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Latin America and the Caribbean

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#Art4Change: Volunteering trip to Haiti Summer 2015!

A child takes a sneak peek. Below: A child in her home surrounds. The reality of the camps

In 2013 I went to Haiti to volunteer at the Sai Baba Centre which provides nutritious meals to over 2000 children living in camps in and around Port-au-Prince. When it was time for me to leave after a month – I knew I would one day return to volunteer again!

So when I was elected as UAL ACS President (University of the Arts London African Caribbean Society), I took up the opportunity to fundraise for myself and members to volunteer in Haiti this summer. We successfully raised £650 of which £267 was sent to the centre in December to organise a festive party for the children (click link for pics http://wp.me/p53GGa-Wm). We’ll be taking our skills from Art School to the camps of Port-au-Prince to give children arts and crafts workshops. It doesn’t stop there! Many of the children left homeless from the 2010 earthquake do not attend school. The designs the children make will be produced into merchandise (hand-printed tote bags, mugs, note books etc) which will be sold and the money goes towards school fees. It’s our way of using art to make a change! Continue reading

Happy New Year from the Sai Baba Centre – Haiti!

Little did I know that the volunteering experience I had in Haiti the summer of 2013, would move me so much, I’d still be figuring out ways to stay involved with the organisation a year and a half after leaving!
Here’s a post from my student society blog… Happy New Year from the Sai Baba Centre we donated funds to!

UAL ACS

Happy New Year!.. 2015 is here! Happy New Year!.. 2015 is here!

Happy New Year!

The festive season might have come to an end, however it hasn’t quite fizzled out as we share with you some pictures sent to us from the organisers of the Sai Baba centre in Haiti we donated the money from our fundraisers to! The £267 UALACS raised sent via Western Union last month (converted to $396), provided gifts and stationary to 350 children (most of them are still living in camps after to 2010 Earthquake) as well as lunch during the New Year children’s program the centre organised on behalf of UALACS!

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His First: Yoruba Deity Eshu (Exu) told through film

“When I met Dionisis Kostakis on my second day in Rio de Janeiro last year, there was little about him, if nothing at all, that indicated his unusual hobby…” I wrote in the blog post From Candomblé to Voudun… Eshu to Shango… These are a few of his favourite things.

Two years later, his “unusual hobby” has paid off to become a visual piece of work “O PRIMEIRO” – The First.

“O Primeiro is an attempt to show how the Yoruba Deity Eshu (Exu in Brazil) is worshipped in Candomble and Umbanda” –  Dionisis Kostakis.

Check out my first interview with the videographer here.

Share your thoughts in the comment box!

Journey through Afro-Brazilian Culture… Unspoken Barriers Photo exhibition

Journey through Afro-Brazilian Culture

Unspoken Barriers Photo exhibition unveiling

It’s exactly 2 years since I got a phone call that would change the my fate, particularly in education. When UAL admin called to tell me a “mistake” had been made – I couldn’t carry on with the second year studying BA Journalism, because I’d “failed” my first year, I thought my world would come crashing down… Continue reading

Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club “Addios Tour” – Rome

Since 1998 the legindary Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club®  have taken Cuban music across borders, staged thousands of performances around the world, and brought the joy of Latin music to millions. Now after 16 years touring, they return to Europe to bid “adios” in their final tour – and I happen to be in Rome ready for their arrival at the Auditorium Parco della Musica tonight at 9pm. I couldn’t miss this unique opportunity just to hear “Chan Chan”  performed live! Continue reading

Brazil Day: at the heart of London

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London paid tribute to Brazil yesterday with a magnificent fiesta that captured the spirit the South American FIFA World Cup host country. From noon till 7pm, within the perimeters of 23,000 m² which later expanded out into the rest of the capital – Brazil came to London in Trafalgar Square! Continue reading

Brazil Day in London

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Thursday, 12 June 2014 – 12:00pm to 7:00pm

Come dressed in the Brazilian colours of yellow, blue and green for a sizzling, samba party in London – the same day the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off in Brazil.

There’ll be a carnival atmosphere with live music, DJs, dance lessons, short films, drumming, capoeira and more, climaxing with a powerful samba crescendo that‘ll have even Admiral Nelson tapping his toes!

You can get in the World Cup mood too in the football zone where the whole family can enjoy games and a range of fun activities, including an inflatable football pitch and a photo-op with life-sized images of the Brazilian team.

If all that action whets your appetite, there’ll also be stalls selling delicious Brazilian street food and snacks, along with smoothies and soft drinks made from exotic Amazonian fruits.

Please note: the Brazil v Croatia game will not be screened in Trafalgar Square on the day.

Brazil Day is brought to you by the Ministry of Sport, the Ministry Culture and the Embassy of Brazil in the UK, and is supported by the Mayor of London.

Find out more on the Embassy of Brazil website and London gov website

Beyond Your World – Beyond Brazil!

“Ongoing demonstrations, the upcoming World Cup, preparations for the Olympic Games and approaching elections – 2014 is considered to be a very important year for Brazil. Consequently, many stories are out there waiting to be covered. Beyond Your World would like to make a big contribution with this special project and needs your help!”

On the 10th of January 2014 at 16.26 I pressed a button that could change my student life forever!

As a mature student aged 28, it won’t be long before I will can no longer apply for opportunities given to young people(18-30). Time isn’t on my side, and in many ways, I’m feeling the pressure. So with this in mind, and just 34 minutes before the 17.00 deadline, I said a short prayer then clicked the send button to submit my application to for the“Beyond Brazil – Brasil Além” project.

This is an opportunity I can’t afford to miss!

I left the application process a little late as I was away for one month in the Middle East (Egypt, Israel and Jordan) returning just days before the deadline. However I’m optimistic that I expressed how much this opportunity would mean to me in the limited time I had without sleep to work on my motivation letter, CV and select work for my portfolio before the deadline.

I could be one of 3 young reporters chosen from the UK to cover social development issues in Brazil as the eyes of the world focus on Rio de Janeiro for the World Cup later this year… Beyond Brazil!

Beyond Your Word - Beyond Brazil

Beyond Your Word – Beyond Brazil

Here are a few of my blog posts during my stay in Brazil this time last year when I counted my blessings and subtracted failure to unfold confidence within myself!

Beyond my world... My journey towards self-fulfilment after failure in the academic system

Beyond my world… My journey towards self-fulfilment after failure in the academic system

Maid in Rio I got a taste of the harsh reality of many working class Afro-Brazilians as I offered to go to work with my friend Patricia, from the humble suburbs of Nova Iguaçu to the upper class apartments of Copacabana

Kai Li’s Tabom project An introduction to an on-going project I have been working on from 2010. I have since traced my ancestry, and learnt about my ancestor who left Salvador Bahia as a single mother to return to the ‘unknown’ for a better life, after the Male Revolt of 1835… Her strength and courage resides in me!

Another diaspora This was the beginning of my project to interview and share the stories of Africans living and working in Central.

Tour Guide to Rio de Janeiro I feel like I know Rio like the back of my hand now… Well at least all the places marked in the guide book thanks to an exclusive tour by Rodrigo Pires I tagged along to with Italian travel journalist, Alberto Corpo!

Central Street Success My photography project of 7 Africans making a living for themselves on the streets on Central. What does ‘home’ mean you you? Each one had a simple answer to offer.

A lighter shade of Black I was inspired to write about my personal observations of Brazil whilst I chatted to a friend on Facebook. How could I describe to him that despite all the wonders he had heard of Brazil being a ‘rainbow nation’, racism lurks in its illusion… Many would could it ‘classism’. A rose by any other name, is still a rose – even if it doesn’t smell as sweet! Denying that racism doesn’t exist isn’t helping society.

This post is still one of my most viewed on my travel blog. It was written just two weeks into my three-month stay… Written freely. How I felt that very moment – from pen to paper.

I saw this a thought – wow! When a picture of a Black woman on the cover of a magazine grabs my attention to make me think “wow”, there is something not quite right. Brazil has the largest population of black people after Nigeria, yet the media and many aspects of society doesn’t represent this percentage.

Curves of Architecture Niemeyer’s legacy is still evident in Brazilian society. I interviewed Italian Architect Sergio Giogini during his visit to one’s of Niemeyer’s most renowned master pieces and popular tourist site; Museu de Arte Contemporânea in Niteroi.

Fears of a Travel Addict I questioned my right a wo(mb)man, traveller and where exactly children will fit in…

Press stop – Pelourinho! I got my press pass to cover the Carnival in Bahia… My dream of experiencing carnival in Brazil – achieved! I met Maira Araújo; the social media coordinator for the Secretary of Culture of Bahia at the press office and she shared with me a few social media tips! Also check out Maira’s List: top 5 places to visit in Salvador!

Spike Lee captures carnival in Maragojipe! Accidentally meeting Spike Lee in Maragojipe 50km away from Bahia’s main carnival it’s capital Salvador just goes to show great minds think alike – we both happened to be covering the carnival of this small town! Go Brazil Gois the documentary Spike Lee was filming in Brazil. It’s due to be released in June. Look out for it!

Carnival da Bahia – Ouro Negro If you choose to be in Salvador for carnival, then you’ll experience black gold with the Pelourinho circuit!

Thank you to all those who followed, shared and supported me on this journey!

If it’s meant to be, I’ll be back in Brazil as a young reporter in a few months!

Have you checked out my new student blog The Educationally Frustrated Student?… Follow me on there also!

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A night out in Lapa (with my favouite Havaianas before they got damaged… I had some good time in those slippers… RIP!)

Memories of a wonderful summer…

Memories of a summer which I gained so much from (outside the lecture room), fought so hard for (appealed against my university exam result-which I won!) and lost so little to… A wonderful summer.

Green Park on an autumn's morning

Green Park on an autumn’s morning

As if you haven’t already noticed, autumn has well and truly crept in! The streets are paved not with gold, but the yellowish brown leaves falling from the trees laying a crisp golden carpet to walk on. The sun is playing ‘pika boo’ behind the silver-lined clouds. I breath in deeply… The air is mild and fresh with an undertone of mixed scents; sweet apple blossom tangled with the pollution from the traffic makes a contradicting concoction. This is autumn in London!

And I’m back into the swing of things as though I never left… As though summer never visited… As though she never left me without saying goodbye…

So I’m thinking back to my summer trips starting in June with a first time visit to Mallorca for Gerry’s 50 shades of blue ‘burning man’ theme birthday; and ending in September for some autumn sun in Sicily with my sister! … Not forgetting everything else in between; Piemonte village Rodallo trip for Festa del Pesce, Dominican Republic and Haiti volunteering trip and Puerto Rico con el corrillo (ayeee)!

Milton Keynes, England

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My summer officially started when I opened the invite to attend my Aunty Lou’s wedding in May… What’s summer without a wedding after all?! Mama Lou’s Big Glorious wedding was joyful event from beginning- the sun showing its full face, to end- I caught the bouquet!

Mallorca, Spain

Gerry’s 50th birthday bash in Mallorca!

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Visiting various towns on the island added some spice to my trip!… Thanks to the lovely Aussie, Ben!

My first time in Mallorca and my first 50th birthday bash for Gerry’s 50 Shades of Blue! The Burning-man theme made me an equal amongst Gerry’s elite crowd of friends. Plus a road trip around the island was the cherry on top of this trip… Even if Pacha wasn’t!… My summer was just beginning!

Rodallo, Italy

Summer Camp

Summer Camp with Gena and her friends

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With Elvio and Rodallo locals who made the ‘Festa del Pesce’ event a success!

I had the pleasure of visiting my favourite Piemonte village, Rodallo, for its annual ‘festa del pesce‘. I also accompanied Alu and Gena to their summer camp where I got a geography lesson on the map of Italy by the kids… Quite useful!

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

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Trying to chill-out in Bavaro Beach Resort… Meeting Vivi was the highlight of my resort stay!

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Sun, sea, sand… And all-inclusive at Bavaro Beach resort!

When I booked a British Airways flight to the Dominican Republic, little did I know what I’d discover on the island of Hispaniola.. My journey stared by landing in Punta Cana- Resorts only! Staying at the Bavaro Beach Resort would satisfy most people’s definition of a holiday, however after the second night the novelty of an ‘all-inclusive’ was lost on me and I was ready to leave and meet real locals!… But not before I meeting the lovely Boricua Vivi on the dance floor of the disco… That would be the start of a great friendship… And another adventure in Puerto Rico later on!

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Volunteering with GN Dom...

Volunteering with GN Dom… With Soo, GN Dom International volunteer from Korea.

Santo Domingo experience :)

Santo Domingo experience… -Caribas plantain chips and Presidente beer for the ultimate chill-out evening. Traditional Perico Ripiao music played in Parque Colon

Santo Domingo offers a radiant charm I find extremely attractive in older cities; Zona Colonial! This historical part of the city has so much to offer; from affordable accommodation options to sunday strolls exploring something new on each narrow bend of the street. Leave the guild book in the safety of the hotel and have a local show you around like I did with Nicaury! Or find yourself a new read by checking out something you won’t find in the guidebook; Biblioteca libre! And whatever you do, don’t forget to bachata, merengue or salsa to the live music played every sunday evening (weather permitting) in the ruins of San Francisco… Surreal! 

I volunteered with Good Neighbors Dominican Republic directed by Ms Hyang Cho. It was a great way to do something helpful and get to experience the Dominican culture first hand… And discover Korean culture thanks to fellow international volunteer Soo. I also got a chance to practise my video-making and editing skills using my iphone! Thanks for the experience GN Dom team!!

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

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Shanti Poudel, the centre’s co-ordinator introduced me to homemade Nepali cuisine! I bond with the children the centre feeds daily. And feeling on ‘top of the world’ at the UN Nepal Base

Arriving in Haiti!... Volunteering at the Sai Baba centre in Port-au-Prince which provides food for 2000 needy children daily.

Arriving in Haiti!… Volunteering at the Sai Baba centre in Port-au-Prince which provides food for 2000 needy children daily.

Haiti has always fascinated me. From the country’s history as the first Black Republic to the preservation of the the Voudun religion. I can never hide my fascination when I meet someone from Haiti! Three years ago when the country was struck by a devastating huricaine, I knew I wanted to help in some way. Three and a half years later I got the opportunity in the least expected way; by volunteering at the Sathya Sai centre in Port-au-Prince. The centre which is co-ordinated by Shanti Poudel and Carlos Suarez, provides freshly cooked nutritious meals to needy children living in camps across Port-au-Prince. Haiti was full of unexpected surprises, comforting fulfillments and small accomplishments… Leaving Haiti was leaving the best of my summer behind… I found myself in more ways than one.

The funding for the food program is drawing to an end. If you’re able to help in some way for the children to continue to receive a meal each day, please contact the co-ordinator Shanti Poudel omsaishanty@yahoo.com. Thank you

San Juan, Puerto Rico

The Borica experience!

The Borica experience!

From Aibonito roadtrip to Bacardi factory tour to visiting the preserved Casa Museo... I got the ABC Puerto Rican experience!

From Aibonito roadtrip to Bacardi factory tour to visiting the preserved Casa Museo… I got the ABC Puerto Rican experience!

From meeting Vivi on the dance floor of a holiday resort in DR to a week full of activities hanging con el corillo, Puerto Rico was everything I was expecting… And then some!

Palermo, Sicily

Soaking up the sun in Sampieri... And it's not a Sicily trip without trying cannoli!

Soaking up the sun in Sampieri… And it’s not a Sicily trip without trying cannoli!

The Palermo experience with my sister Mel and our host Giuseppe!

The Palermo experience with my sister Mel and our host Giuseppe!

Once again, I return to Italy for the second time this summer… But this isn’t just Italy, it’s Italy with a distinctive island feel! I chose the perfect location and time to travel with my sister for a couchsurfing adventure in Sicily. And we really couldn’t have asked for a nicer, understanding host (I don’t know many who would put up with sisters constantly bickering!)-  grazie Giuseppe!

Socking up the warm autumn sun while sunbathing on Sampieri, discovering the meaning of ‘indulgence’ in Modica by sampling the world-renowned chocolate in Antica Dolceria Bonajuto… And biting into a scrumtuous cannoli as though I had died and gone to… Well, Italy! A truly blissful way to end my summer…

And now, here’s to a wonderful autumn!…

I’m back to school until the next trip… because students travel too you know- on a student budget! 😉

What are some of your memories of a wonderful summer?

My summer ends in Sicily... With a bowl of #homemade pasta con pesto e provola cheese from Ragusa... Buon appetito!

My summer ends in Sicily… With a bowl of #homemade pasta con pesto e provola cheese from Ragusa… Buon appetito!

Flying home… Reflecting up in the sky

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I usually have mixed emotions about flying home.

When the stresses of packing, rushing to arrive at the airport on time, weighing my suitcase (and almost always having to remove something or reorganise), passing through security (if it’s not an issue with my liquids or forgetting to remove my belt, there’s just got to be something!); It’s a relief to find my seat onboard the aircraft, buckle up and… relax reflect.

I’m flying home…

Leaving behind a country, place, people, and connections made. Memories created.

As the plane accelerates into the air, I move further away from the travel experience I’ve  made…

How do I feel about it?

On this occasion, after spending my summer in the Dominican Republic and Haiti (and squeezing in a quick trip to Puerto Rico), I was surprisingly eager to catch my flight out! The novelty of the luxury of Punta Cana wore off on the second day of staying in an all-inclusive hotel when I landed first in Dominican Republic. Now on my return, I found a hostel for a night, seeing a different side of Punta Cana I hadn’t seen from the security of the gated resort which lures holiday-makers away from the local experience.

I’m a travel-maker, not a holiday-maker.

Anxious for the local experience, which thankfully I got from the moment I left the resort and continued onto Santo Domingo. Despite this change of perspective by staying in a hostel, I had no emotional attachment to the holiday resort town (except that the friendship with my Puertoriqueña Vivi started on the dance floor of the resort discotheque!) as I did to places like Port-au-Prince, San Juan or even Santo Domingo. Perhaps this dis-attachment to the first and last stop of my trip- Punta Cana, influenced the ease in which I was able to carry my suitcase down the steps from the fourth floor of Bavaro Hostel, and leave without a single wish to stay longer.

As the British Airways craft floated high up in the sky, the seatbelt sign went off and I was able to turn on my phone and capture the sun setting in the distance. A spectacular view which captured a beautiful ending to my journey. One that saw me give freely, take whole-heartedly, love agape, live the right moment, learn from the best, explore a different path, dance to each beat, laugh out louder and create cosmic connections.

Now I start to relax…

Up in the sky… The high…

I’m going home. Back to reality. Unsure of what’s awaiting me. Hoping for a smooth landing… Avoiding the lows.

I’m home.

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A taste of the Dominican Republic… Munching on plaintan chips!

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