Karen - Canada (Volunteer coordinator)

For years I have known that I wanted to help under privileged children around the world, but I didn’t know where to start or when would be a good time. I decided there was no time like the present, and six weeks later I landed in Argentina, about to embark on the journey of a lifetime.

 

At first, all I could think about were the children I would meet, not about all the other experiences I would have along the way. In addition to spending time with an amazing group of kids, I have built lifelong friendships, spent time in a Rainforest touring Iguazu Falls, and experienced the culture of a foreign country.

 

Of course I had doubts and fears about going, but I knew it was something I just had to do. My biggest fears were about being homesick, since I am so close with my family. I was also scared of not being able to communicate with the kids because I didn’t speak Spanish. These fears didn’t

last long.

 

While in Argentina, I have maintained steady communication with my family and

friends. Through Skype and Facebook, I have been able to share some of my

experiences, show pictures of things I have been doing, and thank them for their

constant love and support.

 

The language barrier wasn’t a big problem either. Although we haven’t always

been able to verbally tell each other everything we wanted to say, we have been

able to speak an unspoken language; the language of love. Every day I want to say

how much I love them, I’m proud of them, and that I’m sorry many of them are

hurting. Since I didn’t know how, I would hug them, cuddle with them, or sometimes,

on a particularly bad day, hold them and wipe their tears. Using no words, we still

find ways to communicate. These kids have all lived lives I couldn’t imagine living.

They have taught me about strength and courage. They have no idea the impact they have made on my life. I have learned some Spanish since I arrived in Argentina, the most important being Te quiero, I love you!

 

Buenos Aires, December 2010- Most days, the kids spend time learning english, drawing pictures, and their favourite thing and mine, making bracelets. We play soccer, do crafts, and we all laugh so much. Hearing their laughter is by far the best and most rewarding part of the job. These kids are amazing and don’t even know it, so I make it a point every day to encourage them, and help build their confidence.

 

Other days, especially Mondays, the kids are more likely to be sad and introverted. They want to be alone rather than be part of a group. These days are the hardest because you see children upset and you don’t know how to help them. But its these days when you realize, as a volunteer, how important what you’re doing is. We

spend the sad days cuddling, and we just tell them we’re there for them, and they are loved. Sometimes that is all it takes to bring a smile to their face.

 

Every day varies, but each one is special for different reasons. I’ve never done anything so rewarding in my life. I came here thinking about what I could teach them, but never thought about what I could learn from them. I leave Argentina this week, but I know this experience and these kids will be in my heart forever.

 

Peterborough, Canada 2011– The last week of volunteering at La Casita was bittersweet. I was so excited about going home to see my family and friends, but I didn’t know how I would be able to say good bye to all the kids and staff I had come to love in Argentina. The kids and I cried on several occasions that week, but minutes later we would be laughing about all the fun things we had done together.

 

During the last week, I also felt guilty. I was going back to an amazing home, family, job and support system. I felt as if I was deserting these children that had become family to me. I kept reminding myself that the faster I got home, the faster I would be able to start helping them financially, because I’d be working again, and I have thought of some fundraising ideas.

 

My last day was spent crying with the children and staff. I received letters and cards from all the children thanking me for coming and how much they loved me and would miss me. Although saying good bye was one of the hardest things I had ever done, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

 

I have now been home for a month. I have been spending time with my family, friends, and have started back to work. I think about the kids everyday and I don’t think that will ever change. As I reflect on my time in Argentina, the good and the bad, I don’t have a single regret. I believe everything happens for a reason, and I know I was meant to be there.

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