Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Progress at Crecer con Amor, Second Addition Almost Done

As you have seen in previous blog entries, Crecer con Amor is having a busy 2008. Two volunteers, Charlotte Demole and Briar Loewen, organized events and raised donations that contributed to the construction of a new classroom at Crecer for the 4 and 5 year olds (blog entries in February and March 2008).

As mentioned as well earlier, a former volunteer, Tammy Chen, enlisted her uncle, Amine Darrous, from New York; in a campaign to build a second floor addition to Crecer con Amor. As you can see, the project is progressing rapidly. The space will allow for three new classrooms to be created for the 6-12 year old students of the center. This is great news because it allows for increased privacy for each age-group to work (before they shared an open space) as well as the former classrooms located downstairs at the center will be converted into a new space for cultural activities, workshops, and even training programs.

The director, Jacqueline Marquez, was all smiles when I visited last week, as I often do. She is excited about the changes, working hard to keep things moving (inflation and labor is sometimes inhibiting), and imagining what it will be like with more space to work with the surrounding community.

As I often reiterate, the small efforts by former volunteers as Social Ambassadors and other friends of these Argentine organizations, goes a long way toward empowering communities to respond to their citizens and young people. Though just a small building project, the completion of this new addition to Crecer con Amor will help the organization receive an increasing amount of young students while continuing to build and support their individual development. They are the future of Argentina, as Jacqueline would say.

English Women's Rugby team volunteers in Argentina

18 Women Rugby players descended on Buenos Aires in early June 2008 for four days of volunteering with Virreyes Rugby club, located outside the capital in the district of San Fernando, Greater Buenos Aires. Virreyes Rugby club works in close collaboration with the Mother Teresa school. The school was founded to provide much-needed educational support and contention for the growing poulation of young people from the neighboring low income community. Founded by professional ex-rugby players, Virreyes teaches rugby to young people as well as organizing workshops and tournaments.

After the school year ended, this London-based Women's Rugby club contacted HelpArgentina. They wanted to travel together to South America to participate in group volunteer work, preferably with Rugby. HelpArgentina organized over the course of four full days that the team would volunteer at the local school in the morning and play rugby with the kids in the afternoons. Though they were able to volunteer only a short time; their days were nevertheless full, the weather cooperated, and more than one hundred energetic kids ran circles around the women's rugby team and vice versa.

During the final day of volunteering, I accompanied the group. In the morning, they worked with one of the professors at the Mother Teresa school to make a collage with pictures and artistic designs for the children as a gift from the group to the school. During the afternoon, the rugby club organized a round-robin tournament where the women rugby players/volunteers coached and played rugby with the kids.

It was a wonderful experience for all parties. The kids presented the volunteers with "thank you" cards that they had written and the women's rugby team posed for numerous photos to close out the day.

Already feeling part of the community, these women athletes were invited to a traditional Argentine barbecue (asado) with the staff of the Virreyes club on Saturday and concluded what was a short, but very rewarding experience for everyone involved.