Mensajeros de la Paz, Argentina
This summer, I took a long trip down to South America. After finishing and submitting my last final on a layover in The Mexico City Airport, I landed in Buenos Aires Argentina, the place that I would learn to call home for the summer. I was greeted by a driver sent by my internship program with my name on a piece of paper, and at first, the city was daunting and my Spanish was rudimentary at best which added to my nerves. But over the course of the summer, I began to settle into my new environment.
My internship was at Mensajeros de la Paz, a very large organization that does a lot of things in and around the city of Buenos Aires. One of their programs is Hogar San Jose, a senior home for people who do not have the support or resources needed to retire into a traditional retirement home. They frequently take in people who are living on the streets, who don’t have family living in Argentina, or basically anyone that needs help.
While working at Hogar San Jose, I was able to look into the eldercare system in Argentina. Not only was I able to talk with people about the healthcare system as a whole but I also was able to get hands-on experience. I spent a lot of my time with the abuelos and heard so many of their stories and views on the world. I also worked with the nursing staff and learned about the different medicines and diagnosis that these patients were dealing with.
One of the highlights of Hogar San Jose was the amazing community that they had. While I was there, one of the staff members celebrated his 30th wedding anniversary. We had live music and a huge cake to celebrate the momentous occasion. Once the music began, we all started dancing and there was so much happiness and joy. One resident was not able to stand on his own, so the nursing staff supported him so he could have a dance. This sense of community and care for those around you is one thing that I will take away from my work at Hogar San Jose. People there really cared for each other and I look forward to bringing this energy into my own practice in the future.
I also worked in an after school program with kids in the poorest parts of the city. We would take the bus to Retiro, cross over the train tracks, and be in a different world. From the top of the train trellis, I could see the stark difference between the have and have nots, the rich and the poor, the privileged and the disadvantaged. On one side I saw the tall glass buildings and clean streets of Retiro juxtaposed with the crude buildings made up of exposed clay bricks and cement that were unevenly stacked on the other side of the train tracks in La Villa.
In a small after school center in La Villa, I would tutor the kids in math, Spanish, and English. After we finished our work, the night usually ended with a pickup soccer game where I would get out skilled by the 8- to 13-year-old kids regularly. As I got to know the kids better, I would begin to see trends and understand where each kid was coming from and how to work with them. Some kids responded more to strict rules while others, we could let the leash go a little bit. In general, the classroom was a lot less strict than other classrooms that I have worked in so it was good to adapt to the new environment.
At first, this was very hard and awkward as my Spanish skills lacked. I was frustrated because I could not yet communicate and help as much as I wanted to. However, as time passed, I realized that just as much as I was there to help the kids with their schoolwork, they were resources for me in my learning of Spanish. I found that the kids I tutored were better teachers than some of the teachers I had in school.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time in Argentina. One of my main goals in taking this internship was to be able to greatly improve my Spanish skills, which I did. I hope to take my Spanish fluency into my practice as a medical care provider. Being able to communicate with a wider audience of people will allow me to better help the world around me and it’s something I really look forward to doing. It also pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me a more adaptable person. I am sincerely grateful that I was able to have this experience and thank the ’68 Center and the Palmer Family for providing me with this opportunity. I would not be the same person had I not had the experience. I look forward to bringing all the skills and lessons that I learned into not only my time in the medical field but also into my daily life here at Williams.