“Volunteers are unpaid not because their work is worthless but because its priceless.” (Blessed Teresa of Calcutta)
Volunteering gives you the chance to use your time and talents for those in need. It’s also a great opportunity to practice your Spanish, and experience life in the beautiful Misiones Province of Argentina.
Contact Us by email directly if you are interested in volunteering.
No particular skills are expected of volunteers, and every body from anywhere with any religion (or no religion) is very welcome.
It’s not easy – what with the language, the mud roads and the poverty. But each year, volunteers come to work in different capacities, teaching, playing, talking, laughing, comforting, nursing, providing professional therapeutic help etc – whatever their skills allow.
“The most important thing is that our volunteers be loving and caring. A sense of humour helps too.”
You can come for whatever period of time you are free – from a few weeks to three months or more. An ability to speak Spanish is very helpful, but not essential. We encourage volunteers to raise funds for their visit. There is NO minimum amount.
- Helping to feed the residents (many aren’t able to feed themselves)
- Meet and evaluate new people for possible admittance to the home
- Playing games with the residents
- Helping in the kitchen
- Help in the vegetable garden
- Help building the hospice and repair work
Misiones is a province in north-east Argentina at the border with Brazil and Paraguay. It has a population of one million inhabitants and 1,000 square miles of red fertile earth. The capital is Posadas.
The province takes its name from the famous mission settlements founded by the Jesuit order among the Guaraní native peoples over 400 years ago. Its famous waterfalls at Iguazu featured in the Oscar-winning film The Mission (1986) which starred Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons.
Our focus is on the province’s second largest town, Oberá, which has a population of about 75,000 people. Oberá is 100 km from Posadas and about five hours’ bus journey from Iguazú Falls. The house is a few minutes from town, and out amongst the beautiful, green tea plantations.
Ciara’s Story (Volunteer)
Ciara Davin, a nurse, recalls her experience of visiting St Teresa’s Home for abandoned disabled people in Oberá, Argentina. This is an edited version of an article written for the St Stephen’s Green Loreto School Annual in 2004.
When an old friend invited me on to do some voluntary work in Argentina this summer I said no problem. I spent the run-up to the holiday doing extra shifts in Casualty in St Vincent’s Hospital and gave little thought to what we would be doing in Argentina
We arrived to work in Hogar Santa Teresita (St Teresa’s Home), one of two Cheshire Homes founded by Limerickman and missionary priest Fr Liam Hayes.
By the time we left I was in no doubt as to how lucky most Irish people are. We have everything we need and quite a few things that we don’t – Ciara Davin, Volunteer
I thought I had seen suffering at home but what I saw in Argentina was on a different scale altogether. As Fr Hayes pointed out, being born into extreme poverty as well as being totally disabled mentally and physically is painful enough, but the greatest pain of all is having no one in the world to love you. The children we met were totally dependent on those around them to care for them, they could do nothing for themselves and yet had been abandoned on the sides of roads, in fields and in hospitals.
We spent our time at the home playing with the children, feeding them and talking to the staff who care for them, and also doing some fundraising among our friends and contacts at home. The residents of St Teresa’s Home all need intensive physiotherapy, occupational therapy and proper medical assessment in order to reach their full potential. But there is no local government support available. Fr Hayes travels to Ireland and the UK every year to raise enough money to keep the homes running. Irish money goes a very long way in Argentina. But donations of surplus beds and wheelchairs from Irish hospitals are always welcome too.
While we were in Oberá, a young 24 year old boy called Marcello died. He had been one of the newer residents of the home having arrived very malnourished and fighting a losing battle. He had very bad pressure sores on his body and died within a few months of his arrival – from an infection his body was too weak to fight. Such sad stories are commonplace. Shortly after leaving Oberá, we got a phone call to say that another resident, Jorge, had also died. Since we knew Jorge a lot better we were all shocked by the news. We knew he had gone into hospital but didn’t think he was very ill. He had pneumonia and was too weak to fight the infection. Unfortunately, the drugs needed to treat a lot of illnesses are very expensive and can’t always be afforded. It is only through fundraising and donations that this situation can change.
By the time we left I was in no doubt as to how lucky most Irish people are. We have everything we need and quite a few things that we don’t. There are many millions of people who have so much less than us, people who will never get out of the vicious circle of poverty, people who will live and die on the side of roads in their country.
I suppose it is up to us, as individuals and as a community, to do something. Tackling large-scale problems like corruption is vital in a country like Argentina. But I also admire the work that is done at a local level – the work of Fr Hayes and his staff, tackling problems faced on a daily basis by the community. But helping those who so desperately need to be helped right now is also essential. Apart from the good that they do for individual people, homes such as St Teresa’s Home show there is an alternative to corruption and selfishness. It is the love that can penetrate to the heart of a community, inspiring people and regenerating hope.