Though it goes without saying, everything in Argentina is different. The government, the food, the language, the state of the economy, the seasons, the working world, and the volunteer world…they’re all different. As I’ve been preparing for my volunteer placement to start, I’ve been learning a lot more about non-profits in Argentina and how they function. It’s very difficult to start (and maintain) a non-profit here. Unlike in the states, companies don’t get any tax breaks from the government for doing volunteer or community work. Thus, “non-profits” like we imagine in the States really struggle to exist here. The organizations that do exist as non-profits are typically understaffed and lacking funds…and when it comes to volunteers, they are fairly unorganized. You have such a different experience when you show up in the States to volunteer somewhere. Typically, you sign up, provide some basic information, and designate what time/day you’re coming and for how long. Upon arriving, you are greeted warmly, the organization is expecting you, and they have a designated task for you. From just my two days of experience with my organization here (and after talking with a few other Argentines), it’s safe to say that non-profits here struggle to find volunteers, and when they do get a volunteer, there’s not much of a system or organized schedule for that person.
I went to my volunteer placement, Fundamind, for the first time yesterday. A native speaker from Argentina accompanied me to ensure there were no misunderstandings. I could understand everything the President of Fundamind was telling me, but I struggled to understand how I was received. I wasn’t greeted with bells and whistles, a nametag, and information about a Facebook page I could “like” and post all my photos to. I was, however, greeted by the screams, waves, and faces of the 150 children who are benefitting from Fundamind. This greeting really brought me back to why I’m doing this. It isn’t so that I can feel needed or good about myself, but it’s to better the lives of some of the less fortunate children in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
As I settle into my weekly routine of volunteering and find my place at this organization, I will be sure to write more.