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Published 2nd Mar 2012

Pictured: (L-R) Laura Peacock & Jess Stallard

Two Teesside students are planning an eleven day visit to Mexico as part of a volunteering project to build houses for homeless families.

In June, 2011, Jess Stallard, 21, and Laura Peacock, 21, got in contact with Pastor Alan Brand of Norton Baptist Church who was recruiting for the ReBuild Mexico 2012 project, led by charity Urban Saints.

They are now only a month away from what they consider to be a potentially life-changing experience.

Jess, currently studying media studies, said: “As soon as we heard about the project, we knew we wanted to be a part of it. To be able to help people with next to nothing will be very enriching, I just want to get started.”

Jess and Laura, both of Middlesbrough, are two of a larger group of 17 from Norton, Teesside who have each had to raise £500 on their own of the overall £1200. For the remaining £700 each, they have collectively been holding various fund-raising events, such as cake sales, coffee mornings and a ceilidh. At the end of March, their group will then join other groups from around the UK and the US at a base in Tijuana, Mexico.

Criminology and psychology student Laura said: “Each group is assigned a family to build a house for. Personally, I believe the trip will really open my eyes to what’s important in life, especially when seeing poverty firsthand. We live in a very materialistic world, so I think this experience will really change my outlook.”

Pastor Alan Brand, North East Regional Coordinator for ReBuild Mexico and leader of Jess and Laura’s Norton group, said: “The charity has been running each Easter since 2009 and Urban Saints have a passion to see young people and young adults mobilised into acts of kindness, both in and outside the UK.

“Throughout the mission we live in tents on a secure campsite, we eat local food cooked by local women who we employ paying a fair wage and we have no special privileges like flushing toilets or hot showers. We live as the local people live to help us to understand by experiencing, for 10 days, what the families cope with every day.”

Christa Van Raalte, Section Head for Media in the University School of Arts and Media, said: “It’s fantastic to see our students taking the initiative and broadening their horizons in this way. We all wish them the best of luck.”

Jess said: “Not only will the trip allow us to experience the Mexican culture, I’m also looking forward to meeting new people, both in my own group and in the other groups. I think the communal activities in the evening will really help to bring us all together.

Pastor Alan Brand added: “When Jess and Laura came to me last June, they expressed a desire to live more fulfilled lives, to do something significant and to gain different experiences. I believe this mission experience has the potential to change the lives of participants as well as the family who receives the house. I think Jess and Laura are ideally suited to this venture and look forward to seeing the impact it has on them.

Laura said: “I already know the highlight of the trip will be seeing the looks on the faces of the family who will be receiving the house. I can’t wait to make a difference.”

Caption: Pictured: (L-R) Laura Peacock & Jess Stallard

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