On the second weekend of my program, I had an option to stay in Buenos Aires, do independent travel, or participate in a volunteer project with an organization called Techo. Techo means roof in Spanish. Since I was able to make this trip possible through scholarships and grants, I thought the most virtuous thing to do was volunteer. It’s always good in life to give back, after all that we are given. Techo is an organization, that spans across Latin America, working to improve the lives of many who are in poverty within informal settlements. While focusing on community development, Techo’s goal is to build a more just society, without poverty, where everyone has the opportunity to develop their abilities and exercise their rights. One of the programs within Techo works to give a stable shelter for those who are in need.
On Friday night, I went to the meeting spot for Techo. There were so many young volunteers, which I thought was amazing. I got in my corresponding group, and eventually boarded the bus which headed to the suburbs of Buenos Aires. Throughout the whole experience, these were the key things I learned:
- Teamwork is vital to success
- Always be grateful for what you have
- Giving back leads to fulfillment
In working with a group, to meet the objective of building the house, I learned that being able to work as a team is what will leads to productivity and success. One person could not have done it alone, it took a team. Within this aspect of teamwork, I noticed a big difference in volunteering here as opposed to in the US. The captain within our group never laid any ground rules in terms of who does what, and instruction. It’s like he knew that everybody already knew what their role was within the team. People here take more initiative in giving a helping hand and doing their part the collective work. In the US, I see things I bit more differently. Individual people won’t take that much initiative in a collective effort, and usually need to be directed as far as their role within the group. I think this all goes back the cultural values in Argentina, and also Latin America, in that its characterized by collectivism rather than individualism. It’s more about what can I do for the community rather than what can I do for myself.
Due to this experience, it made me more grateful for what I have at home. Seeing the conditions that some people live in makes me truly value the things that I have taken for granted. The size of the house we built was just about the size of my living room at home. In addition, the house was not equipped with lights, air conditioning, or heat. It was just four walls, a floor and a roof. Yet, as simple as it was, the family for whom we built it for was very grateful, something which many people in the US don’t feel. The US has become such a materialistic country that it sometimes sickens me to think about it. It’s time that we, as a country, look out the window and stop complaining about what we could have when what we have is what some dream of.
This leads to the last aspect I will talk about which is about the fulfillment in giving back. There is no other better feeling in this world than to help someone. People always want to receive, but we should make more of an effort in giving. I will never forget how happy the family was for the house. There is nothing more gratifying than knowing you took part in making something that will make someone’s life easier.