, grey Buenos Aires. The plan was to spend 2 months volunteering with a relatively new volunteering charity called Voluntario Global. Back in 2008, Valeria Gracia and Armin Díaz, the original founders of the organisation, had set up a grass roots organisation that worked, principally, out of two community centres in impoverished barrios of the Argentine capital. What was unique about Voluntario Global, and remains true today, is that it looked to bring together the energy and enthusiasm of international volunteers with the local members of the poor communities of Buenos Aires who believed that change in their lives, and those of their neighbourhoods at large, was possible through international co-operation and partnership.

Crèche Argentine (English version)


            The crèche is not just a place where your children are welcomed and cared for, it is an institution with a deep history and wonderful human values. Indeed, founded by women many years ago, it was a way for them to combine the useful with the pleasant, but above all it was a matter of necessity. Unable to look after children and earn money, they had to find a solution to both problems. So, by building their own crèche, they were able to keep an eye on the children but also develop a business. The beginnings were not easy, sometimes having to bring food from home to feed the children they were looking after because of the little money they had. But with ambition and courage they succeeded and now allow other women like them to do the same thing by getting a job as a teacher, cook or cleaner in the crèche and also to be able to drop off their children. Most of the women working in this institution are, in fact, accompanied by their respective children, sometimes even in the same class.

Voluntario Global Ambassador Arthur Vandeputte

Volunteering Project: I worked at an English school. Outside of the city center in Buenos Aires (Pablo Nogues)

June 2022

Volunteering at the early childhood development center: Jack's experience

On our way to El Alfarero, a small preschool on the southern border between Buenos Aires Ciudad and Buenos Aires Province, the two sides of industrial development exist in close proximity and stark contrast.

Neil's Tips: Argentina and the dollar

Coming to Argentina the first time, I had no idea how complicated the exchange rates and access to cash would be, if you don’t want to lose money!

Argentina: A Dream Fulfilled

Argentina. A land of many ecosystems and one of the largest countries in South America. As a young adult, I dreamt of visiting Argentina, especially after reading Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara’s, “The Motorcycle Diaries,” and seeing the movie thereafter. Although the story and book focused on Che Guevara’s life, images of the Argentine landscape could not escape my mind. So, I decided to learn more about Argentina’s ecosystems and communities in various parts of the country via my studies.

BA GUIDE: How to feel more at home in the city

Getting to a new city can often be overwhelming, especially one as big as Buenos Aires! There were lots of things I did when I first got to the city to settle in, and some things that my friends did that I didn’t. From my own experience, and having spoken to them, I’ve compiled a guide of how to feel comfortable in the wonderful cosmopolitan metropolis that is the city of Buenos Aires.

How to Help When Things Seem a Bit Hopeless

In a time full of uncertainty, it can be hard not to feel despair as the news cycle makes the state of the world seem ever more desperate and beyond repair. This can be made worse by social media, which exposes us to (often unverified news) on a constant loop, making it very difficult to feel anything but anxious and powerless. Unfortunately these feelings, understandable as they are, stop us from taking action. The more dread we feel, the more paralysed we become and the less likely we are to mobilise. And whilst any one individual is unlikely to effect great change, there’s a whole lot that we can do together! That’s why volunteering can be a great way to get involved with a community, and break this cycle of feeling powerless. But sometimes it can be hard to know where to start, so I’ll share a few tips with you that have helped me:


Login to post comments