03 October 2013

basta de trata, the prison, and other assorted updates

a lot has happened in the last week or so at work. i've been busy and stretched to my limits at points, but also extremely gratified by everything we have accomplished.

to help the girls at the prison learn the value of hard work - and earn money for some things they really want - we worked with them last week on a fundraiser. we made homemade alfajores, traditional dulce de leche-filled sandwich cookies. we made them in the prison kitchen after a week of planning activities, drawing posters, and looking at options for what to buy. originally they wanted a punching bag, but now they've change their minds. we'll be helping them pick out a hair curler and some makeup items they're really excited about. the girls love beauty products, and self-esteem is definitely part of human rights. plus, the punching bag was going to be impossible to transport via public bus... so we can't complain.

making the cookies last thursday at the prison was actually a fun event, as well. some friends from projects came who ordinarily wouldn't get the privilege of seeing the prison, as it's not easy to go just as a visitor or drop-in volunteer. and i got permission to take photos of the activity, so i actually now have a couple photos of a little part of the site, though of course not of the girls' faces. working with them on mixing and kneading the dough and cutting out hundreds of circular cookies was a team exercise that everyone seemed to enjoy, though we were all covered in flour by the end.

apparently the star tattoos represent each of her brothers.

in which maddy gets flour on her forehead.

so. many. cookies.

helena and maddy.

jessica, tara, and me.

we finished making the cookies (spreading dulce de leche and wrapping them) the next day at the office, with the help of all our fellow human rights volunteers. it was a good time - and there were plenty of broken ones for snacking. we ended up with over 150 completed cookies.

visiting the prison is so fun when the girls are in a good mood! otherwise, not so much - some days in the last couple weeks were beyond tough. like on monday, we brought in slumdog millionaire, one of our favorite movies and one that we thought they would relate to. the girls complained bitterly: "we've seen it before" (a questionable claim), "i hate this movie," "this is punishment," "why do you only bring movies you like, not ones that we like?" i felt disappointed and upset by the strength of their reaction, but my partner (whose beginner-level spanish may have spared her the worst of the girls' moaning) but the dvd in anyway... and they loved it! we explained a bit of background on indian slums and on the movie so that they understood it better, and they were so into it. so were we, actually - that movie is incredible. getting them hooked on slumdog despite their lack of cooperation was such a success. i hope they can learn something from the movie, as well. 

one of the courtyards - not really where the girls live or spend most of their time.

the way in.

the way out.

even when they girls are being their usual sweet, friendly selves, the experience can be intense. a new prisoner this week, 17 years old just like i am, told me about the police officer in her slum who has been threatening her for years and who violently attacked and arrested her and her sister, unprovoked, last friday. her knees and even her face are covered with bruises and scrapes, and she's stuck in prison. not to mention the horrible stories of friends killed by corrupt authorities - this girl literally fears that the policeman will kill her if she sees him again. so work can be both heartwarming and heartbreaking, and i hope that i'm helping the girls even a little bit. they're certainly changing my perspective.

like baking alfajores on thursday, sunday was also fun and super productive.

parque de las tejas.

one organization we work with is basta de trata, a local ngo that works to prevent human trade and trafficking through public education and awareness. september 23 was the international day against human trafficking, and bdt marked that event by coming to a local park on a busy sunday evening to bring awareness of the risk and the issue to more people in córdoba. the occasion was also a good excuse to go out and sell our alfajores from the correctional - or possibly buy them all to eat ourselves. guess you'll never know what actually happened...

our packaged alfajores, with thank-you notes written by the girls in prison.

the projects abroad volunteers set up a couple activities to engage the public as they picnicked and played on the large grassy area on a beautiful lazy afternoon.

the children fingerpainted on large signs that we later hung up.


and for the adults, we walked around explaining the organization and then asking people to think about what would make a better world. they wrote those words, phrases, and wishes on balloons until we were walking around with huge bunches of inflatable dreams.

the original idea was to then let the balloons go, but instead we decide to tie them to a pedestrian walkway over the crowded park. it looked beautiful from below, and from up close it was inspiring. when the wind blew the right way, the words on the balloons would jump out at you. peace. respect. equality. (there were plenty of more off-the-walls ones as well. "legalize pot," anyone?) people stopped to look, photograph, and occasionally steal a balloon - and we stationed ourselves right there with pamphlets so they'd at least have to learn something in the process.

maddy vandalizes a public park!!111!!

very proud to get a photographer.

(part of) the crew.

malin's norwegian balloon.


my friends are up there hanging more balloons.

some of the balloons deflated.

"love for all people."

the day was also great because so many non-human rights projects volunteers got involved, and it was amazing to have their support an to meet even more cool people. i'm so grateful to have the opportunity to meet such an interesting and diverse group. 

i do have a life outside work. i'm lucky to get to (occasionally) relax, (often) have fun, socialize with other volunteers and with argentinians, and just experience and enjoy this beautiful country.

an after-work excursion to a tea shop with delicious tea and irresistibly rich personal-sized pastries.

i cannot believe how little time i have left. ¡lo voy a aprovechar!

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