Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Eleanor M. from Australia, June 2010

Originally written in Spanish on July 8, 2010. Volunteer translation by Joelle Bouchard, former Spanish teacher in Houston, Texas, USA.

Here I want to be honest about my experience as a volunteer at Conviven.

The truth is I was mistaken about what it would be. When I decided to stay in Buenos Aires, I had planned to participate in some kind of project, but it was very complicated: I found a lot of organizations that wanted to provide an experience for tourists or exploit one's desire to help for capitalist means. After having spent a lot of time searching for a good organization I gave up. I shouldn't have done it. The worst thing is that at one point, I had entered Conviven's web page, but rejected it when I saw that it was a religious organization. Upon seeing that I thought “No, not that. I don't want to participate in a project that exploits people's weakness in order to impose certain values.” From that moment on I dedicated myself to my studies and enjoyed the process. However, I somehow felt empty. One Saturday in May, I read an article about the work that Conviven does in Ciudad Oculta. They seemed so dedicated in helping those less fortunate that I decided to put my prejudices aside and get involved with the Center. I didn't look back.

My experience working with Conviven, although it was only during a short time, forms the most powerful memories of those gained during my stay in Argentina. In the first place, that experience rid me of the idea that Argentina was not a poor country. It is. It could be that the poverty is not as apparent as it is in Bolivia, Guatemala, or Paraguay. But hidden poverty is poverty nonetheless. In addition, I realized that an individual can have a positive impact on the life of another human being. It's not enough to talk about changing the system – it's the little steps that also help. The children with whom I worked were so good and they had so much drive to learn, and I feel very privileged to help bring out their potential. Finally, the experience inspired me. I am a law student and I always wanted to work with human rights issues. However, for the first time I realize that I can use the knowledge that I already have to help now, I don't have to wait until I graduate. Because of that, I'm offering my services, free of charge, to centers here in Australia that offer legal services to marginalized individuals.

I recommend to whoever finds the project, to get involved. I want Conviven to have all the luck in the world.

Advice From a Departed Volunteer

Originally written in Spanish on September 9, 2008. Volunteer translation by Joelle Bouchard, former Spanish teacher in Houston, TX, USA.

I had the good fortune of spending five months at Conviven. They were five unforgettable months. They could have been boring, I could have not learned anything, but it wasn't like that. It wasn't like that becaue that's not how I wanted it to be. I spent a lot of time working for Conviven, preparing classes, thinking about what would be interesting to contribute...Because I think that is something that one has to do to really learn from this opportunity of being a volunteer in another part of the world. Commit oneself. In order to gain the confidence of the children and of the other volunteers at the Center, to learn even more from them then they learn from us...

I could have done a lot more, but no less. Because if I would have done less I wouldn't have felt so proud seeing my students enjoying their classes, I wouldn't have been able to establish such a good relationship with the people that were essential during my stay in Buenos Aires, like Carmen and my little students.

Participating in this program gives us the chance to meet special people, to have unforgettable experiences and I think that one should not bypass this opportunity supposedly because of a “lack of time.” Each of these children is special, although to realize this one must first gain their confidence and their interest because surely at this age, at times, the students aren't interested in learning English, or any other subject, but surely, that is the work of the “teachers!”

Well, that is the advice I want to give to future “teachers”: Have patience and imagination because these children are worth it! There are many interesting things to do with them beyond English classes but one must have a lot of desire to do so because it's not always easy to organize oneself.

Good luck and I hope you enjoy your experience as much as I enjoyed my stay in Buenos Aires, and above all at Conviven!

Marie, from France