Sarah - England (Volunteer coordinator)
I have been lucky enough to spend two chunks of my life at La Casita - once
as a volunteer in 2009 and again the following year, while I was working
in Buenos Aires. Two years after my last visit I am still in contact with
some of the kids, as well as people that I met working at the centre - many
of whom remain my closest friends! I would return in an instant if I could,
and I think the majority of ex-volunteers feel the same. That’s why we’d
like to help send fresh volunteers over, to continue the work the project is
doing to help underprivileged children have better lives.
La Casita is a day centre in Escobar, a town outside BA, run by Silvia and
her family, with support from a loyal team of local volunteers and – in good
times – foreign volunteers. The kids get nutritious meals, help with their
homework, medical attention and help getting into better schools.
Most of the children have had difficult lives, with some falling out of school to look after their siblings when they’re still kids themselves. But this is where Silvia and her volunteers come in – providing a safe haven during the day and letting the kids spend time just being kids. Despite difficult backgrounds, the children are loving, generous and full of energy. I got to visit many of their homes and get to know their parents too, and it was without exception a very eye-opening and humbling experience.
I went to Argentina the year after graduating, at a bit of a loose end and trying to do something useful while travelling. I never thought of myself as a kids’ person, and was pretty apprehensive about what I’d be expected to do when I arrived. I soon realised that it’s not a question of being some sort of Mary Poppins-style magician with young children – most of them want a hug, to talk or just play games with you. They’re aged from toddlers to teenagers, so you could be preparing food, playing football helping with school work – every day is completely different!
Your time at La Casita is what you make it. You can be as creative as you want planning activities or games or lessons – all fresh ideas are welcome. We went on day trips, helped out on the farm, painted eggs at Easter, had cooking lessons and learnt some English. Speaking Spanish helps but isn’t required - my second visit coincided with my friend Karen (who’s testimonial you can read here too) who came speaking not one palabra but left able to talk pretty impressive Spanish! The kids are fantastic teachers and you pick it up pretty quickly.
I'm not sure what I expected when I went to Argentina, but I think I
genuinely spent some of the happiest times of my life working at the project.
Silvia and her family welcome volunteers like sons and daughters, and I have
never felt more respect for them, and the work that they do. I urge others to
take part, even if just for a few weeks. You could not hope to work with
more welcoming and appreciative people, and you have the opportunity to
brighten the lives of some underprivileged young kids.
La Casita is trying to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and crime that many of the children in these slums fall into. There are so many new and exciting things happening over there. I wish that I could be there helping out but for now, I hope that our testimonials will encourage others to go over and lend their support to the project.