Alessandra McAllister, a finalist in Hispanic Studies and History, spent her year abroad in Mexico City, where she worked for Casa Alianza, a charity which works with street children. She tells us more about her experience:
Kettering, Northamptonshire – no exotic beginning for a year abroad in Latin America. However, it was the outcome of this interview at the Casa Alianza HQ that granted me my independent placement: running photography workshops for abandoned and homeless teenagers in Mexico City. The project began and has continued well beyond the seven months of study/work required on a year abroad; from raising £5, 500 in funds back in June 2011, the project is finally about to come to a close with an exhibition in Kemistry Gallery, London, which recently opened on 24th January, 2013.
Over the course of the months, as my Spanish improved and my relationships with the teenagers grew more intimate, and the photography project came to life. I invited Mexican photojournalists to give talks to the children about a career in photojournalism, organised pin-hole camera workshops at national photography institutions, and accompanied each photography participant to photograph a place of personal nostalgia or happy memory. Outside of the photography project, working with Casa Alianza at its homes also meant there were endless invitations to children’s birthday parties, first communions and Christmas posadas. It was being thrown into this whirlwind of new experience (both in life and work) that taught me the value of patience, open-mindedness and self-management.
Please take time to look at the Casa Alianza website to see in more depth the work that they undertake to help raise funds and awareness for their partner projects in Mexico, Guatemala , Nicaragua and Honduras. The volunteer programme is ongoing and Casa are always in need of suitably qualified volunteers to undertake placements both with their project partners and in the UK.