Habitat for humanity Ireland - rugby legends housing build - Buenos Aries 2013
I was privileged to travel as a volunteer photographer and film maker with the charity Habitat for Humanity Ireland as part of their Rugby legends tour in October 2013. The tour was led by celebrity rugby pundit Brent Pope who is a former all black and another former Irish international rugby player Paddy Johns.
Our group consisted of a small but determined band of volunteers who had each worked hard all year fund raising to finance their trip. Our long odyssey began in Dublin airport in late September and took us almost halfway across the world to Argentina to our final destination Buenos Aries.
From our base in the Portal del Sur hostel in the centre of Buenos Aires we made the 50 minute bus trip early every morning to the La Matanza province where the families whose homes we were building lived. The work undertaken by our volunteers was tough but they were up for the challenge of brick laying, digging foundations, painting, mixing cement and what ever else they were asked to do. For most of the volunteers they were delighted to get out from behind a desk and roll up their sleeves.
Over the course of our week long stay we also enjoyed a reception at the Irish embassy in Buenos Aries, a night of Irish cultural celebration with the Irish Fahy club. We learned to tango and even ate some of the world famous Argentinian steak.
Most of all though I think our volunteers inspired hope for the community in La Matanza. The people who lived there were amazed that a group of Irish people would fly 10,000 miles to their neighborhood to work for nothing digging, painting and grafting to help them to get their home built.
Volunteering is a life changing experience. Its an incredible experience walking through the neighborhood in La Matanza soaking up the sights, sounds and colors. Looking out the window of the bus at shoddy sprawling slums and yet in the next moment towering luxury highrise apartments. It is a city of unlike any other I have ever been in. To quote the lyrics of the Talking Heads song Once in a lifetime - you may ask yourself well how did I get here?
Volunteering is an adventure, you will meet some new friends, touch peoples lives in amazing ways and see the world outside of the prism of what you read and see on television. Like the song says you should try it at least once in your lifetime.
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