Life in a Buenos Aires slum

By Joanna Tovia

Life in a Buenos Aires slum
Two young girls share their personal recounts of life in Ciudad Oculta - a Buenos Aires slum.


Irina, 14, has been coming to the after-school LIFE program for about five years and is in grade six at school. Irina’s parents both work in construction and she dreams of becoming a police officer and living somewhere else. “It’s not nice here and a lot of people die,” she says. “People who hang out here drug themselves and steal and don’t respect the people around them.”

Irina feels most scared walking to the school bus stop in the mornings, so she walks there with her older brother. “Sometimes when we are on our way to the bus stop or waiting at the bus stop people get mugged. This morning there was a teenage girl with her baby going to the hospital and they came up to her and put a knife on her belly and stole her stuff.”

Lintia, 11, lives in Ciudad Oculta with her mother and stepfather and shares a room with her two brothers. Her mother works looking after ailing elderly people but Lintia worries about her when she leaves for work. “Sometimes my mum gets robbed because she goes to work very early in the morning. They steal her bag or backpack or her phone.” Lintia is studying hard at school so she can go to university and become a vet. She comes to the after-school LIFE program with her little brother. “I find it safe here and I can play with the volunteers. When I need to go somewhere I go with a grown up. I don’t go by myself. There are lots of little thieves here.”

Cassandra Clark

Eighteen-year-old Cassandra Clark from the Central Coast near Sydney, finished school last year and is one of eight mostly Australian LIFE volunteers spending every afternoon for three months with the Ciudad Oculta children. Clark comes from a family of lawyers but soon after starting law at a university in Adelaide, decided it was not for her. Instead she saved up to come to Argentina to volunteer with LIFE. She lives with the other volunteers in rented accommodation in the city centre and says the hardest thing is adjusting from playing with the kids in the slums to her comfortable life back in the city. “It’s a bit hard to handle and you have to completely change your mindset before going [to the slum] every day.” Clark says it’s clear the kids don’t get the kind of attention she and the other volunteers grew up receiving. “You absolutely get that sense. The kids just run to you and want to touch you and hug you and they just love it. Every child craves attention and having us there is a novelty that gives them that attention.”

Nineteen-year-old Isabelle Ross, from Bondi, wanted to do some good during her gap year and experience another side of life. “In Sydney we are very sheltered so coming to a place like this was shocking at the start. It’s strange to leave and go back to our reality when this is their reality and they live and breathe this every day. It’s quite confronting.”

Donate to LIFE at or arrange to volunteer through LIFE sponsor Abercrombie & Kent, a luxury tour company that organises experiential travel itineraries in Argentina and around the world.



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