I've finally figured out a volunteer schedule for my time left in Buenos Aires. The organization I'm working with is called LIFE, which stands for ' Luchemos para Infancia Feliz con Esperanza' or ' We fight together for happy childhoods filled with hope'. The group goes into the different villas of Buenos Aires that are so dangerous they remain unserved by other charities. These are unofficial neighborhoods made of shacks and dirt paths, frequently identified only by a number for the region of the city they occupy.
Once a month, LIFE hosts a giant birthday party for every child who celebrates their birthday that month. I spent Wednesday morning slicing giant day-old birthday cakes into layer cakes and spreading cream and dulce-de-leche in between the layers. We added powdered milk to the dulce to give it a little nutritional boost. I had to run to class but it was great to finally help out a little bit.
On Thursday after class I was picked up for my first volunteer session out in the field. Its been difficult to coordinate shifts, because the vans with volunteers head to the villas at 3:30pm, while I finish class at 4:00. It worked perfectly to get picked up and head out to the highway with the group. We were dropped off around 4:30 and I was joined by four girls to wait for our 'contact' person. I felt relatively safe there, but we had to be escorted through the villa by a local so as not to cause any trouble with people in the neighborhood. It was also a crazy maze of dirt paths and alleys, so I doubt we would have been able to find the Comedor! We were at a comedor - literally 'feeding place' called Horas Felizes. Every day at 4:30, LIFE goes in to this place with a big box of ... worksheets!! It was a throwback to Twin Lakes Mom would have been very proud of. We did math worksheets with little kids for an hour and a half!
These kids were adorable despite being hungry, dirty and very, very cold. I was in layers AND a winter coat and was very cold in the unheated building, and the little chicos were all in short sleeves and flip flops. The Comedor served food to the community at 5:00PM. Out of nowhere almost 30 kids ran in for a snack- plain bread and hot tea. It was a sight to see, but we just kept helping with worksheets! Pablo,9 and Hernan,6 were my favorites and we added and subtracted our hearts out for an hour. Pablo reminded my of myself and got very frustrated when he couldn't read some of the 'big words. After everyone finished a few worksheets, we pulled out the arts and crafts. We helped make signs for Father's Day. 'Feliz dia de papa'. It was a humbling day and I can't wait to go out again.
One interesting thing about the neighborhood - its marked by an abandoned hospital. Peron started a giant military hospital that was abandoned during the regime change. The skeleton of the building towers over the villas. Really glad to be seeing a different side of this city!
Ciao - Tess