Heidi Egeland (Norway, UWC AC 2011-2013)
Testimonial for my time as a volunteer at “La Casita” Summer of 2012.
June 2012 was a very special month of my life. I flew from Europe to Argentina, with a good friend from Atlantic College, Chloé, to volunteer at a day centre for poor children in the province of Buenos Aires called Escobar.
When Chloé and I arrived by bus to Escobar, we did not speak very much Spanish and looked quite conspicuous as two blond Europeans among all the Argentineans. But we needed not to worry; soon afterwards we were picked up by Brenda Lynn Hibdon, the volunteer coordinator, and Rodrigo Cuevas, the founder’s son of La Casita. Instantly we felt safe and welcome as if we had known Brenda and Rodrigo for a very long time. They both speak perfect English, which made the whole introduction very smooth.
We were immensely fortunate to be able to live with Rodrigo´s family while we worked at the day centre. At the Cuevas house, we felt like a part of the family, as they were the warmest and most welcoming family I have ever met. Soon we were joking with the father in the house, Omar, and listening intently to stories told by the mother, Silvia, about her work at the Casita.
Our first day working with the kids was intense and absolutely amazing. All the kids, ranging in age from 1 ½ years to 17 years, were all very excited to have us there and asked all sorts of questions about where we came from, why we were there, and whether my hair colour really was natural. Somehow we managed to communicate, even though the kids spoke very fast and in an unfamiliar accent with a lot of slang. It did not take long, however, before we were all comfortable with each other and we picked up on the language a bit more.
Our days at the Casita were comprised of a variety of different tasks, and none of the days were the same. We helped with teaching English, homework, drawing, braiding hair, serving meals, playing in the little courtyard, and giving love to these unfortunate kids. I found, however, even though we tried to give as much help and love as possible, we felt that we gained more than it was possible to give. The genuine love and excitement these kids showed, even though their everyday life was very tough, was mesmerizing. I was genuinely inspired and learnt more about life and human kindness there than I perhaps ever have done before. Not just from the kids, but the three loyal and extremely impressive ladies who worked there every day. If I can ever be just a little bit as great and loving as them, I will be very glad.
When we did not work, we spent time together with Silvia, Omar, Brenda, Rodrigo and their friends. I can´t say how much it means to have known that they were there for us, taking us around and accepting us as friends, and teaching us the traditional Argentine culture. It made the whole experience complete. I believe I made friends forever in Argentina, and I cannot wait to return.
I will recommend to everyone seeking a new experience to volunteer with ”Making a Difference Volunteers” and working in Argentina where they have several projects to choose from. There is no need to say anything else. Just go, you will never experience anything so special in your life.