Where have You Volunteered?

bradlyhale

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I think most of the volunteer organizations here in the city are a joke.

Last year I signed up for a program to "teach English." I was under the impression that I was going to come here for two months and voluntarily teach English to kids in a school of some sort. Well, that never happened. Instead, the organization placed me with LIFE, where most of the volunteers are nothing but glorified babysitters.

I paid $1600 USD for 2 months of volunteering. That included my housing in a student residence, as well as all the volunteering I wanted for two months. At the time, it didn't seem like a bad price. After living here for several months, I realize how criminal that is. I could have done what I did for half that price. These organizations that serve as intermediaries are the people taking advantage of others.

I think LIFE is a good organization. The $20 ARG is more like a donation than anything else. They have to pay for a driver, the gas, the supplies, etc. Are the "volunteers" effective? It depends on how you look at it. No, most can't speak a lick of Spanish, so it's not like they can really work with the kids. However, a lot of the kids hang around the volunteers, so it keeps them off the streets for a few hours, if anything.

Sometimes the volunteers not speaking Spanish is a good thing. I was utterly horrified one time when this one young boy asked a volunteer from France why he wore women's clothing. Thank goodness he didn't understand because that would have been really awkward. :eek:

While being part-time effective and part-time babysitter wasn't what I wanted to do, it really gave me some perspective on things. Perhaps the most defining moment for me was when a woman came up to me and asked for math worksheets...for herself. She was easily in her 30s. We're always taught that if you work hard, you'll go places. You know, that ever so elusive "American Dream"? But if people can't do basic math, how can they even function in the most basic jobs? For me, the "wannabe sociologist," it was a pretty significant moment. Obviously, she's not the only one who is in this position. It's just so depressing how so many people are being left behind and how so few people care.
 

Mazelliott

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I agree with your point about agencies that charge a huge commission and just pass you on to another organisation that works directly with local organisations and community projects – it blows my mind that such middle men can exist and that people pay them huge sums to volunteer and none of that money goes to the local projects they will be working with. But Voluntario Global isn’t a company, and doesn’t operate as an agency in this way. It’s a not-for-profit that works directly with and alongside local organisations, creating employment opportunities (it employs local volunteer co-ordinators from the villas) and arranging for volunteers to work in schools, orphanages, community centres, a centre for children with HIV etc. You can tell what they’re all about from day one, when you meet the local coordinators, visit the projects etc.

65% of the donation that you pay to VG goes straight to the projects you work with so you’re not actually paying to volunteer, you’re making a donation to the school or community centre or whatever project you’re volunteering in. The rest of it goes to the organisation which of course has administrative expenses and needs to work to continue to attract more volunteers so that they can make more donations and help more projects. It’s the only income the organisation receives and there’s no “profit” being made anywhere. I’ve had nothing but good experiences volunteering with Voluntario Global, the team is great and they really do do some great work directly in the community.
 

cellyham

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Hiya everyone,

I work for Idealist.org, and we are in the middle of a new project that aims to connect expats with free and/or low cost (like, $10) opportunities for involvement.

If you check out this little site we made (yes, I know. It's kind of barebones right now, and not all that pretty. But it's a great place to store this information.), you'll find a list of organizations who don't charge to volunteer.

Also, we have a section about the nonprofit sector in Argentina, which might help you understand things here a bit better.

Furthermore, we've recently started a new blog which is all about volunteering and doing good in Latin America. While it's not limited to Argentina (although we do currently have a Buenos Aires-based writer), some of the posts may help you out in your search or provide extra support. You can check it out here: http://lavidaidealist.org/

We're going to be hosting an event in early to mid-November addressing this theme, so be on the lookout for updates.

Hope this helps.

Thanks!
Celeste
 

cellyham

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Oh, and check out Voluntarios Sin Fronteras. They are a great org which helps connect both locals and foreigners to nonprofits here. And they are a completely volunteer-run organization, and do not charge one cent for their service.

You can find more information out about the projects here.

They have more projects than are listed, so definitely get in touch if you're interested.
 

JHB1216

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It might just be me being new to the big city life but I am learning to suspect anyone that is asking for money. The thought of people using people's good intentions to help the less fortunate is beyond sad to me. Then to think that some of these organizations are self sustaining businesses.

It reminds me of some of the churches in my past that were intent on collecting as much money as they could. Their reason for collecting the money was to build a bigger and better church. This is all well and good but the money would have been better spent providing food and shelter to the truly needy.

Just seems to me that the more people between me and a good deed that I want to do has the tendency to diminish the benefit to the one truly in need. Maybe I am better off donating my money to the unfortunate souls that are living their lives day to day in the streets then helping finance someones annual income in attracting tourists to see the villas on a pay per view basis.

I will keep looking through these posts for the organization that can do the most with what I have to give.
 

Moxon

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you’re not actually paying to volunteer, you’re making a donation to the school or community centre or whatever project you’re volunteering in.

No, you are paying to volunteer as the 'donation' is compulsory regardless of the value of your donated skills. I'd be interested to know what proportion of Voluntario Global's expenses are in foreign currency seeing as they charge in US dollars.
 
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