Saturday, March 29, 2008

An Ode to the Volunteers

The past few days have confirmed the fact that this project will continue after we leave solely because of one reason: our volunteers. With time, we’ve noticed that each week brings a new development: the first week we focused on finding students, the second week on finding supplies and materials, the third week on solidifying a stable group of students, and the fourth week on American volunteers. The ad we posted on Craig’s List has brought an overwhelming influx of emails into our inboxes—we have had over 40 responses of those who want to volunteer for us, and of those 40, at least 25 have already started. It has become an amazing place for the kids to rush to after school ends each day, and equally as fun for volunteers to hang out with one another. In fact, Thursday night we had a volunteer gathering at our apartment that lasted until 3 a.m.! The volunteers who have come to us through either ads or by word of mouth seem to have so much in common --- four of the new volunteers are actually fellow alumni from neighboring colleges of Bates (Connecticut College grads and one Williams grad). It really feels like such a small world, even though we are thousands of miles from home.
One of the most amazing things about Buenos Aires is the people that pass through. As a city that tops the charts for international tourism, we’ve noticed that it has become a “fad” for many college grads to move down here during times of transition. There are quite a few who are here “killing time” before law school, medical school, or fall employment start dates—and we have been fortunate enough to have such an educated and capable group of volunteers as there is such a high rate of skilled members of the workforce down here! Because of this, we have had musicians, theater professionals, artists, dancers, soccer coaches, and English teachers drop by during their free time (and with traveler’s schedules, many of them have extremely flexible and generous hours). It is such a talented group that whenever any child has a request for a specific type of activity, we are almost certain that there will be a volunteer with experience in that area to lead a class.
By talking to so many of our volunteers, we’ve realized that Club Acorn has filled a space that was lacking in Buenos Aires. So many people pass through who want to be involved in a volunteer program, but find no place to go. Many of the other volunteer groups here in Buenos Aires require volunteers to pay, while other organizations that are free of charge for volunteers are often criticized for their poor management and handout/charity mentality. As time has passed, Sara and I have realized that we founded Club Acorn for that very reason—we were looking for a place like this but couldn’t find it, so we created it ourselves.

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