Villa 21 is a large unstable housing settlement South of Buenos Aires. It mostly lacks paved roads and sewerage; many houses are made of perishable materials and have no running water or drainage. The neighborhood faces serious health problems, as it is located on the creek that divides the capital city of the province, and is highly contaminated, causing respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases that primarily affect children. The soup kitchen is visited by approximately 50 people from the neighborhood for lunch every day. The space is also available to support teenagers when there are volunteer teachers willing to help them.
The support from social organizations is fundamental in this very poor neighborhood, mainly because its precarious situation affects families that need to face a lack of infrastructures and serious problems of public sanitation. Indeed, many families live in houses where they have problems with light and where they don't have running water nor a drainage system, in an area which has huge weaknesses in terms of sewer systems and road pavements. Moreover, it is located near a river which is highly contaminated by the chemicals released by nearby factories, and this generates respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases that mainly affect the children. Although faced with this situation, people don't receive any help from the government to improve their standards of living that are now miserable and harmful to their health. There are some housing construction projects in the works but they are slow-coming and displacing the inhabitants that are the most affected by the contamination of the river. In addition to this precariousness, today, ambulances refuse to come into the area.
Why is this project important for the community?
The soup kitchen cooks for the kindergarten and the people from the town. Thus, this organization is based on working with families and children from first to seventh grade, supporting them in their growing and development process, with a team of professionals and social workers. This Community Center was founded in 1994 and began as a soup kitchen until it expanded into a kindergarten with the help of the mothers from the area.
The main goal of the Community Center is to offer the children's families a place of education and integral support. Moreover, the kitchen and center help to compensate these families’ economic situation. It is a place of exchange between teachers, social workers, parents and volunteers from the area and from Voluntario Global that work together for the safe upbringing of the children. It is also a place where the unemployed women from the area are able to have training sessions that take place periodically with professionals.
Role of the Volunteer
From 7:00 am to 2:00 pm, the kitchen prepares breakfast and lunch for the kids in the kindergarten and it also prepares food for the community members. The volunteer will be able to help in many tasks such as assist the women in the kitchen by washing and cutting vegetables, preparing the dessert for the children and help in the cleaning process after everything is served.
What do you learn as a volunteer?
When helping at the Soup Kitchen, you learn to appreciate the value of the small things, how to truly connect with people and the power that these relationships can have on your life and the lives of others, on the communities and the future. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what language you speak, what kind of house you live in or what kind of job you have. In the end, we are all human and we get so mixed up in focussing on other unimportant aspects that we forget that deep down we’re all the same. You will realise that even the smallest thing you do, can make someone else's day.
How does your work impact on the community?
Your help is invaluable for the workers and for the community members because this center is an integral part of their everyday life. Furthermore, the ladies and workers would not be able to participate in this cultural exchange if there aren’t any volunteers willing to help. The women also love helping the volunteers learn a bit of Spanish because they are like family to them. Here, the volunteer can learn so much about the Argentinian culture and see how many traditional dishes are prepared. It’s a place where you can completely feel the support of a community and you never leave the kitchen without a smile on your face.