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Rebecca in UK Walker

Rebecca Ickes from the USA spent a year in Walker:

Rebecca volunterring UKApproximately eight months ago I arrived in England to begin my year as a volunteer with the ALVP program in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Where those eight months have gone I’m not quite sure but the saying “time flies when you are having fun” is all that comes to mind. While living in an impoverished neighborhood has its challenges, I have been overwhelmingly blessed throughout this entire year. I signed on to the ALVP program (AMA as it’s called in the States) because of the desire to work at Kids Kabin, an after-school arts center for 8-12 year olds. Having earned a Bachelor’s degree in art, I was very excited to put that knowledge to some good practical use. Eight months later, my work has been all that I’ve expected and more.

Rebecca volunterringOf course there are plenty of days when I can not even dream up a reason why the kids are acting the way they sometimes do; however I consider myself immensely lucky to have the privilege of coming back to our flat each day with clay on my jeans, calluses on my palms or paint staining my fingers from doing the work I love to do. While my degree had a focus in graphic design, placing me in front of the computer for hours on end, my time at Kids Kabin has shown me how much more happy I am when working with my hands. It’s because of my experience here that I now know more than ever what kind of career I want to try and make for myself upon my return back to the States. It is my hope that I will somehow manage to find a job in Chicago where I can continue working as a visual artist with at-risk communities. Being shown that there is a way for me to unite my two largest passions, art and social justice, has been a true inspiration.

Rebecca at TynemouthLooking at this brief paragraph, this seems like a very short reflection for being in another country for eight months. I could of course elaborate on the ups and downs of being abroad, on the days I question my motives for this year of service (which usually occur after returning from some bit of travel around Europe), or on the days where my roommate and I prefer to just sit inside our lovely flat all day because of the extreme lack of things to do in our neighborhood. I could try to describe to you the gross injustices I’ve learned of through my work with asylum seekers and refugees at a drop-in center called Common Ground or of the shocking vocabulary used by 10 year-olds because it is what they’ve heard by adults in their life. However, despite the threat of romanticizing this experience for all of you, on the whole my time here in the Walker neighborhood of Newcastle-upon-Tyne has been wonderful. Kids will be kids and their actions are simply reactions to the surroundings in which they are being brought up. I’ve managed to somehow have the immeasurable responsibility of possibly being a positive role model in their lives while at the same time being lucky enough to show them what I love to do.

Overall, this year has been about creating. Creating artwork I give to everyone, creating a safe and welcoming space for others to share their lives with mine, and creating surreal-feeling memories that will no doubt last me a lifetime.