Home Alone is a participatory action research project addressing children who work as caretakers for younger siblings in León, Nicaragua. The purpose of the project is to help León's home-working children improve their situation by involving them in the identification of their problems and empowering them to propose interventions and solutions based on their own experience. Home Alone also aims to ensure that the general public and the media are made aware of these children's problems and perspectives, as well as to advocate for the recognition of this group's rights by people in positions to make structural changes to improve the situation.
The project's central approach is encouraging and enabling children to share their knowledge and ideas, both about their own situation and about how to support other children in taking part in the issues that affect them. This approach is based on the premise that children have the potential and capacity to contribute to their own development. To that end, Home Alone draws on a series of methodologies and tools that facilitate the participation of children in all phases of the research process: from the gathering of the data to the analysis and the dissemination of the results. In this sense, the research is described as "participatory action".
Specifically, organisers work to engage children to participate through fun, attractive, and meaningful activities. Photography, video, child-led interviews, and advocacy are central elements. Some of the particular techniques include:
Children are familiarised with the use of single-use cameras so that they can document whichever elements of their everyday lives, as well as the lives of their brothers and sisters, that they choose. The objective is to collect authentic information about home-working children's reality and interests with a minimum of guidance or direction from researchers. Participants later act as storytellers in a video documentary by explaining in their own words the meaning of the images they have created. Using the children's own photographs as visual stimuli during the interviews is a technique for engaging children in the process of interpreting, analysing, and categorising the collected data (the photographs). The aim here is to use face-to-face communication, expressed through the video medium, to enable children to communicate their concerns in their own environment, to be shared with influential policy makers in these alternative types of "meetings"
As of October 2004, approximately 300 photographs taken by the children involved in the project had been printed. Organisers state that "the experiences in the Home Alone project clearly show that children are very capable taking photographs and that they really like the visual story-telling method as photography offers." They stress that the children and their families have given informed consent for the use of the photographs by the researchers and the communicators, and are consulted each time a photograph is considered for use in different media as part of the project.
The Barcelona-based CrozzCom - Communication for the Development in Action is an NGO working to facilitate collaboration with other NGOs, academics, media professionals, and development practitioners, especially those working to protect children's rights. Organisers say "We believe that visual methods and tools, such as video and photography have much to offer for researchers and development practitioners that work for the wellbeing of children".
Click here for a related report, "Child Interviews: Experiences from the Home Alone Project."
Click here for a related summary, Home Alone - Photography Gives Strength and Comfort to Nicaraguan Children Left Behind.
For more information, contact:
Project and Communication Manager
Home Alone Project
Calle Mayor 16, piso 1º
08960 Sant Just Desvern
Communication Initiative site