Saturday, December 29, 2007

Global Opportunity Garden teams up with Mercadeo Social

I'm very excited to announce that after meeting with representatives from Mercadeo Social in Colombia, an organization that helps non profits to become more effective, we've decided to team up to work together on the Lives Worth Sharing Community Photography Project. We are accepting proposals from small foundations and organizations in Colombia that are in need of digital cameras to help document their work and the lives of the people living in remote, violent, and poverty stricken regions of Colombia.
Because certain areas of Colombia are still too dangerous for journalists, there is often no one to document the desperate poverty and injustice endured by the people living there. Unfortunately, because the people usually live in such poverty that they lack the tools, training, and access to the media that they need to get their message out.
Visit for more information in Spanish.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Dear Alison, how can I help?

Since getting back to Camden about a week ago, I've been so busy I've not had much of a chance to post any updates.... After being in Colombia, El Salvador and Brazil for about a month, truly immersed in my element, returning to Maine has reminded me that I still have a car payment and health insurance to pay for; and hence, the new bar tending career I've embarked upon.
With all the people in need and projects I've seen, I remain committed to giving 100% of all donations I receive directly to projects and people. Having a day job, though, would get in the way of speaking to students and organizations, which is, without a doubt, the part of my life I most enjoy...
I've found that so many young people have an inert desire to do something for others, but often think they have to wait until they're older to make a real difference. Having the chance to speak in schools about my experiences is something I'm truly grateful for.

Today, I received this email that really touched me, and I thought I'd share it with all of you:

Dear Allison,
I want to make a difference in the world like u did. how can i help people in like El Salvador,Mexico, and Columbia? I've always wanted to help whether it's seeing people in the hospital on x mas or helping kids in need. I'm 11 and in 6 grade. How can i help?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Visiting families on the volcano

Originally uploaded by alison.mckellar
This lady has been so hard for me to stop thinking about.... she's 76 and has no access to clean water and has just learned she'll soon be forced to leave her land because a new highway is being constructed to facilitate trade routes to Panama... part of the ongoing saga caused by free trade agreements in El Salvador. Although desperate and withdrawn, she remains feisty and frequently jokes about her own death. She doesn't want us to leave, and embraces each member of the group, offering a dramatic appeal for us to return to spend New Years with her and her family... I am the only one that speaks Spanish in the group, but the woman seems not to have understand that my friends don't understand her, so each time I turn around to talk with someone else, I am called back to translate a message from her. She asks us not to forget her, and I try my best to translate her words into English with the same sense of urgency and sorrow that I hear them in Spanish. She says that her community needs plastic barrels so they can store more water... she and her daughter both agree that this is their greatest concern. The metal barrel they have now is corroded and leaking. $10 the barrel costs.... she doesn't forsee getting a barrel anytime soon... this is one of their long term goals...
Being back home, in Camden, I can't stop thinking about this woman and all the people she, without knowing, speaks on behalf of. I've heard so many stories over the past month, and now it's time to start organizing and figuring out how to best help these people... how I can possibly communicate their message. It's so hard to make people here feel what we all felt speaking with this lady. Still, it's not so complicated... I shouldn't have to think of all kinds of creative strategies to communicate such a simple message: these people don't have food or clean water, and here, we have more than enough of almost everything.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Five years later...

First of all, for all of you who receive these updates via email, it has been brought to my attention that you only receive the text of my post in your email, and not the pictures, so make sure to visit the actual blog site when I mention pictures if you want to see them. Here's the link:

Also, it's often worth looking at the full size version of the pictures by clicking anywhere on the slide show.

El Salvador has been amazing. Last night, we went to a meeting of all the members of the community here, after spending the day walking around San Ramon and visiting houses. It was almost surreal, arriving at some of the same homes I remember visiting five years ago when I first came.... but this time, the sensation was completely distinct. Rather than nervously following behind group leaders and waiting for translations, I was able to translate, organize and prompt discussions. Now, when the people talk about poverty, or the violence of the war and the family members they lost, I am able to ask questions, relate to them, and share experiences from what I've seen in Colombia.
At the meeting, all the community members were given a chance to speak about what our visit means to them. I remember being blown away by the same process five years ago, left speechless by their generosity and graciousness. This time, though, I was able to get up in from of 100 members of the community and tell them how the two weeks I had spent with them five years ago had changed the entire life. I couldn't keep from tearing up as I thanked them for the inspiration that has motivated me to learn Spanish, and delve into humanitarian work with Mexican farmworkers, deafblind people, and Colombians. One on hand, I feel a tremendous sense of satisfaction, that my sympathy for and solidarity with the Salvadoran people has been transformed into concrete action, but on the other hand, I find their commitment and compassion to be so immense, that I feel deeply humbled... reminded that I have only brushed the surface of what I hope to contribute to society.

Today has been a day of rest, but also full of activity. We spent the day at the beach with the families were staying with, and had an amazing day, swimming in the ocean of one of the most beautiful beaches we've ever seen. We also got a chance to ask questions about the war during the 80's and hear about all the family and community members assassinated during that time.
Then, on our way home, as seen in the picture to the right, the van we were driving broke down in the middle of the highway. We decided to slowly, and carefully get out, one by one, and dodge through traffic to wait on the side of the road until another truck came along and picked us up. Much to our surprise, rather than calling a tow truck, the best option was considered to be tying the van, by rope, to the truck and pulling it all the way through the city back home.... quite an adventure, needless to say... but we are all safe and sound now.

Also... a quick note about the February Educational Trip planned to Colombia for all of you who have been asking.... Yes, there are still spots available between the 16th and the 23rd. The trip will be a perfect opportunity to learn more about the projects I'll be fund raising for during the next few months, and also to learn about Colombia, and the dynamics of the environment, poverty, and NGOs in developing countries. Please visit for more information, and contact me with any questions.

Monday, December 3, 2007

In El Salvador

Well, I just arrived to El Salvador but have a few minutes before Kevin's flight arrives so I thought I'd take advantage of one of the last opportunities to use the internet that I'll have before getting back to the U.S. on the 10th. I left Barranquilla this morning, wishing, as always that I had more time in Colombia, but also also with an incredible excitement for my arrival to El Salvador. As many of you know, my trip to El Salvador five years ago profoundly changed the course of my life and my sense of purpose and commitment. The last time I was here, I did not speak a single word of Spanish, but vowed to learn the language, and learn as much as I could about poverty, Latin America, inequality, and possibilities for change.
My experiences in Colombia have deepened my understanding of social justice as well as injustice, and I believe these five years have profoundly enriched my perspective and capacity as an agent of social change.
I am excited and grateful for the opportunity to reunite with the same group of people, in the same country, that so remarkably changed the course of my life five years ago. And now I can speak Spanish!

Pictures from Barranquilla

Saturday, December 1, 2007

News from the jungle prisoners of the FARC

Yesterday was a difficult day for people in Colombia. For the first time in years, families of people kidnapped by the FARC received videos and letters from their loved ones. Here, this photo is of Ingrid Betancourt, a former presidential candidate with dual citizenship in France and Colombia. She was kidnapped five years ago during a negotiation process with the FARC. The videos and letters are sent as "proof of life", and although families here are happy to see their loved ones alive, everyone is appalled by the conditions in which the people have been kept. In past videos, Ingrid has been strong and outspoken, but in this video she doesn't even lift her head.
For more information read:

Today, I am continuing to visit more social projects in Barranquilla.... I continue to be amazed and humbled by the warmth and generosity of the Colombians I meet and work with, but also, at times I find myself overwhelmed by the human suffering I've seen from hunger, flooding, and only hope I can communicate their message to the outside world, and make some meaningful contribution, however small.