A brief story of my experience volunteering for AIESEC in Mendoza, Argentina this summer. And how the work of the local committee there provides an encouraging example to all of us
“Our place is open to anyone that is seeking refuge in our city and can’t afford or doesn’t have another place to stay”
This phrase was the response that one of the Catholic Fathers that runs the “Hogar del Migrante” gave me when I first asked him about which people may live in their residence. The “Hogar del Migrante” is a home for migrants and refugees in Mendoza, Argentina. Suchlike have been rarely heard across Europe since Angela Merkel’s famous “Wir schaffen das” speech three years ago. In Argentina though, the climate still appears to be much more welcoming towards people that have fled their countries.
For now it remains unclear, how this attitude might change over time. For example, once the ever-worsening economic situation in Venezuela pushes more migrants beyond its direct neighbors towards Argentina. However, the warm and welcoming nature I experienced in the “Hogar del Migrante”, in which I worked for six weeks as an AIESEC volunteer, was a pleasant characteristic of nearly all people I met during my time in Argentina.
My Volunteer Project
Being quite new to AIESEC and its goals and purposes, I got to know AIESEC as an organization which organizes internships and intercultural exchanges worldwide. Similar to what I knew from when I went on a student exchange during High School. Applying for a Global Volunteer project with AIESEC, I wanted to make a positive impact on the local community. My goal was to help wherever I could to improve the situation of the people that I would work with. In this case more specifically the immigrants in Mendoza.
However, I had never imagined the scale at which AIESEC can have an impact on such a wide range of societal issues like it was the case in Mendoza. I arrived at the immigrant shelter as the first AIESEC volunteer together with other volunteers, coming from Brazil and Colombia. We set up the first website for the institution as well as several social media accounts in order to get its name “out there”. This was crucial as the shelter always needs help, after operating without any governmental support.
One other volunteer, talented in video editing, we managed to make the website and social media accounts more attractive. Next to that, we also helped organizing cultural events in the shelter. We even motivated some of its people to participate in AIESEC’s Global Village.
AIESEC in Mendoza’s Impact
However, AIESEC in Mendozas help is not solely restricted to the city’s immigrants but goes much further, with projects ranging from educational projects for children of many different ages to even providing help to the dogs in the street. To keep all these projects going, a considerable number of volunteers are coming to Mendoza each year. With volunteers being in the city all year round and at peak times rising to numbers of up to 70 people at once.
Considering that all these volunteers need accommodation and support, I couldn’t value the work of the people of the local AIESEC committee in Mendoza high enough. Some AIESEC members hosted up to 4 volunteers in an apartment that many spoiled Maastricht students would barely consider large enough for just themselves. Others encouraged family members like parents and grandparents to host volunteers.
All this comes with no monetary compensation in a country whose inflation has made prizes skyrocket. Even up to standards, so ridiculously high people can’t afford to live properly compared to what they earn.
So, next to having a great time with all the other volunteers and AIESEC members in Mendoza, going out partying or gathering in the city nearly every day, the other volunteers and I truly had a positive impact. Within the local community we helped where they needed it most. For that, I just want to give the credit to AIESEC Mendoza and its amazing people. The only thing left for me to do is say thank you very much once again. They are living to the full what AIESEC as an organisation is really all about.
This post was written by Fabian Biermann. Fabian went on a Global Volunteer project powered by AIESEC in the Netherlands. We offer international volunteering projects and professional internships with the aim of developing leadership in youth.