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 simply doesn’t have another place to stay yet”
This phrase was the response that one of the Catholic Fathers that run the “Hogar del Migrante”, a home for migrants and refugees in Mendoza, gave me when I first asked him about which people may live in their residence. Suchlike have been rarely heard across Europe since Angela Merkel’s famous “Wir schaffen das” speech three years ago, though in Argentina the climate still appears to be much more welcoming towards people that have fled from facing unbearable conditions elsewhere.
How this attitude might change once the ever-worsening economic situation in Venezuela pushes more and more migrants beyond its direct neighbour countries towards Argentina remains to be seen. 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.
So many different countries: Global Village of AIESEC Mendoza
My Volunteer Project
Being quite new to AIESEC and its goals and purposes, I got to know AIESEC as an organisation which organises 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 of course wanted to make a positive impact on the local community and help wherever I could to improve the situation of the people that I would work with, 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. Being the first AIESEC volunteers at our immigrant shelter, I, together with other volunteers, coming from Brazil and Colombia, 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 help is always needed in the shelter, operating without any governmental support.
With one of the other volunteers, having a great talent for video editing, we were able to make the website and social media accounts look more attractive. Next to that, we also helped organising cultural events in the shelter and even motivated some of its people to participate in AIESEC’s Global Village.
Parade after a Catholic service for the Bolivian community
in Mendoza, supported by the “Hogar del Migrante”.
AIESEC in Mendoza’s Impact
However, the help of AIESEC in Mendoza 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.
Having fun at our weekly volunteer meetings.
Considering that all these volunteers need to be accommodated and cared for, the work of the people of the local AIESEC committee in Mendoza cannot be valued high enough, with some AIESEC members hosting up to 4 volunteers in an apartment that many spoiled Maastricht students would barely consider large enough for just themselves and others encouraging family members like parents and grandparents to host volunteers.
All this comes with no monetary compensation in a country whose inflation has driven the price level to standards ridiculously high compared to what people earn.
Exploring the “Alta Montaña” of the Andes!
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 could also have a truly positive impact on the local community and help where help was actually needed. For that, I just want to give the credit to AIESEC Mendoza and its amazing people and say thank you very much once again. They are living to the full what AIESEC as an organisation is really all about.