A Guide To Volunteering Abroad in Argentina
Argentina is to travel what Messi is to soccer: simply one of the best. Between the salt flats to the north, sublime mountain ranges to the west, Iguazu Falls to the east, and the end of the world on its southern tip, you could set off in any direction and be on your way to something wonderful. The tango-laden beats of Buenos Aires’s streets will captivate, while the decadence of Mendoza’s vineyards will seduce completely. As a volunteer in Argentina, you'll be poised to exchange your valuable skills for the chance to really discover Argentina´s unbeatable zest for life and all its pleasures.
In the second largest country in South America, and the eighth largest in the world, there is certainly no shortage of volunteer opportunities. From the Andes to the Atlantic, volunteering in Argentina can span a range of climates, landscapes, and cityscapes.
Mendoza has all the flavors of a cosmopolitan city: wide boulevards, leafy squares, a hustle and bustle that turns into a lively buzz at night. What Mendoza is really famous for though, is wine. Deep red vintages, sunshine, and the good life in a bottle, make the perfect reward for hard-working volunteers.
There aren’t enough words in the English language to describe the magic of Buenos Aires. That is motivation enough to learn Spanish, just to see if words like esplendido and radiante can capture it better. As a volunteer in Buenos Aires, you will have ample opportunity to discover the many faces of the city: chasing ghosts in the Recoleta cemetery, snapping photos of the colorful La Boca neighborhood, or getting lost in San Telmo, the oldest barrio of the city.
The old colonial appearance of Córdoba belies the youthful heart the city. A large student population keeps the city hip, the nightlife bumping, and a surprising number of theaters in action. Once the capital of the country, Córdoba may have been bypassed by Buenos Aires in size and fame, but it is still well-deserving of its location at the very center of Argentina.
Bariloche, a town dipping its toes in a glacial lake under the watchful view of the snowcapped Andes, is cut from the fabric that outdoor-lovers dreams are made of. If the wild beauty of the national park surrounding this little enclave isn’t enough to put heart emojis in your eyes, the mountain village vibes from the Swiss alpine architecture and chocolate stores might do the trick.
Argentina is filled with variety; the climate, landscapes, and volunteer opportunities in Argentina all differ wildly from the north to the south. Want to spend your time playing with street kids and hunting down street art in Buenos Aires? No problem. Fancy getting in touch with your wild side while giving the environment some love in Patagonia? No worries. Want to learn how to ride a horse like a gaucho and live off the land? Done.
As one of the more developed nations in Latin America, Argentine society is moving forward very quickly, but there is still a need for volunteers in many community development projects. Volunteers wishing to help struggling communities will find more projects within densely-populated areas, where there is more of a demand for helping hands in childcare, construction, and healthcare.
In a country that produces top-notch steak and vino from lush and fertile farmland, it is only natural that agriculture volunteering in Argentina is also popular. Volunteers seeking the opportunity to learn how to live off the land, and use natural resources sustainably and effectively, will find many viable opportunities to volunteer in Argentina.
If you're feeling a little helpless, because you don't have a degree, trade, or defined profession to speak of, relajate. If you're a native English speaker, then you posses a very valuable skill you can utilize by volunteering in Argentina. Teaching English is an important contribution to the development of Argentina (and a great excuse to play Simon Says and Pictionary).
While your enthusiasm and willingness to work are the main qualifications required to volunteer in Argentina, some placements will also require an intermediate level of Spanish. Even if they don't, consider investing in a dictionary or a phrasebook at the very least, to help you connect better with your Argentinian colleagues (i.e to help you ask them out for a beer) while volunteering in Argentina.
Memories are priceless, but unfortunately volunteering in Argentina is not. Between travel, program fees, and in-country costs, you need to have a little cash to go with your great ambitions in order to become a volunteer in Argentina
Argentina is one of the more expensive countries in Latin America, but it is still a relatively good value. You can buy a burger, take a taxi, and surf the internet all for less than a dollar. The most popular way to travel around the country is by bus, and bus trips are relatively inexpensive, although tend to be marathon-like in length. Volunteers can move through the country with ease, and work on a completely different project in each location, while still keeping to a budget.
Volunteer programs in Argentina usually add up to be a good deal too, with housing, food, airport pick-ups, and all necessary training generally included in program fees. Some opportunities to volunteer in Argentina will even offer language instruction, and (most importantly of all) tango lessons! This means that you’ll essentially be paying for a well-rounded cultural experience, which you might miss out on if you were just traveling through the country.
The great news for volunteers is that there are a lot of people who realise the importance of meaningful travel, and the value of the volunteer programs in Argentina and other similar countries. Just as you are willing to help others, there may be others willing to help you. So, if you are a little stuck financially, consider starting a crowdfunding campaign via FundMyTravel to get your dream of volunteering in Argentina underway.
Taking the leap is a little easier if you know what you are leaping into. Thanks to the all-knowing power of the internet, with a little bit of research, and many hours drooling over Google Images, you can find out pretty much everything you need to know before your plane leaves the ground.
Typical living arrangements for volunteers in Argentina include homestays and group-living. Homestays have the benefit of a little more language and cultural immersion, while living with other volunteers means connecting with fabulous people from all around the globe, who share your world-views and ideals. Urban accommodations come with most creature comforts, so you will be able to connect to the internet and keep Mom updated on what you are doing. Volunteering in Argentina’s more rural areas may involve slightly more rustic accommodation, but still with a decent level of comfort.
Living in a hostel can also be a fun alternative to the homestay setup. Due to the well-established hostel culture in Argentina, there are and abundance of work exchange projects in hostels. Those looking for a more relaxed, social placement can carry out basic duties in hostels in exchange for their board, helping save on accommodation fees as you party backpack your way around Argentina.
Don’t put the cart ahead of the horse though. Before you start worrying about the lack of wifi, start thinking about the visa process that will get you into the country. If you want to volunteer in Argentina on a tourist visa, the process is easy. For most countries, you can just show up at the airport and get a shiny new stamp in your passport. To make sure you are eligible for visa-free entry, check out GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory. While you're there, save yourself any unwelcome surprises at immigration and double-check that your nationality is not one of the unlucky ones that has to pay a reciprocity fee upon entry.
Volunteering isn’t all about giving. In exchange for your hard work, you will get back rewards richer than Mendoza’s wine: long-lasting friendships with the locals. Argentina’s people will embrace you, happily feed you asados and empanadas, get you hooked on mate, teach you all the worst words in Spanish, and make sure you experience the very best of their culture. Straightforward yet warm, unreserved yet tactful, Argentinians are extremely social people, and to say that Argentines like to have a good time is an understatement. You’ll find plenty of fun to get involved with as a volunteer in Argentina.
The biggest challenge you are likely to face as a volunteer in Argentina is understanding Argentine Spanish. While it is technically still Spanish, the language people will be rattling off, while you stare at them blankly, is unlike the Spanish you learned in school. Getting your head (and tongue) around the strange accent and Argentinian flair can be tough, but give it a few weeks and you will be chatting away to your coworkers like a local.
You might be able to hold back your tears for Evita, but you won’t be able to stop crying a river when you finally leave Argentina. With all of the valuable lessons and countless memories you’ll make as a volunteer in Argentina, it will be bittersweet when the day finally comes for your last tango in Buenos Aires.
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