Starting university at 17, moving to Dublin, renting, working, studying and even travelling, Access Scheme in DCU has been a part of it all.
3 years into a B.Sc. Marketing, Innovation & Technology, I’ve excelled in my studies and exams, done a years work experience working for IE Domain Registry (.ie domain namespace), and now they’ve helped send me to rural Mexico on an intercultural volunteering experience. Here I’ve been learning more about culture and language, whilst building, maintaining and working in a children’s library each day in the coastal fishing village of Barra de Potosí in the state of Guerrero, Mexico.
Colette from the Access team saw it as a great opportunity for me, she helped with the application to the EIL Explore network*, introduced me to others who’ve done it and was always open to communication and help along the way.
When applying I’d never been outside of Ireland in my life, never on a plane and never did I think I’d end up in beautiful Mexico.
What is Access?
Access (DCU) is a scholarship fund giving opportunities and supports to students from socio-economic disadvantaged backgrounds. DCU has the largest number of Access students and 5 places are offered to Access students around the country for this fully funded trip to Mexico and other locations around the globe. Along with other volunteers, I did extensive interviews, workshops and activities to prepare for this trip.
What I’ve done so far.
First 2 days were about exploring Mexico City and getting a feel for the culture with a Mexican coordinator here. Then, myself and 4 other volunteers left to Oaxaca for just under 2 weeks of Spanish lessons. I Oaxaca I took on some Salsa lessons, tasted and witnessed the beautiful foods, arts and ancient indigenous sites. Each morning (not an early person), I’d get up at half 5 to lose myself in the city. To find new street art and new places to watch the sunrise. Seeing Mexicans wake for their day, the strange sounds of birds I’ve never heard and the sunrise over mountains, trees and the Pacific Ocean.
I’ve just had this strange energy to explore as much as I could in as little time as I could. As beautiful both Oaxaca and Mexico city was, it wasn’t why I came here. I came as a volunteer, not a tourist, and after 2 weeks of intense language lessons and exploring, I made my way.
Parting ways with the other volunteers, I went to Zihuatanejo, the nearest city to the small village of Barra de Potosí in the state of Guerrero. A state infamous for cartels and one of the highest homicide rates in the world. This would only encourage me more. Having no fear or stereotype expectations, I was only aware of the dangers, and I was welcomed by a lovely neighbourhood of kind-hearted Mexican people I’ve come to know. I’m greeted with smiling faces each morning saying ‘Buenos Dias’. No doubt the presence of cartels and gangs is here, trying to influence everything and everyone. I also arrived during presidential elections, where politicians were shot and killed. One evening in Oaxaca I saw angry people march through streets with sticks and machetes to show intimidation. Near Barra and Zihuatanejo I’d regularly see army vehicles with a manned machine gun on top, just something you’ve to get used to here I suppose.
I’m not here to change the world or to solve their economic and political problems, however. I’m here for the library of Barra de Potosí. A place that has gone into decay and ruin because it hasn’t been maintained recently. The amazing woman who funds and set it up nearly 30 years ago is sick and it’s been my pleasure to wake up each morning, chopping and pulling the weeds and trees for a brand new reading and planting garden for the kids. In the afternoon I open up the library, and with tonnes of supplies I picked up in Mexico city, I’m able to do activities and art, reading time and sing-songs with the kids. To show them my culture and games and to learn theirs is incredible. My Spanish language skills are poor, but not a lot of it is needed to build a strong rapport, you just have to have your heart in it and keep trying.
After 2 weeks in Barra, I feel at home here. The kids invite me to the beach and to play football in the evenings. The pull of gangs and violence is always present, but the kids are also smart, they just need resources and a push in the right direction. They aren’t little angels either, but they are sweet kids who want to play and learn.
I continue my morning exploring adventures, this time along the coast and through mountains. I’ve come across rattlesnakes and scorpions for the first time. I also have this magical ability where mosquitos just don’t like to bite me. It’s a beautiful country, each place and state so unique and different in how it looks, but all share the loving people of Mexico.
Thank you Access..
From emotional and financial support, from my roles as student fundraiser for the educational trust to the academic supports and Mexican adventure of a lifetime. Never have I felt so rich to have such a positive experience. I’m only standing on the shoulders of giants. The values and outlook on life here has given my a different mindset, especially in the hustle and bustle of doing a degree in marketing and technology in Dublin. Lessons learned and people met, colours and smells to creatures and taste. It’s all because of that one little email I decided to reply to from Colette in Access.
Paz y Amos (Peace and Love) from Barra de Potosí, Mexico.
*About EIL Explore
EIL Explore is a family of volunteers giving people young and old the opportunity for an intercultural learning experience, where we also conduct an action project at home to share, connect and make others aware of life abroad. I want to become a global citizen and to understand myself, I have to first understand others.