2019-08-11

Interview with Volunteer Charlotte Skynner

Written by James O'Hara
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Charlotte, from the United Kingdom, volunteered in the Early Childhood Development Center in Buenos Aires.

Tell me about yourself, and your position within the organization?

I am a university student at the University of Northampton, and I study International Development. I love travelling, when I was 18 I started travelling and living abroad for 6 or 7 years. I decided when I was mid-20s that I would like to go to university and continue on my journey of trying to work for a charity or with the United Nations. I am currently an assistant in a kindergarten in Barracas within Voluntario Global.

Why did you decide to begin volunteering? And Why Buenos Aires?

I have been volunteering for a lot of my life, I started trying to help out when I was about 10 years old. I have always wanted to try and help people, I always knew I wanted to do something that would make a bit of a difference. Overtime it has become a passion for me to try and help people. I volunteer so that I can gain enough experience so that I will be able to gain employment in the field, where I can sustain my life and also help others.

I was reading a book called ‘The Shock Doctrine’ by Naomi Klein, and she was discussing the political issues of Argentina in the 1970/80s with the dictatorship, and all the controversy. I was so affected and intrigued, that is what sparked my interest in visiting the country. I knew I wanted to come to South America, because I wanted to speak Spanish and practice my Spanish. I picked Argentina because I wanted to learn more about the political history and the economy.

What have you enjoyed most about your time in Buenos Aires?

I have enjoyed the cultural exchange, and I have enjoyed spending time with the kids at the kindergarten. I enjoy seeing them laugh and having a good day. Being able to see their environment, even though they are quite young, they will have quite difficult lives, and if I am able to give them a moment where they have no worries, and they can enjoy themselves. 

Chatting with local people about their stories and their family history, and how they have dealt with the country over time.

Also seeing nature throughout the country when I did a bit of travelling. I am always so curious to go and see different parts of the world and feel very grateful for that. I did a trekking tour in Mendoza on the Andes mountain range. I seen the waterfalls at Iguazu, and also went whale watching in Puerto Madryn which is the national ecological park.

What have you enjoyed most about working within the organization?

I enjoyed learning about a new organization and how they run it. I have worked for lots of different organizations before and it’s just interesting to see how different organizations sustain their projects. How they sustain their general connections with volunteers, how they promote or advertise their organization. It has been a learning curve for me of just different ways that organizations can come together and create that community feel. But also  learning how every organization has so many positives but there is also so much that continue to be improved on, and it is nice that Voluntario Global are aware that there needs to be continuous progress that is needed all the time, and they are willing and wanting to keep on improving.

Has anything surprised you during your time in BA, personally or professionally?

It is always quite sad to see homeless people in the street, or going through garbage. It didn’t surprise me but something that stuck with me when I was walking near Puerto Madero, and obviously there are many homeless people here, but I feel there is a different respect for them here than other places throughout the world. People understand it is a very hard economy to survive in. It really affected me when I saw this homeless man who had a bed and even had bed side table made out of cardboard, and also had cardboard around his bed, almost trying to make a little room for himself. There was leaves blowing and rubbish on the ground, and the man got a sweeping brush out and started to clear up the leaves and rubbish. Made me realize that he is probably a very dignified man, and he may have just gotten into an unlucky situation, whether he’s lost his job or his home, but he kept his self-respect by making sure his area was tidy. It is something I had never seen before and this really affected me.

Nothing shocked me professionally, but it is good that I can compare organizations as I have worked with several beforehand. Not just Voluntario Global, but the projects within the organization because they are all individual and independent projects. It is interesting to see them all run differently and they have their own unique ways.

What experiences will you take away with you?

I will take away meeting such beautiful people who are also here to volunteer, and who want to make a difference. I have bonded really well with some of the people, and that is really special for me. Sometimes when you have a certain mindset, and you feel you want to help or contribute to an issue, you become very lucky when you meet people with the same perspective and same passion. It gives you a certain feeling where so many people can be united by achieving the same goals. Also, the special moments of being in a different country and experiencing a different culture. Little things the locals will teach you how to do something. Special connections you would never get if you weren’t travelling or volunteering.

Do you have any advice for volunteers planning on working with the organization? And travelling to Buenos Aires?

Come in with an open mind and do come in with expectations of a specific project, or a specific way of life Buenos Aires. Just be really open to everything that comes your way, whether that’s because you haven’t travelled a lot before and you are shocked by certain things you see on the streets or the system or the way things happen. Just accept the culture and understand that is the part of your experience, and respect and be compassionate about a way of life and a culture. For volunteering, just stay positive because you will speak with people and see certain things which are quite sad and you realize that you can’t change it necessarily. You can be there to offer help and support in small ways. You may see children or see adults in really vulnerable positions, but realize there is a community there trying to offer these people support. 

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