Setting out to travel abroad with your family can be a daunting prospect for both parents and children alike, but the Richardsons from New Zealand took the leap and set off on a very special kind of holiday. A voliday: [noun] an opportunity to give yourself a break and to give back. The family of four spent 6 weeks volunteering together in Argentina and had a remarkable impact. The family of four spearheaded the complete overhaul of an under-funded, under-resourced childcare center, in the Argentina program base of Villa Allende, Córdoba.
They identified a need for help at a childcare center which is used by children from 27 different families. Here the children play, learn, share meals, and are kept off the streets at night.
Through their incredible independent fundraising efforts, the volunteers were able to meet their own goals for the project and the center, dubbed “Minions”, underwent a transformation of superhuman proportions. Many of the volunteers on the Argentina program opted to switch from their original choices in order to assist on the special “Minions” project. Other volunteers even worked double-shifts in order to help out. Volunteers painted, paved, cleaned, and constructed - after all many hands make light work!
Despite some initial setbacks, when rain storms managed to flood their progress, the volunteers banded together with the local community and everyone got involved – the children, parents and even grandparents. Together they became nothing less than a force to be reckoned with. Old tree trunks were used to form a retaining wall, drains were cleared to prevent future flooding, and the playground was also completely re-located in order to avoid future flood waters running through the original area.
The Richardson family organized a very special surprise – after ingenious networking, they managed to get some very talented street artists on-board, “Ban Pesk Board” and Marcos Santos, who traveled especially from Buenos Aires to volunteer their time transforming the walls of the center into amazing and unique works of art for the children. Although their selfless generosity was characteristic of the Argentine culture, it was immensely appreciated and touching.
Once the new playground started to take shape and the new swings were installed, it quickly became apparent that volunteers would need to be on “pushing” duty! The metal chains on the swings were carefully sheathed in plastic to ensure that the children’s hands wouldn’t get pinched while swinging, or so that the metal chains wouldn’t become too hot in the summer months.
Preparations for the opening fiesta involved much attention to detail, arts and crafts, cleaning, and well-earned ice cream breaks. All those involved found it hard to sum up the enormity of what was achieved and needless to say more than a few happy tears were shed.
Prior to departing the program, the Richardson family identified the lack of resources and employment which had caused the childcare center to originally fall into disrepair, and voiced concern about the sustainability of their accomplishment. However the construction of the playground had already sparked interest within the community, and being that the center is located close to the main road, where many people drive past – offers were already being received from locals who wanted to buy similar swing sets for their children (made from recycled car tires). The business idea was proposed to the women who run the center and a micro-business was born – an initiative which will allow the women to receive funding for the continual operation of the childcare center.
So where are you and your family going to volunteer abroad and have a profound and meaningful impact on a community? Discover the top volunteer destination for families here.