It happened the evening of the day I arrived back to Buenos Aires. A huge storm hit Buenos Aires and La Plata hard. There had been no alert, nothing in the news. And the next day, photos and video montages of the 4-5 feet flooded streets surfaced. The death toll has been continuously climbing all week. Right now it’s at 51. Thousands of people have been evacuated and lost their homes. At this point, people are holding enormous fundraisers and clothing/food drives, while others point fingers and blame the faulty infrastructure and lack of government warning for the catastrophic results of what could have been a minor storm.
I couldn’t just return to Buenos Aires and focus on my life and reflect on my amazing vacation in Rio de Janeiro in the wake of this tragedy. Moreover, I have been inspired to help myself by the amazing relief efforts that I’ve seen in this city. Various organizations that I follow online in Buenos Aires, such as Wipe! cultural guide, Jueves a la mesa (a puerta cerrada, or private restaurant), posted long lists of how and where to help. Lanacion.com.ar, Buenos Aires’s main newspaper, has a special feature that gives the most up to date news on the hurricane, and how to help. So today I volunteered with Fundación Si! in Palermo, joining a long human chain of volunteers passing down food, water, clothing, and even furniture from a parade of cars. The entire street was shut down for the organization and distribution of the donations, and I thought it was very well organized. There were signs labeling the different spaces for boxes of food, water, clothing, etc. Moreover, I loved the atmosphere. I helped out with the Hurricane Sandy cleanup efforts in New York City, and I thought the atmosphere was a bit more somber and serious. Here, all of the volunteers would applaud the people driving in with donations from time to time. They blasted music, and everybody conversed casually. It was a sunny and dry day in Palermo, and it just reminded us even more of how the streets are still flooded in many neighborhoods of La Plata, and how important it was to show solidarity and help in out in any way that we could.
I think it’s important to help out anywhere that you are. The country and the people that receive you so generously also need support and love when something unexpected and tragic happens to them. I will continue to spread information about the relief efforts to my Argentine friends and NYU Buenos Aires here, and I hope to collect more donations and volunteer again during this upcoming week.