A few days of Volunteering in Buenos Aires with “TECHO”
Are you looking for a volunteer experience in Argentina but you do not have the time to participate in our Spanish and Volunteer Program?Here is an alternative for those who want to do a few days of volunteering in between Spanish classes in Buenos Aires: a weekend of volunteer work with “TECHO”.
TECHO (also known as Un Techo para mi Pais), is a worldwide non-profit organisation that fights extreme poverty in Latin America by constructing transitional housing. TECHO works with over 72,000 volunteers who constructed houses for over 100,000 families in 19 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
I volunteered for Techo last 12 and 13 December in Argentina. I registered for TECHO just a week before the project would start. Immediately I got an e-mail with practical information. I was also asked to take with me:
- A sleeping bag and sleeping pad;
- Construction gloves;
- Clothes to work in (no sandals, no shorts);
- Clothes for during the evening;
- Plate, cup and cutlery;
- Passport and insurance;
- Something to eat for Friday night.
They also asked to make a small donation to cover costs of volunteers. This donation could be anywhere between AR$ 70 and AR$ 140 (depending on the exchange rate, approx. USD$ 15 – USD$ 35).
The e-mail also stated where and at what time we would meet: on Friday 11 December at 20.00 at Colegio Champagnat. A nice detail is that originally we were placed in two different groups. But when we asked whether we could be in the same group, TECHO changed our placements without any problems. Most volunteers were Argentines; not foreigners.
Our volunteering would take place in a neighbourhood called Los Cebros, near Pilar. Upon arrival we unloaded the bus of all the equipment, we had dinner with the whole group and all went to bed early. We were sleeping in a primary school.
On Saturday, TECHO woke us up at 06.30 in the morning. During breakfast we got divided into small groups. With our tools we walked to the construction site. Here we found a family in a very small, self-build, wooden shed. The family consisted out of a couple with a little daughter of 2 years old and a grandmother. We also met the ex-husband of the grandmother, who, together with the husband, helped us to construct the house. The family also owned 5 dogs and 2 chickens, which were walking freely over the terrain.
We started with clearing out a space making the ground as even as possible. For the foundation, we had to put 15 wooden poles for 60% into the ground. This was a though job, considering that all poles had to be at the same height level and there should be a certain amount of centimetres between the poles. Before lunch, we had only done 7 poles.
For lunch, TECHO had given us spaghetti and pasta sauce to donate to the family, as they would prepare the lunch. So we had spaghetti with chicken. When I sat down, I immediately noticed how hard the morning had been. The temperature was around 34 degrees Celsius and very humid.
After lunch we went on with the rest of the poles. At the end of the day, we had only done 14 and I was exhausted. We got our tools and went back to the school where we slept. There we had dinner and went to bed early.
The next day we got woken up at 06.30 again. Today we had one volunteer extra. We started with finishing the foundation and levelling everything out. When that was done, we started putting a frame on the poles for the floor, that consisted out of three pre-built pieces. After the floor we continued with the walls. There were six of them and , just as the floor, pre-built.
Today TECHO had given us rice and tomato sauce for lunch. But the family decided not to use this and prepared us a delicious typical Argentine asado. Today, the whole family was complete and we got the chance to meet all the family members. After this amazing lunch, we finished the walls, and after the walls, the roof, the door and the windows. The roof was a though job, because it consisted out of metal plates, which had to be attached to the frame of the house. Keep in mind that on Sunday it was about 32 degrees Celsius as well.
When the house was finished, we put a piece of lint in front of the door and the family had the opportunity to officially open their new house. We took photos, went inside and had a few drinks. The family was very happy with their new place!
Overall this was an unforgettable, amazing experience. The family was really kind and the volunteers were amazing. Although the first day was really hard, I would definitely recommend this short term volunteer experience to anyone because the results are amazing!