Whether you’re a local, a fully-fledged expat, or someone living in Buenos Aires for a few weeks or months, it can sometimes be difficult to find ways to give back to the community. By giving back, we don’t just mean volunteering, but ways of helping with the community or the environment in big or small doses.
Sometimes it’s a language barrier, or occasionally just a cultural one, but many people find the idea of helping out pushed to the back of their minds. We at The Indy recognise the importance of being socially and environmentally conscious, so this week’s Top 5 aims to help you on your way to giving yourself a pat on the back.
Whilst giving blood might seem like an obvious way to give back to any community, it’s a simple gesture that slips from your mind when you’re in a foreign place where facilities might not be as accessible as you’re used to.This is especially the case in Argentina, where donating blood is not a cultural norm. Here, blood diffusions commonly come from family members or friends of the recipient and, unfortunately, this isn’t always practical and doesn’t provide nearly as much blood as the country needs.
Non-profit group Dale Vida recognised a lack of government commitment to promoting what they considered a necessary medical need. Thinking outside the box, they set up an independent campaign which extends its appeal to visitors to the city too. Located at the Dr. Ricardo Guitérrez Children’s Hospital, Dale- Vida provides a service that enables donors to give blood easily with the support of English speaking staff.
You have to undergo an evaluation to ensure donation will be suitable for you, but, all in all, it should only take a morning. As long as you’re aged between 18 and 65, weigh over 110lbs (50kg) and have healthy, disease-free blood, you’re a fit candidate for helping others. And all the extra iron from the steak you’ve been eating can finally be put to good use.
Argentine shops love plastic bags. They love them. If you’re tired of protesting that you really don’t need those two plastic bags to carry home your very heavy load of four yogurts and some carrots, an easy way to avoid the plastic and become eco-friendly is to shop with a reusable canvas bag. Most supermarkets sell them and it’s a small step towards reducing the 40% of landfill waste which currently comes from plastics in Buenos Aires.
Shopping eco-friendly can also mean shopping in specific places. Many clothes shops, such as Cúbreme, pride themselves on being organic, fair trade or supporting local Argentine textile industries. Buying your organic groceries at cooperative markets such as Iriarte Verde in Barracas or Sabe la Tierra in its quirky setting of San Fernando train station, can also go a long way. For more information on cooperative markets and eco-friendly shopping visit our Top 5 Farmers Markets.
“Economía solidaria” or “economic solidarity” is making an impact in Buenos Aires, with many organisations taking innovative and socially conscious approaches to consumerism. Organisations such as Mundo Alameda, support cooperatives born from social movements, student unions and self-managed workers promoting fair trade and worker equality.
Another name worth knowing is Red Tacuru, a ‘buy online’ service bringing together many cooperatives selling food, films, beauty products, clothes and mate.
In the heart of Palermo Hollywood, the stalls of Mercado Solidario Bonpland, (also featured in our Top 5 Farmers Markets) are either based around the philosophy of Economía Solidaria, or are eco-friendly and ethically sourced.
But sometimes you don’t need to look beyond the high street to find support for worthwhile causes. Cosiendo Redes is a project that trains people (mainly women from the villas) in textile production. It not only teaches them how to make clothes, but also how to find jobs, connect with future employees, and even set up their own workplace or cooperative.
Alternative ethical projects can be found everywhere for socially-conscious consumers. Eloísa Cartonera publishes over 200 titles from local and famous Argentine writers, but their La Boca studio is anything but a conventional publishing house. Their books are not only made from materials purchased from local cartoneros, but the company also functions as a community cooperative.
The term “volunteering” can mean many different things to different people. For some it’s a full time job, working in a school, building houses, or teaching a foreign language but, for many others, it can something done alongside or in addition to their full-time job.
Red Solidaria is a volunteer organisation that connects volunteers with those in need. It offers a wide range of options making it a perfect choice for those who can’t donate all of their time.
It offers small but equally effective initiatives including, for example, donating clothing to villas, or putting together bundles for poorer families affected by the consequences of the recent volcanic ash in Patagonia.
The website hacercomunidad.org offers more information on ways to volunteer in Buenos Aires, listing events, ways to get involved and a directory of altruistic organisations in your area.
Remember that some of the larger volunteer organisations take a big cut of the money you pay to volunteer, which is especially difficult to understand when you’re staying with a poor family. Look for smaller organisations, or if you’re feeling brave enough, go along volunteer somewhere directly in person. Cutting out the middle man means you’ll know exactly how your money is being spent and see it go to better uses.
Sort Your Rubbish
The cartoneros have become a familiar aspect of life in Buenos Aires. Whether you’re sightseeing in downtown Monserrat, tangoing in San Telmo, or taking tea in Recoleta, the sight of someone sifting through rubbish delivers a reminder that Argentina is a country still dealing with immense poverty and income inequality – the dual Argentina that Borges so loved to agonise about.
Cartoneros command a surprising level of respect in Buenos Aires for the important function they perform in terms of recycling. With a distinct lack of recycling initiatives, most waste in Buenos Aires goes directly to landfills. Cartoneros pick up around 10% of recyclables, so by sorting your rubbish into different piles you’ll not only make recycling more accessible, but also provide a sense of cooperation to the cartoneros, making the task of rooting through your rubbish a less degrading job.