Volunteer Abroad: House of Angels

Img_31411By Reza R., Guest Blogger and Volunteer Abroad participant in Buenos Aires, Argentina

I remember vividly the first day that I started my work at the orphanage. I was accompanied by Maria, who is the project coordinator from the school for all the international volunteers and interns working in Buenos Aires. It was a 1.5 hour commute from the center of city. We had to first take the subte (metro), and then a train to the Provincia (outskirts of the city). It was a much anticipated visit. After all, I had been in Buenos Aires for over a month now, studied as much Spanish as I possibly could, and now I was able to carry a simple conversation. I was ready to begin!

On the way to the orphanage, I remember I was bombarding Maria with lots of questions about the orphanage…

  • How many kids are there? 13 kids
  • Boys or girls? 10 boys, and 3 girls
  • How old are they? From 2 to 12 years old
  • What happened to their parents? Some have passed away, some just didn’t have the capacity to take care of them, some kids were taken away from their parents because of drugs, violence and abuse.
  • How long do they live there? As long as they have to until someone adopts them! Sometimes they live until they are eighteen years-old to be on their own, sometimes they get adopted after a couple of years.
  • Are they all HIV positive?  No, at this orphanage they are not; the kids with HIV live at another house (I was a bit disappointed to find out at first that I didn’t get to work with them).
  • What will I exactly be doing there? I'll meet the director, and she will tell me everything.
  • Why is the orphanage so far?? Because rent is cheaper outside of the city!
  • And how does the orphanage get the funding it needs to support them? The government helps a bit; sometimes they get donations from regular people; sometimes some companies offer them money, etc.

I didn’t quite understand all her answers, but I listened pretty intently! Apparently, the staff there were also eagerly anticipating my arrival as the personnel including the volunteers were all women, and 90% of the orphans were in fact boys. Boys from the ages of two to ten years old. Hence, they much appreciated a male volunteer who could play with the kids, and perhaps help them calm down a bit. By the way, I am not suggesting that the women couldn’t do that! The women in fact did a fabulous job. However, sometimes boys relate to boys better if you know what I mean.

After a short walk from the train station through the quiet alleys in Beccar neighborhood, we found ourselves in front of the orphanage. It is a very modest looking house with a metal, sliding, garage-style gate at the entrance. I peaked thru the gate to see how it is like inside. I could see the kids sitting around the table and having lunch. This was it! I was a bit nervous, and also excited at the same time.

As we rung the bell, there ran five or six children towards the gate to open the door. Some were looking at us with a curious expression, and others laughing, just happy to see a new visitor. We quickly found out from the on-board manager that the director wasn’t there (not really surprised by now). We were asked to come in, and hang out until she would arrive sometime later. Within a matter of minutes, I found myself being climbed up by a couple of young boys no more than 5 years old, a couple trying to take off my t-shirt, and others pulling on my back-pack to see what’s in it! This wasn’t what I expected!


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