The selfishness of teens: volunteering with Cloudhead in Salta

Barrio Solidaridad girls in the woods
Teenagers are obnoxious, right? Rude, selfish, little creatures that think they know everything better than everyone. This is what the British right-wing papers would certainly have you believe. While I can’t vouch for UK teenagers (although they seem pretty harmless on the whole to me), I can say that the Argentinian teenagers we met blew this conception out of the water and gave me hope in teenagekind.

Volunteering with Cloudhead

We met said teenagers while volunteering with Cloudhead Art, an amazing arts organisation in Salta. Cloudhead run various different projects in and around Salta, mostly focusing on teaching media skills to under-served youngsters. We helped with a project in Barrio Solidaridad, a poorer neighbourhood in Salta where many people go without electricity and crime rates are high. Cloudhead is running a project with a group of teenagers there, teaching them skills such as photography and Photoshop. It’s part of a wider Adobe Youth Voices program that aims to help young people voice their opinions.
Barrio Solidaridad girls working on a computer
We helped out towards the beginning of the project, at the brainstorming stage. The group were being encouraged to think about what they wanted to focus on – a photography exhibition, a film, an animation – and what that would be about.

Thinking about yourself and your life

They were asked to complete the following sentences, and then draw their representation of them in a storyboard:
  • People say I…
  • In my youth I struggled with…
  • I wish I could give voice to…
  • I create…
  • My community is…
  • We can change…
Victoria working with the Barrio Solidaridad kids
This is where the surprises came in. The kids’ answers showed a sensitivity and generosity not typically expected of teens. They were upset about drug problems and violence in their community, but talked of how close-knit and generous that community was. Best of all, they really seemed to believe they could change things – they had hope in the future.

Be the change you want to see in the world

I talked to one 14-year-old girl who wrote “We can change everything, but we have to start with ourselves.” She explained that you can’t change anything unless you first  change yourself. This showed a wisdom that I think a lot of people lack – we have grand ideas of how to improve society but struggle most with changing our own behaviours.

The girl’s sentiment was repeated in others’ responses, and together they seemed to have a vision of a world free from injustice, and with strong community values – quite the opposite of a selfish response.

We enjoyed every moment working with the group from Barrio Solidaridad and were inspired by their positive vision. We can’t wait to see what project they’ll come up with.

For the record, these were our responses to the questions:
  • People say I am brave.
  • In my youth I struggled with trying to fit in.
  • I wish I could give voice to the planet.
  • My community is the universe.
  • We can change our reality.

Steve storyboard

  • People say I when they could say we
  • In my youth I struggled with finding my centre
  • I wish I could give voice to the trees
  • I create so I don’t go insane
  • My community is (best just look at the picture he drew!)
  • We can change everything except the fact of change itself.


What are yours? Share them in the comments. We’d love to know.

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  1. says

    Wow, they have some really beautiful and heartfelt answers here. I don’t think mine will live up to those, but here goes!

    People say I work hard.
    In my youth I struggled with loss.
    I wish I could give voice to people from places we don’t learn about in school.
    I create my own opportunities.
    My community is everyone I meet.
    We can change…

    • Victoria says

      Of course yours live up to the rest! They are beautiful answers. I especially like the last one. Thank you for sharing.

  2. says

    I love this! I hate how everyone assumes that my generation is full of a bunch of selfish people when that’s not true at all. These teens you volunteered with are just another example proving that false.

  3. says

    Thanks Victoria for posting this. I always love hearing how others see their volunteer experiences with us.

    We loved having you stay with us and join us in Barrio Solidaridad and everywhere else as well. Hasta la proxima!!

    And for anyone interested in visiting us in Salta and spending some time with this group or with any of our other projects, you can read more about it on our website:

    Or feel free to e-mail me directly at leigh(at)

  4. says

    This was a really interesting and inspiring post Victoria – Cloudhead sounds like a great organisation and I love the way they encourage teenagers to express themselves freely. I was never able to do that at their age – in fact I have only managed it since reaching my 30s! In light of that, here are my answers…

    People say I have come a long way.
    In my youth I struggled with my sense of self.
    I wish I could give voice to those who go unheard.
    I create with all that I am.
    My community is here.
    We can change – I am proof.

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