In January 2015, IVHQ volunteer Sherry Valencia__ embarked on a journey to volunteer in Argentina and shares why she knows she’ll be back…
As people, we all have some seemingly unrealistic dreams. It might be climbing Mount Everest, or biking through all of Canada, eating one hundred hotdogs. Mine was traveling to Argentina. I saw this as an opportunity to finally break those personal barriers I’d built throughout the years. I left my bubble and volunteered in Argentina, and it felt good. Up to this day I cannot comprehend some of the fascinating sights I witnessed. I was welcomed into an “Argentinian Home”. I won’t lie; the first night away from my Canadian home was tough, although all my “precious” possessions were there with me (laptop, Netflix account, cellphone, my travel stuffed animal, yes I do have one). But after only the first day at the volunteer house, it became a real “home” for me. Little did I know, I would also come to call Argentina my home. The volunteer coordinator, Lichi, became my best friend as did the housekeepers. We just loved our daily ‘Mate’ hour; which literally meant chat, contemplate life’s many challenges, and drink mate. I felt like I was welcomed just like I would have been at home.
Volunteering along with my new friends at the summer school was a rewarding, and exhilarating activity. The joy one gets when your group of kids looks up to you while addressing you “Miss teacher Miss teacher” it’s a gift of gratitude and no one will take that away from you. I spent four weeks trying to convince myself not the leave, for I had already found the one place I truly felt as though I belonged to. I had friends with whom I could be as silly and sassy as I wanted to be. I found beautiful places and sights to cherish for a lifetime.
Motivation came to me every morning. Waking up to those beautiful lazy weekdays with a glowing sunrise over our shared balcony. Smelling the freshly brewed coffee in the kitchen downstairs. Knowing that despite being thousands of miles away from home, I could still find the beauty and the acceptance of the friendships I’d made with the other volunteers. We were all such different people; we had different goals, jobs, traditions, lives, and still we found it within each other to wake up every morning and give off a harmonious vibe that embellished the house giving a true reminder of why I became a volunteer.
While I had been afraid to admit when I arrived at the school I volunteered at, I was terrified to see the children. During my first day at the summer school I experienced the most terrifying combination of nerves and clumsiness. I managed to trip over four times. Luckily I am very discreet and graceful and I hoped none of the children noticed me trip over my nerves! The coordinators were amazingly professional, I was overjoyed with the fact that I had the chance to work with them; one on one. Obviously, my time there became a memorable one. One I will be speaking to my grandchildren (or my cats - either one counts!) about in the future. I made great friendships during my time as a volunteer. Some of those friendships I know will last a lifetime, even over long distances.
I believe every place you visit throughout your life, every experience you live, story you tell; will shape you into your own special person. This was my first step into filling the shoes of the person who I’m supposed to be. For now all I have to share from my experience is that I found and left my heart in Argentina, and I will return.