Kids In Need!


Jun 18, 2005
When you've walked around your neighborhood, wherever that is in argentina, you can't help but notice the kids working as cartoneros (the underclass who go through the trash collecting what they can either use or sell). Ive been helping 4 brothers for several years and even helped them out cartoneroing several times. Those bags are heavy!
What you may not know is that many are just normal kids who will be starting the school year in a few weeks. You can imagine the type of home etc where they live. And theres a simple, safe way you can help!!
Sometimes its hard to know where to help and if you give money to a group etc, to know how your money will be used. But it really easy to find one of these kids working in your neighborhood and make a difference by giving them a backpack full of the school supplies they will need and lack right into their hands. I see the same kids all the time in my neighborhood, sometimes working in pairs or alone and sometimes with a parent.
They will need: a backpack, pencils, pens in a variety of colors, some erasers, a pencil sharpener, some notebooks, 2 packs of 3 ringed notebook paper (one with lines, the other with squares. i would buy the good quality brand called Exito and suggest 400 pages in each pack). Any of your argentine friends can tell you what a student needs.
I cant stress enough what a difference it will make for these kids to show up in their school with a new backpack (versus the crummy cheap one theyve been using) and have enough notebook paper and pens etc.
I visited someone recently in upscale Palermo. When i was walking to the subway afterwards around 5pm or so, i was waiting to cross the street 2 blocks away and a kid around 14 goes by slowly with his big cart loaded up, we looked at each other as he passed. Id describe his look as shame. Im sure hes starting school soon, im sure he is in need.
You can find a kid like that as well, on your own, without going through a 3rd party. It didnt take me anytime at all to find one in palermo.
What i suggest is when you walk around this time of day (late afternoon and early evening), you can talk to a few cartoneros you see. maybe ask them what kind of stuff they are collecting or say you might have some stuff you dont need maybe they could use it etc. I bet youll find a good candidate quickly. Ask your portero, because they often have contact with them. Just find an excuse to chat a few up and when you get a friendly response back or a kid tugs at your heart, then youll know thats the one.
Find a kid (id suggest 16 or under) and after talking once or twice tell them you have some stuff you dont need and they should ring your bell. they will and then youll hand them the backpack. simple and safe.
(Note: I could tell you more about how these people live and how ive been a witness to how most argentines treat them. Most argentines would tell you, youre crazy to have any contact with them at all. Dont do it, they will plead! they are basically untouchables to most argentines.)
Yet, I want to stay on topic and not go off on any tangents. Id be glad to tell anyone about my own experience with the 4 kids that ive been helping in a private email, because i dont want to distract from my important message today, which is there is a simple, one time only if you wish, way to help and make a difference to a child in need. Everyone is free to do what they wish according to their own conscience.
I hope everyone out there who can help, choses to do so. Just buy the school supplies and throw in some socks or whatever you want in the backpack, and when you find a candidate just give it to them. Youll make a difference.
Kudos to JG!
I don't often post anything to this web site; primarily because most posters get completely off topic and whine about their experiences living in Argentina. Sorry, JG, but from reading most of your posts I've felt compelled to respond that you seek medication because in the past you've seemed so angry. However, this time you are making a big, positive post about something that is very important and easy to do. I also support your suggestion that you talk with your portero, (for those of you living in buildings that have them), about children and teens whose lives will be dramatically changed by the donation of school supplies.
I might add that it doesn't hurt to discretely hand a 5 or 10 peso note to a young cartinero you may see sleeping on the sidewalk before his or her work evening begins. I've yet to be stalked for more handouts by any of the children and families in the early evenings when I've randomly given money.
As for getting a good price on backpacks, (mochillas), paper, pens, etc., hop on a bus that goes to Plaza Once, (it seems that most do), and experience a non-Palermo/Recoleta/Barrio Norte/Microcentro/San Telmo part of town. In Plaza Once most store owners and street vendors will give you better pricing when you buy three or more backpacks. You might even consider throwing in a 10-15 Peso wristwatch, too. Along Libertad there are many small stores that will sell you 4 or more inexpensive digital watches for 10 Pesos each as long as you buy several. If you buy just one, it will cost you 35 Pesos, so why not buy 4 and get the discount?
Again, I applaud JG's suggestion as being one of the most direct ways to help the poor in this country without worrying if you're being "taken." It's pleasant to finally read a post that isn't self-serving or just some expat's venting frustration about something he or she has no control, i.e. smoking, traffic, or how many Argentine economists it takes to dance on the head of an imaginary pin.
JG...loved your post and you are to be commended for your altruism. I've never trusted the mainstream "so-called-Charity-Groups" as there is so much graft and corruption even here in the U.S. which results in the intended beneficiaries not receiving the help. Expats, by taking JG's advice, you can directly help some deserving kid and make a real difference in their lives. With direct charity comes a responsibility also from the recipient. I wish I were there in BsAs so I could implement this wonderful idea.
JG is absolutely right: a backpack of school supplies would be a great help to a needy child in BA - and there are many thousands who lack the basics. I'm aware of projects going on in poor neighborhoods, especially the "villas" or shantytowns in and around Buenos Aires. Do expats have any pesonal experience with these and specific contact information with groups who need volunteers or money? This is surely an area in which there should be expat involement.
I've been involved with an organization called Voluntario Global since the beginning of September. We are working both in La Boca and in Villa Soldati (Villa #3). Most of my work is in the shantytown in Soldati. I am volunteering about 3 days per week in the barrio and doing some other administrative work for them. The kids we work with here are great. Most are immigrants from Bolivia and Paraguay and actually working inside a shantytown has been a very enlightening experience for me. Obviously, we are always looking for volunteers. You can go to our website at for more info. Or if you would like to donate school supplies, clothing, etc., I live in Recoleta and would be more than happy to bring your donations out with me. Any questions, please let me know!
I have become a cynical person over the years and gave up on most of my beliefs and ideas. But there are two which I am unwilling to abandon - environment and children in need. I have been helping about 12 kids in the Philippines in terms of school supplies and tuition fee coverage. This has been the most satisfying thing I have done in my entire life. I can only encourage others to contribute in a similar fashion, whether it concerns the poor class kids in Africa, Asia or South America. I look forward to getting myself engaged once and when I get down to BA. So, way to go JG.
I would advise against giving money. Many times criminals have children working (begging) for them and the money is later turned over to them.School supplies is a good idea, food, clothing...nessesities. That's a better way. Also you don't need to give through an agency. I myself don't trust most of them. Seems like there is always some rich cats at the top of them. You can walk into any public school yourself and give supplies. Same is true for orphanages with footballs, clothing and so on. This way you know what you give is actually given.

JG your absolutely right about the upper class of Argentina and how they view the poor. To them they are "negro de mierda" y nada mas. Many are absolutely terrified of the poor. I constantly remind them, because someone is poor doesn't mean they are a killer. But you do have to be careful. However to say "most Argentines" feel like this is wrong. Most Argentines ARE the poor, it's just kept real quiet like.
Interesting post and a great cause to help a person in need . I will do my best to help people who are not so fortunate as me and I do beleive individual help donated in food clothes educational needs is the best way.
Unfortunately Argentina does turn a blind eye to the poor and caterogises the people unfairly. Poverty is in most cases is through no fault of the victim just circumstances that create an underclass .
People helping and caring for others creates a happier planet