This year, 6 students from Porter Creek Secondary went on a volunteer trip of a life time to Cordoba, Argentina. Teamed with Projects Abroad (www.projects-abroad.ca), we started our fundraising about 1.5 years ago with the idea to do volunteer work in a second/third world country. On Nov 17th at 6 am, we were ready to help make a small change in the world.
After a delayed flight in Toronto, a 5 am hotel room, and hanging out at airports for days, we finally arrived in Cordoba. We were met by a very friendly Project Abroad staff member, Silvina. She took us to our home stay families and the students were introduced to a thing called a language barrier! With very minimal Spanish, the girls had to use hand signals and luckily, google translate to figure out how to talk to their new families for the next two weeks.
Extremely jet lagged, out first task was to start making the crafts and lessons for our first day with children at a day home. This day home is very important for a lot of working parents who can not afford daycare in this impoverished neighbourhood.
Upon setting foot in the daycare, we could tell that this was the place that needed a lot of renovation work to make it safe for young children to be. Heaving rocks, carrying bricks, throwing out hoards of garbage, dusting, and cleaning, we did it all! Check out the slide show for the before and after photos!
Our second placement, at an elementary school/daycare, students were able to play crafts and games with the children. Hesitant at first, the students eventually warmed up and got comfortable working with the children. The hardest part was knowing how to approach them and start games without knowing much their language (and remembering that they won't judge you on your bad Spanish!). By the end of the day, the children choose their favourite foreigner and would come and grab hands to help them walk tires or go down the slides.
Our third placement was based in a one room school where we worked on cleaning the school inside and out and giving it a new paint job. We ran out of time to completely finish the mural but another Canadian School after us took it on and finished the project. This particular community suffers greatly from drug abuse and a lot of the times, children don't make it to school. The girls spent a day creating crafts and signs for the students, only to have 2 children show up. How frustrating it must be for the teachers and volunteers of this school, yet they keep coming to teach and hoping that more children will show up to this safe space each day.
With volunteer work also comes some fun! From learning how to make empanadas to tango lessons to spanish lessons, the evenings were full of fun and group activities. We went to an adventure park one day and hung out with gauchos at a majestic ranch the next. We ate a traditional asado cooked by families in the small farming community we visited and went swimming in the local swimming hole! We also went out to restaurants to try to local cuisine and had more than our share of daily ice cream.
Our last weekend we spent checking out parts of Chile. Vina del Mar and Valparaiso were two artsy towns on the coast with graffiti on every wall. Wave jumping was probably their favourite activity of that day! Our hotel in Santiago had a rooftop pool and a beautiful hike to a lookout point for a great 360 degree view of the city. It was a nice break before our long journey home.
Luckily on the way back, our flight wasn't full so we each got our own row to sleep! It always feels nice to be back on Canadian soil and more grateful for what we have as Canadians. Although the students may have went down to make difference, I think the biggest change was from within. There are many reasons to go on International trips (of any kind) as they are well worth the new skill development, education, changes in perspectives and new relationships.
If you have any questions about International trips, don't hesitate to email me.