‘A Life Enriching Experience’ - Volunteer Care Work Project in ArgentinaAn interview with Changing Worlds volunteer Sonja Brugger who joined us on a rewarding Care Work project in Argentina. Here Sonja tells us all about her best bits of her time in Buenos Aires and why she would definitely recommend it to others!
Why did you decide to go overseas?
I was looking for an experience in a different country, outside of Europe, but however close to our cultural background. Further, I wanted to study some Spanish while volunteering.
What did you achieve during your placement with Changing Worlds?
Organizing events with the kids, such as visiting museums, the Fox TV Channel Studios in Buenos Aires, handling recreation activities, such as movie afternoons, drawing and painting afternoons, group plays, treasure hunts etc. Further helping the other volunteers/workers with donations and other activities (preparing birthday parties, taking kids to school, etc).
What did you achieve personally from the experience?
Really a lot! It was a unique experience, the location became somehow my family for the two months. Besides getting to know the Argentinian culture, it was a great thing to work with the kids each day, getting them to know and helping them getting through tough times. The personnel of the local team is very professional, reliable and has a big heart. This place is outstanding in their achievements and devotion to the kids that they host.
What was a typical day like?
There are not typical days, but mostly we helped organizing the donations, helped out in the kitchen, babysitting the small kids, playing with all the kids either in their homes or at the playgrounds, etc.
What are your most memorable moments?
Spending time with the kids, helping the people on the grounds managing the kids on a every day basis, taking them on visits to museums etc., but also getting to know the other volunteers and people engaged in the orphanage.
What was the social life like?
We spend all of our time at the orphanage, thus the evenings – once off duty - were spend with other volunteers. That was also a great opportunity to learn more about the culture and religion.
What were the local people and culture like?
Super friendly and accommodating. Very helpful, open minded and easy to get along with. Speaking some basic Spanish was quite helpful.
What did you try that you had never tried before?
Staying with more than 10 kids every day playing, entertaining them and making them have a good time!.
What are your top 5 must-see places in Argentina?
Buenos Aires, the Glaciers in Patagonia, the waterfalls of Iguazu, Tierra del Fuego and Salta (last one I have not seen, but it is definitely on my list).
What are your top 5 things to do in Argentina?
Travel and again travel, learn Spanish, taste the great Argentinian food and dance tango.
What were you doing before you went away?
I was and am a manager working in the TV industry.
What obstacles did you have to overcome to go on the trip and how did you overcome them?
Understanding how to manage financial resources (Argentina has a high inflation, thus the best is to exchange cash directly in country); ATM’s are almost never working, so the worries how to get cash are tremendous. Learn at least some basic Spanish (I went to Spanish class for the first 10 days, which was highly helpful.
If you took a gap year or a career break, why did you do this, and what have you gained from doing so?
I was able to take just 2 months, but even if it was a short time, it opens your mind also when coming back home to your routine: you are more confident about what you do, and less worried about how to get over obstacles as they seem quite easy compared to what people have to face in their lives under tougher circumstances.
Has the experience affected your ‘life plan’ in any way and if so how?
Sure in terms of living without prejudice and fear. Sure in having learned that I could basically start over again from scratch if I needed to. Not in terms of dropping my current life and leaving it all behind, but absolutely in terms of wanting to continue to support social projects also in the future.
Would you recommend it to others and if so why?
Absolutely YES! It is a life enriching experience, I have gained new friends and views, and can’t wait to travel back to Argentina as to see the kids again and go visit some more areas in this beautiful country.
To find out more about this amazing project and how you can get involved check out our Argentina page here.
"I was so surprised how quickly I picked up the language! The school was great and really supportive throughout the learning process and it was amazing to practice what I had learnt in real life situations."Melissa Cutler , Languages, Argentina
Not only did I have tons of fun I've also gained a qualification that means I can continue my travels around the world whilst getting paid to teach English!Helen Turner , Teaching, Argentina
This was probably the most worthwhile experience I have ever had. The organisation and staff at the school were amazing and really supported me throughout the whole process. I wish I could go back!Tom Mitchell , Teaching, Argentina
''It was an ideal opportunity for me to combine travelling with my passion for sport.''James Hairsine , Sports, Ghana
“This was a fantastic opportunity to gain some experience in sports psychology, which has really helped with the psychology element of my sports studies degree.”Anthony Gibson , Sports, Ghana
"What a great way to get hands on experience in the field of finance and economics! I feel like I have acquired many skills that will stay with me for years to come!"Jenny Allen , Business & Law, Kenya
"This was such a sustainable way to support the community in Kenya, and I would love to return to continue helping out."Paul Taylor , Business & Law, Kenya
"I had such an amazing gap year! this project was challenging but completely worth it."Francesca Le Poideven , Business & Law, Kenya
"Lake Nakuru National Park is just incredible. The game rangers were so friendly and helpful, going out of their way to make sure I had an amazing time during my placement. I would love to do it all over again!"Maria Rossi , Wildlife & Conservation, Kenya
"It was great fun because the kids want to learn and everything you do is such a novelty to them. I was moved by what I saw, not for sentimental reasons, but because the teachers and the children were so keen and worked so hard."Katie Godfrey , Teaching, Kenya
"This was such a heartwarming project, the children have so little but are so greatful. I met some amazing people and will remember this experience forever."Sylvia Amani , Teaching, Kenya
"What a fascinating country. I not only learned so much about the healthcare system and gained some great experience to help with my degree, but got to visit some amazing places in Kenya. The Masia Mara trip was just unreal."Aaron Leyman , Medical & Health, Kenya
"The kids were so amazing, it was such a heartwarming experience and i'm just really glad that I could help out."Gemma Bracknell , Care Work, Kenya
"What a great project! I am so greatful to have had this opportunity and it is certainly something I will never forget."Suzanne Hart , Care Work, Kenya
"I really enjoyed my time on the Galapagos Islands. This tour is such a great way to see the islands. Everyone I met were so welcoming, and they helped to make this an unforgettable experience. Seeing giant tortoises up close was awesome!"Jocelyn Whitehead , Wildlife & Conservation, Ecuador
"This is was certainly one of the most unique and fulfilling trips I have had. From helping out the kids with learning the game of tennis, to seeing the smiles on their faces, these moments gave me a new light on my career and my way of life."Peter Kung , Sports, Argentina
"The experience of living with other volunteers and students was a great! An unbelievable sports experience! As a football fan I really couldn't imagine a better place to visit."Joseph Berry , Sports, Argentina
"Working in the orphanage with these adorable kids was a great way to do something really good with my time abroad on my gap year. I would recommend it to anyone who is keen to work with children. A magical experience! I cannot wait to go back to Argentina and see how they are all getting on."Jade Garcia , Care Work, Argentina
"I loved this volunteer project in the orphanage in Buenos Aires. So many great kids, who love to play and learn from you. I really enjoyed the cooking lessons in the bakery, and the kids really liked to do face painting and arts, which was really fun, it was great to be able to put smiles on their faces. I will treasure my memories of my trip to Argentina for a long time."Susan Tanner , Care Work, Argentina
"Football coaching in India was awesome - from the day I arrived to the day I left. The people, especially the children, the culture, the food, were all great!! It was an experience that I will never forget!! If you have the opportunity travel and coach sport... especially in India....then just go for it! .... Sanj"Sanjay Thanki , Sports, India