Just to let you all know where our project stands, we are now sharing a building with ARUBA, (Asosiacion de Residentes de Uruguay en Buenos Aires), with an official start date of March 3rd 2008!
Due to our current budget and timeline, this is the most economically feasible option. The hope is to open a community center just for ACORN where they can move their offices, but this is a good space to initiate the project and begin to gather support in the neighborhood without having to spend extra costs on furniture or full rent. The center is centrally located on Avenida Patricios 566 (the street that divides La Boca and Barracas) and is also directly in front of multiple bus stops— ensuring easy access for commuting volunteers and community members.
In addition to the ACORN staff members (a.k.a. our “boss” and mentor Rossi, and the ACORN Latin America director Ercilia), we are now two full time Americans staffing and working this project. We also have many more American and Argentine volunteers who have already signed up for alternating shifts at the center.
For the past couple weeks, the two of us along with Rossi and other volunteers have been canvassing the neighborhood and walking door-to-door to talk with community members (all in Spanish!) about the project and their potential to be involved. Community members could not be more excited about the project- we have even had kids memorize the start date and location to spread the word to their friends. We formally presented the program to the community during a recent ACORN meeting in La Boca, and received an excited and positive response.
For the week of February 25th, we held double shifts by canvassing the neighborhood in the morning and holding open hours at the community center in the afternoon. While we only had one kid show up on Monday, we had 10 by Friday, and many more told us they would be there the following week! At our inaugural party for the neighborhood on Thursday, over 50 community members came together to learn more about the new center. Excitement has been building and we have realized that this project has the potential to be much bigger than we expected. Our expectations have also shifted a bit- we have realized that instead of just offering formal classes, we also need to adapt to the population we are serving. Many of these children are coming in off the street and just want a safe place to relax and have the chance to talk to someone. To meet those needs, we have decided to split the community center into 3 stations: one volunteer will always be on hand to quietly read and draw with the children while the other two will divide up between games and informal classes.
Wish us luck for our first day tomorrow!