A city that poked fun at all my Britishisms, has broken pavements decorated with dog poop and the most phenomenal architecture and devotional cemetery I have ever seen; I just couldn't resist a revisit to Buenos Aires this year when my Colombian visa expired and forced me out the country and what a blessing it was.
Besides meeting some beautiful friends; coffee connoisseurs, talented artists, English teachers and impressive cooks, I also met one lovely inspiring New Zealand gentleman who despite his humility, had an honest determination to make a positive difference on the world.
Ben and I met one evening for an ice cream and before I knew it I was enjoying a trip around the city, sneaking on to the rooftop of an antiquated building and pondering the world as we shared stories and inspirations under the moon.
Ben Whitaker is the founder of SOG; Social Opportunity Group and invited me to volunteer at SOG's commodore in the slums of Buenos Aires. Here we collected the children in the community, made healthy food for them, sang and helped them with their studies. It was a really beautiful and inspiring day.
Recently I asked Ben some questions on the project.
What is SOG and its vision?
Social Opportunity Group is an NGO that we started in 2013 to try and make a difference in the lives of people that need it. Our vision is to try and create sustainable social change in disadvantaged communities in South America.
Through building and maintaining relationships we are able to support communities in making educated decisions for themselves and their families, today and in the future.
I decided to start SOG because there was a burning need inside of me to offer support to people in a world where there is such an imbalance in quality of life and now that I am doing it, I have never been happier in my life. It is such a fulfilling and rewarding journey. It is a lot of hard work but worth every drip of sweat.
Tell us about the SOG Commodore?
"Food for Thought" is our first project. We started it in December 2013. It is a nutritious food and creative activity program for around 25-30 children in a vulnerable area Gonnet, Monte Chingolo, Buenos Aires.
We have a regular stream of volunteers from Europe who are an integral part of the day to day running of the program.
We have three SOG staff members on the ground for this project; Valeria, Justine and myself. The reason that Food for Thought makes such a difference in the lives of these children is because of the dedication, love and commitment of those two ladies, Valeria and Justine. Their devotion to the children means that around 25 kids from Monte Chingolo have a better shot at life! They are amazing women to work with and together, we make a great team.
What made you decide to start SOG? Why is it important to you?
SOG is important to me because it is changing my life for the better every day. I now can't imagine life without it. SOG allows it's members to choose a different direction in life.
We are malleable which means we assess our effectiveness at every step of the process. This means that not only can we offer opportunities to others but there are endless opportunities for us to learn as well. I love that everyone involved with SOG gets the opportunity to learn. Learning is a fundamental necessity in life. That is why SOG is important to me.
What's been the biggest challenge for you?
The biggest challenge for me is communication. Relationships are the base of SOG. Without relationships we have nothing. In a healthy relationship, communication is essential. My Spanish language skills are improving but they are definitely holding me back in truly creating deep and meaningful relationships within the communities that we work.
Spanish has been my biggest challenge but I am working hard to conquer it!
What do you enjoy most about the work you do?
The things that I enjoy most about the work I do are the smallest of things. A thank you. A smile. The smallest of changes in a child's attitude. A child that eats all the vegetables on their plate. A hug from a child I haven't seen in days. These things are so small but to me they are so big!
I thoroughly recommend any travellers looking to volunteer to reach out to Ben and his team and visit their special place on the outskirts of the city.
For more information on SOG, check out their website.
See my travel photography page for more photos.