Every day at 1:00 p.m., I don a jacket, a hat and a scarf, grab my bag and walk ten minutes to Calle Maipú, a busy main street. I hail bus number 41, usually bustling with people, climb aboard and grab a seat or find some standing room. After about 45 minutes, I arrive in a large barrio outside of the city. This is Barrio Guiñazú, and this is where I will find Centro Comunitario Esperanza, tucked between single-level homes and a dirt road.
I am not just in Argentina to eat empanadas and watch futbol (even though I like to think I am). During my six weeks, I am volunteering as a teacher at a community center, Centro Comunitario Esperanza, where I help children complete their homework and learn english for two hours a day, alongside another teacher my age. On any given day, there are usually about 15 children ages six to 13. None of the children know English.
I am greeted at the center with chubby, runny-nosed babies bundled up like the little brother from A Christmas Story, and a kiss on the cheek from Ines, the owner. After setting down my bag, I immediately get to work. I walk from child to child, helping them with their homework (met by varying degrees of resistance), whether it be math, science, spelling or English. I help Mia figure out how to write the alphabet and spell the word “mamá.” I assist Milagros with long-division. I teach Máximo how to navigate a dictionary. Towards the end of the two hours, Ines or another member of the staff brings yerba mate and bread for the children, made in a tiny kitchen at the center. Once they are done eating, the kids grab their backpacks and head out. I walk 15 minutes to the bus stop, catch bus number 32 and arrive back at the hostel an hour or so later. The next day, I repeat the whole thing again.
Although it can be difficult (pre-adolescents aren’t the friendliest at times), I love the work I am doing at the center. I love watching a kid’s face light up when they finally understand a concept they were struggling with, and I love having a role in that “lightbulb moment.” I am attempting to show the children the power of a good education and inspire them to pursue one, and I am using my own knowledge, experience and a little bit of sarcasm to achieve this goal. I am quickly realizing that it takes a thick skin to do this, but I am more than willing to endure some sass if it means I get one child to successfully complete their homework and feel good about it.