Many students look for summertime work in their hometown, the nearest city or on their college campus. Matt Friedland ’15 looked to another continent.
Friedland is the recipient of a Strong/Gault Social Advancement Internship Grant, which is funding his summer job at Voluntario Global in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Strong/Gault grant supports students interning with organizations that serve underprivileged populations. It is one of many grants that Bowdoin provides students to pursue summer internships.
Friedland discovered Voluntario Global through Omprakash, a website founded by Willy Oppenheim ’09 to connect volunteers with nonprofits around the globe. In a recent Skype interview, Friedland explained that he pursued this opportunity because he wanted to practice his Spanish and thought it would be interesting to live in Buenos Aires. Having grown up in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., it would be Friedland’s first time living in a city “for more than a weekend or so.”
Voluntario Global was founded in 2006. The NGO has developed a network of volunteer programs in Buenos Aires, providing training and support for participants involved in a range of projects including teaching English, working in medical clinics and helping to improve rural economic stability. One of the organization’s most recent initiatives is the Youth Laundry Cooperative, which they set up to offer jobs to Argentinean students, helping them gain work experience and manage the financial burden of education.
The first five hours or so of Friedland’s workday are devoted to marketing for Voluntario Global in a one-room office he shares with three or four other people. He is also involved in the company’s long-term planning, helping the NGO managers figure out “where they’re going, where they want to be in five years and how they get there,” he explained.
His job also takes him on projects to Voluntario Global’s programs around the city. “My favorite part is getting to go to the soup kitchen and hang out with the locals,” he said.
While Buenos Aires is called “the Paris of South America” for its vibrant culture and history, abundant and devastating poverty also surrounds the city. These living conditions were something Friedland expected to see, but he did not anticipate meeting “so many incredibly generous, sincere, honest, really happy people. Even if they’re working for $3 an hour or less…some of the poorest people in the direst situations still maintain a positive outlook. It’s something that amazes me every single time.”