This weekend I had the experience of working with Techo, an international volunteer organization, in order to build a house for a family of five. Before participating in a Techo program, I was a bit skeptical of the sustainability of these houses and whether or not they were truly impacting the families and the community in a beneficial way. Volunteerism can be a tricky activity to participate in because sometimes the programs in place are unintentionally detrimental to the community, and I feared that Techo might fall into that category of volunteer groups. After completing this weekend, I can say that my initial judgment of the program was sorely mistaken. Techo’s (the Buenos Aires branch in particular) goal is to end poverty by responding to the needs of the community to make their lives easier. Such programs include building houses, providing classes, job training, etc. Reflecting on my initial judgment of Techo, I believe I went into it with skepticism because I couldn’t believe that this program would ever end the extreme amounts of poverty in Argentina. However, Techo is not focused on ending poverty specifically, they focus on making lives easier so that the residents could have the opportunities to live a better a life and hopefully, one day afford to move out of the slums. I think this mission is more attainable and more effective because it addresses a piece of the problem of poverty instead of trying to address the eradication of poverty as a whole.
Overall, I think Techo was one of the best experiences I’ve had in Buenos Aires so far because I was able to remove myself for a weekend from the higher glamor life of living in the city and live and work with a large proportion of the population who are residents of the slums. What I found to be the most interesting of the slum environment, is that even though these residents are living in tiny two-room huts with crumbling roofs and unpaved streets, the environment was a very happy and welcoming environment. For example, every house was blasting music through the streets, kids were out running around and playing soccer, the neighbors came over to help us, and at certain parts of the day, we would just sit around drinking mate with each other just enjoying each others company. Even though the residents of this slum had very little, they made the most of it and just wanted to enjoy life. Truly, an eye-opening experience. And, last but not least, the absolute best part of the weekend was seeing the family walk into their new house. It was not a big house by any means, in fact, it was only one large room; however, the look on the parent’s faces and the kid’s faces especially were absolutely amazing to watch.
By participating in Techo, I realized how much I miss volunteering on the weekends. Moving forward, I’m definitely going to take this experience with me as a positive and eye-opening experience and try to participate more in philanthropy.