Last month I returned from an amazing 18 day trip to Argentina. My school has had a link with Hogar el Alba just outside Buenos Aires for 11 years. Hogar el Alba is an orphanage which was first set up over 90 years ago by an influential man called William Morris and each year the orphans look forward to welcoming a small group of Canford School pupils into their home for a couple of weeks. This was my first visit to Argentina and I am so lucky to have spent my time with such lovely and welcoming people.
After a bit of a slip up at the start of the trip, as the credit card and some important documents had been left at school, we eventually made it to the airport in good time for our flight. The journey was a 13 hour flight and a short minibus ride but fortunately we were privileged to have more than one seat each due to the emptiness of the plane so were all able to get a few hours sleep during the flight. Therefore when we eventually arrived at Hogar el Alba and we weren’t too tired. After testing our cleaning skills by scrubbing the bathrooms in our accommodation we then were warmly welcomed by the adorable children in the home.
Luckily we were given the first weekend to adjust to our new environment and get to know the children before starting work on monday morning. After attending playgroup for the local kids on saturday morning we then invited all the orphans to our house to watch the world cup quarter finals (Argentina vs Belgium). To get into the football spirit we painted all their faces with the Argentinian flag and those not interested in the football then started a water fight in the living room which was very amusing, meanwhile Argentina won the football 1-0. Later on we participated in some skilled pom pom making, before two of the orphan boys bravely told us their stories over supper as we sat in awe of them.
During our first week we set to work each day in Casa Drysdale, a project that Canford have been working on for the past couple of years to build a house for some of the children. This building work was tiring but was certainly worth it especially when the occasional child’s face peeped in at the window to check out their future bedroom! At the end of each tiring day we entertained the children with an activity such as sports and arts and crafts etc. The smiles brought to their faces made these valuable sessions with the children very rewarding!
After more work on friday morning and a little taste of some beekeeping we headed off for a cultural weekend in Buenos Aires. A night in a “Fawlty Towers” type hotel was our mid trip comfort treat and before an informative tour of the capital with the highlight of the day being a delicious meal and tango show in the evening which we all enjoyed greatly. Our tour guide returned on Sunday to treat us to another excursion including a visit to La boca, an amazingly colourful and picturesque market where we all purchased Messi shirts for the World Cup Final that evening. We were gladly invited to Rorro’s house (an old gap student from Canford) to watch the final and have an Argentinian Asado (barbecue) this opportunity to watch the world cup final in the capital of the country playing was a fantastic experience and the atmosphere was incredible (despite Argentina losing, fireworks lit up the sky over the capital).
Monday morning and we were soon back to work in Casa Drysdale this week, however we did have a few morning breaks to visit the local primary school (in the field next to the Hogar) and the secondary school (situated in buildings around the church in the Hogar) and lessons were also taught in the dairy, beehives and bakery inside the Hogar el Alba site in order to teach the local children skills for life to help them to obtain a job in the future. We were also warmly welcomed when we visited the local public school attended by the children of Karina and Saky (the managers of the Hogar) and a couple of the sponsored more intelligent children in the orphanage. This school put on a lovely cultural morning for us which we thoroughly enjoyed along with meeting some more Argentinian children of our age. This week we also were treated to the “show argentino” where the orphans put on an array of performances from tango and singing to a variety of songs played on a range of instruments with performers as young as one year old. The following night we then put on a similar spectacle with dancing, singing, acting and Mr Excell’s pom pom swinging and basically making a fool of ourselves to the argentinian’s delight!
This was the Megafestival! After planning and preparing for the festival all week we were finally ready. The most memorable planning for this festival was the flyering that we did throughout the week in the local towns and “barrios” and slums where we saw the harsh reality of many people’s lives and witnessed the sheer amount of rubbish and dead dogs that lay on the ground as far as the eye could see. The Megafestival was a huge success with over 2000 children and families arriving to take part in the fun from face painting (I painted nearly 200 faces) and meeting Mickey and Minnie Mouse and Spiderman (I dressed up as Minnie) to a science show and Argentinian Asado. After a very tiring but amazing day we then retired back to our house for dinner before walking up to say our final goodbyes to the children in the church. This was very emotional and there wasn’t a single dry eye in the room, it was surprising how attached we had become to the children over such a short time. After such an emotional hour of hugs and goodbyes we returned to the home for a goodbye from Karina and Saky and their family and a reflection of the trip and exchange of presents. This was also emotionally tiring.
We were waved off early in the morning by Karina and Saky as we caught the bus to the airport ready for our long journey back. I can definitely say that this trip was an incredible experience and has given me many unforgettable memories and I will definitely return to Hogar el Alba in the future!
Thank you to all those who helped support me in my fundraising and those who donated to such a worthy cause during my coffee morning and also by sponsoring me in my half marathon. I really appreciate all your help and am glad to have seen where the money will be spent.