Hello readers of the EdinburghExchanges Blog! I expect, as this year abroad comes to an end, the next wave will be logging on to get some perspectives, advice and stories to help them make the all important decision of what to do and where to go on the Third Year Abroad. For those thinking of venturing to distant South American shores, a volunteer or internship placement can be a good way to go.
After spending a blissful year living the French dream of doing nothing other than drinking wine by the Seine and eating copious amounts of baguettes and croissants (a few pesky exams and essays aside…), I left my love, Paris, for a new adventure in Buenos Aires. Having never been to South America before (nor indeed outside of the lovely little Europe bubble) I really had no idea what to expect, and this trepidation was slightly deepened by the fact I had chosen to spend my two months here volunteering for an NGO, about which I knew fairly little. Many factors played into this uneasy nervousness; would my Spanish be up to scratch? Would the volunteering company be nice? What exactly is involved in working in Marketing and Communications for a small NGO?
The company I’m here working with is called Voluntario Global, a small NGO founded and run by local people to help better the futures of communities in both Argentina and Bolivia. What’s really great about them is that they encourage a feeling of solidarity, which unites volunteers from every corner of the globe with the local schools and community centers that they help. What intrigued me about them was that, unlike a lot of similar companies promoting responsible tourism, they offer professional experience as well as the all-important hands-on, people orientated volunteer spots. They have loads of great stuff for hands on experience, from working in orphanages, to teaching English, to kids and adults alike in community centers, even helping out in a garden projects for people recovering from mental health issues- all of it focused on using education and inclusion as means of social change.
But my work here in the Marketing department will be mostly focused on one project in particular; Su Lavanderia (or “Laundry project”). This initiative was established with the aim of empowering the young people, and giving them the chance to further their education. In the most impoverished neighborhoods of the city, only 10% of youth go on to higher education, as many are obliged to start working, often in grueling manual labor, in order to support themselves and their families. The Laundry Project provides an easier transition into adulthood, allowing young people to work and fund their studies in an environment, which is conducive to studying. Working hours are flexible enough to fit around class times, and the laundry also provides a study area, which many people don’t have at home. All these things we take for granted- having a desk to work at, time to study, part time jobs where employers understand a students need for time off for exams.
For more information, have a ganders at their website http://www.voluntarioglobal.org/, or follow on Facebook and Twitter!