I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to live abroad in Argentina – to experience the culture, make new friends, and explore new areas. But more than anything, I am thankful that I followed through on my goal to take time during the trip to volunteer.
I remember scouring the Internet looking for organizations that offered volunteer programs. I had not realized how challenging it could be to find opportunities to donate time, so it came as a huge relief when I found Conviven, an NGO that promoted social and community development. The center only required your time and dedication to their after school English program. Conviven was located in the Ciudad Oculta, known for the poverty affecting 10,000 of its citizens. As I prepared to begin, I was excited about the possibility of learning more about this new culture through the opportunity to help children.
My first day at Conviven I was ready to take charge, and felt I could handle anything. I was in for a rude awakening. I was placed in a class with thirteen children from ages five to eight. I was responsible for teaching them English words and concepts. I quickly learned that I would have to speak Spanish in order for them learn English. I struggled with my rusty Spanish, and at times, the students were my teachers. Hand gestures and acting out themes was routine; I was responsible for their curriculum, and tried to be creative and resourceful. Many students were eager to learn while others were shy and unresponsive.
Over the course of my teaching at Conviven, I was amazed at the different relationships I built with the students and volunteers. The students all became dedicated and responsive to my teaching style. I was thankful for each student that came to class after attending a full day of school.
I realized it was the small triumphs that made the difference. Many students were not going to conquer the English language in the time I was there, but their dedication to working relentlessly makes me believe that they will master the language in the future, and reminded me that with persistence and dedication, any goal can be achieved.