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Volunteers bring hope in rural Argentina
21 June 2004

Corrientes, Argentina: "It is better to travel full of hope than to arrive," recites Nico, age 17, as he waits for the bus to take him and other youngsters to a feeding centre in Corrientes, a poor rural area some 1,000 kilometres north of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

It is lunch time at the soup kitchen hall, a facility run by volunteers from Red Cross Argentina. A group of children waits for its turn under a walnut tree. "Today's menu is mashed potato, meat and an orange," says six-year-old Carla, playing with her plate and a metal tumbler.

"The soup kitchen has become the heart of the community. Any activity has to take into account mealtimes at the dining hall," explains Gabriela Bissero, Red Cross communicator in Corrientes.

Eating a hot meal once a day is a cause for celebration in many Argentine communities. Statistics show that four million children under the age of 14 suffer from different degrees of malnutrition. They have been the worst affected by the country’s social deterioration.

According to the Argentine Red Cross, by the end of 2003, 57 per cent of the country’s population lived below the poverty line (based on World Bank poverty standards this means living below one dollar a day) while 26 per cent were below the destitution line.

Nico emerges from the centre in a good mood. He spends the rest of the day playing football with his friends. Soccer and volleyball are two activities organized by Red Cross volunteers to reduce violence amongst young people in Corrientes.

The group of young people look at the road out of the corner of their eyes, just in case a bus arrives to take them back home.

"Hope is the last thing to die," says Nico.

A saying that can’t be more true in a place like Corrientes.

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From: International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies