Spring Break Stories: Buenos Aires


Photos by Shayla Baumeler, Grade 11

by Ethel Kiggundu, Grade 11 boarder

On March 15, twelve students and three chaperones embarked on a trip that would change their lives. We were making our way to Buenos Aires, Argentina for a service trip and did not fully comprehend what we had signed up for. We landed in Toronto, where we would catch our late and long flight to Argentina. While waiting in Toronto, we visited the CN Tower. The view was nothing less than impressive. In no time, we were sleeping on a plane that would land eleven hours later. We arrived on March 16, and were picked up by a family that would go on to assist us throughout the trip. It was hot, crowded, green and beautiful. As we drove to our hotel, my mind was overwhelmed by the total change of culture. Within a day I went from being in a world I was familiar with to road signs in Spanish, Latino people and stores that claimed to be open 25 hours a day!

“Over the course of five days, we repainted the walls vibrant colours, built strong relationships with the kids and learned how to speak Spanish with an Argentine twist.”

We were planning on working at a community centre located in a slum. The centre was called Centro Conviven and it is a beacon of hope for those in the slum community. The centre offers multiple programs, such as English and French lessons for school children, math lessons, daycare, a photography club and a multi-use hall open to the community. The co-ordinators are local Argentines who have given their lives to serving the community with the little resources they have. SMUS has raised funds for Centro Conviven two years in a row through service days. Our plan as a service trip group was to repaint the hall and take the children who go to the centre on a field trip. We also had cameras and stationary and money to donate to the centre.

When I first entered the centre, I was surprised by how safe and welcome I felt. I could not imagine the fear I would have as a mom raising my child in those slums and the peace of mind they would get dropping their child at this loving centre for the afternoon. We got right to work; we had limited time and a big job. Over the course of five days, we repainted the walls vibrant colours, built strong relationships with the kids and learned how to speak Spanish with an Argentine twist. We had the opportunity to help with the English classes, take the children on their first trip out of the slums and tour the slum area where these children lived. Poverty like we witnessed is something I have never seen in Canada. I realised that every penny we donate to Centro Conviven is helping people who are in desperate need.

When we look back on the deteriorating state of the hall and compare it to the mural and the bright colours we painted, to the new windows we installed, and to the leaking roof we patched up, I understand why the co-ordinators could not stop thanking us. When we donate our change on Service Days for one cause after the other, we never think about the impact it will make. I was privileged to be one of the few who got to see Service Day money at work and I learned the money does not just help — it develops societies, brings communities together and changes the lives of those helped.


  1. Ethel, I thought often over the break about how this service trip would go for our SMUS students. I was lucky enough to spend a year in Buenos Aires and am familiar with some of the most districts that you visited. Your account of the trip was both well-written and informative. I felt that I could picture the Centro Conviven through your descriptive writing.

    Thanks for sharing your perceptions of your trip.

    Dariol Haydock


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