When you’re looking to volunteer abroad, choosing where to donate your time can be a tricky task. All too often volunteers with good intentions end up working on projects with questionable methods or outcomes. Choosing an NGO that is run by locals rather than foreigners is often a good way to avoid some of these potential issues.
Founded six years ago, Voluntario Global is an NGO based in Buenos Aires, created and run by local people. The difference between this organization and many others who utilize foreign volunteers is that instead of being run by foreigners coming into a community and attempting to change it, it is comprised of community members working to improve their own lives.
Valeria Gracia, the co-founder of Voluntario Global, came up with the idea after spending several years donating her own time to community projects in the villas of Buenos Aires. Spending so much time volunteering in this way gave her a deeper understanding of the roots of the community’s problems, and she began to think about projects that could have a deeper impact. In 2006 she founded Voluntario Global with a student she helped during her time as a volunteer. In the beginning, they had one community center in a shantytown where they had noticed children skipping school due to a lack of motivation and parental input. A year later, they had enough experience to expand their work to other community projects. Now, 6 years later, they work with 15 community projects in Argentina and Bolivia, and state their goal as “empower[ing] people from disadvantaged backgrounds by giving them the education, training, and support needed to succeed.”
The organization works hard to ensure that all of its projects are functioning well, making sure that volunteers are working in a useful capacity, but also that they are having a meaningful experience. As a volunteer with one of the Voluntario Global projects, you are a small but essential cog in a much bigger machine-you might not be single-handedly changing the world, but you are working with like-minded people for a marked change in their community. You are participating in sustainable projects with genuine, long-term goals. These are the projects that make a real difference to communities, long after you’ve left.
For more information on volunteer opportunities with Voluntario Global, take a peek at their webpage: www.voluntarioglobal.org