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Acting Director of Service-Learning
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Argentina: Spring Break '10
Twelve students and staff member Felicity Keeley '09, arrived in Buenos Aires just in time to see the sunrise. After taking a quick nap on the floor of our housing for the week at Los Patios de Montserrat while their rooms were being prepared, they braved the colorful city streets to explore the city's capital. They later met with the organization they were volunteering with, L.I.F.E. where they learned about the socio-economic issues that the young people they worked with would be dealing with.
For the first four days, the volunteers created art projects to engage and entertain the children aged 3 to 13. They volunteered in areas of Buenos Aires known as "villa miseria". Villa miseries also known as villas are settlements consisting of small houses or shacks made of tin, wood, and/or other materials (whatever can be found). The streets are usually not paved - narrow internal passages may communicate the different parts. The villas miseria have no sanitation system, though there may be water pipes passing through the settlement. Electric power is sometimes taken directly from the grid using illegal connections.
The Eckerd group helped the kids paint, use glitter, make bunny masks, and tissue paper designs. They also cooked for the children, served them food, and created a mural. The Eckerd students learned from the children too, as they would paint different objects and the children would label them in Spanish, teaching some of the non-spanish speakers the meaning of "mariposa", "silla", "conejo", and "gafas".
The last day in Buenos Aires the group volunteered at La JUEGOTECA de la Esquina de la Iglesia "El Buen Pastor", which in English means: The JUEGOTECA of the Corner of the Church "The Good Shepherd". It was this volunteer experience that summed up the entire week and made everything worth while. The children there have basically nothing. The basketball hoop they do have isn't functional, and the ball they have was flat. One of the volunteers used her own money to go out and buy the children a few balls. The day there was spent painting with the children, playing with them, and playing volleyball with the mothers. The Eckerd volunteers ended the day by teaching the children "Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" in English. To show their thanks the children and their mothers shared delicious dolce de leche and bread, making it a truly memorable Argentinean experience.
On Easter Sunday the group strolled leisurely through Recoleta to see Evita Peron's grave and San Telmo to see the artists and their work. They flew back to Florida later that night, exhausted, but happy and thankful for a week well spent.