I can’t believe a month has passed since I arrived in Eldorado, Diadema to start my cmap placement at ACER.
Nikki and Deanna, the previous cmap volunteer arts educators have been wonderful at making me feel welcomed and helping me settle in. The partnership between ACER and cmap is still quite recent so the work the girls put into the Clube de Artes and Teatro and also into setting up new groups working across the community, in just 6 months, is truly fantastic!
Initially, coming on my own to do this placement made me feel a little limited as to what I could give the children and the community. I had imagined I would be working collaboratively with another arts educator and that, together, we would be able to offer so much more through our combined skills and knowledge.
So, this first month, with support from Nikki, Deanna and staff at ACER, has not only been about looking for a way forward for existing groups but also about how my skills will add to and build on the work already started by cmap educators, and, thanks to all this support, as Nikki put it, I have definitely “hit the ground running!”
I must say that the fact that I am a native Portuguese speaker has also been incredibly helpful and it made me admire even more all the volunteers who have come before me and will come in the future not knowing the language, what a challenge!
One week into the placement I took on the Clube de Artes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The children are wonderful and really keen to learn anything new. I wanted to get to know them better and for them to get to know me so I thought up a few art activities with textiles to start us off.
Our first venture with the groups was feltmaking and it was great to see the children’s reaction as their bits of colourful wool, once sprinkled with warm water and soap, became an actual fabric!
There was no particular theme to the activity as I wanted the children to be as creative and free as possible, experimenting with colours and patterns. It was all about trying out something new and getting to know a little more about textiles.
I hope we can make more felt over the next few months as part of a more specific project. The children are definitely up for doing it again!
We have now moved on to weaving, creating makeshift looms out of paper plates and other bits of cardboard, moving on to pizza and shoe boxes, amongst other found objects.
The children are using wool but they will also be experimenting with other materials, especially those we can recycle and re-use.
We have had some discussion about the practical function of the work we are making. What is it for? What can we do with it? So we are going to go over this during our last two sessions just before Christmas…and also slip in some time for cake and making funky Christmas decorations!
With Carnival drawing near in 2014 there will be time for mask and costume making and the possibility of a public parade to show off the children’s fabulous creations, hopefully working collaboratively with other activities groups at ACER so watch this space, there is more to come!
Nikki and Deanna have set up a Theatre for Social Change group made up of amazing young people also in collaboration with fellow Brazilian theatre practitioner Tess Maddoch. Together they have come up with some exciting work and are very keen to continue developing the group. Working with Tess and the young people I hope to be able to add to their skills, getting them to explore other aspects of theatre like set, costumes and props. The girls have also started up sessions to teach English through theatre and I am really happy to continue these using the visual arts instead.
Finally I have started up a Textile Art class for other members of the local community and only last Wednesday we also had a go at feltmaking. This process is unknown to them so it’s getting everyone excited at ACER and wanting to have a try too!
As an international volunteer who happens to be a native Portuguese speaker I still can’t help but to be aware of the difficulties a language barrier can bring about. Especially as I have not had to go through any obstacles in communicating with the staff at ACER, the children, young people and other community members I am working with but many of the volunteers do.
Quite a few members of staff at ACER are studying English. As a way to improve communication and encourage more interaction between staff and international volunteers at ACER I have offered to support the staff with English conversation sessions which will start from January and the response has been great! I hope that these sessions will help staff feel more confident and comfortable speaking English and that this will also lead to better communication between staff and volunteers in the future!
This is all for now, there will be more to come, so much to do and so little time to do it in. Will be back soon with more news and photos!
In this, the last week of our World Identity theme, it was time to bring things back to a local level and ask the kids to create a flag that represented their individual barrio or sector. Each kid did their own flag design and we asked them to think about the things that they saw in their neighbourhood and the things that they liked or didn’t like.
On the other side of their flag, the kids stuck pages from a book called Mi Ecuador which is a 6th Grade School Textbook here. The inclusion of pages from the book were in order to participate in a project called Dysarticulate which originated in the UK and aims to highlight awareness about illiteracy. The Mi Ecuador book talks about what is so special about the country with lots of practical exercises designed to improve children’s literacy levels and vocabulary. Therefore this book seemed to be the perfect combination with the sector flags as it added to our world and Ecuador identity theme.
Once the kids had made their double sided flags they were able to plant them outside and we took photos. We asked the kids to really think about the layout of their flag creations so that through the photos we could transmit not only the pages from the book but give viewers a real sense of the environment in which these live their lives.
To continue and develop our broad theme of increasing childrens’ knowledge of the world and developing a strong sense of individual and Ecuadorian self identity, we launched our new theme – El Mundo. We had a lucky dip in which kids picked a random flag from around the world. We then played a number of games in which the kids had to match their flag to the continent maps displayed around the space – ‘Find my continent’ as it were! It was interesting to see how extensive or how limited their knowledge about the world was. And we were particularly impressed by Isla Trinitaria, in which the kids’ knowledge of the world was definitely the most extensive.
After a globe puzzle, that it was time for the groups to do a recreation of their flag adding any extra details that they knew about the country that they’d picked. We had some great flag interpretations including a bottle of wine on a French flag, fishes on a Portugal representation and the Andes on a Chilean flag.
The following week it was time to create a ‘Jigsaw Puzzle World’ or Rompecabezas, in which kids identified the region of their flag on the giant globe and tried to stick it in the right place! This activity produced a giant patchwork world of flags which looked great and were totally unique in design in each of our sessions. We also discussed world identity with the kids. We decided that although people might look different and speak different languages, the thing that joins all people is their feelings and their hearts. The kids then got to represent this by creating hearts or hands and connecting these all around the globe.
Inspired by the 2012 Olympics in London, UK 7 young people from Juconi Ecuador participated in an international photography project– Create Compete Collaborate.
Motivated by this theme of cultural exchange, the participants exchanged photos that represented their lives and identities with young people from All Sorts Youth Group in Brighton UK.
As well as exchanging photos that they’d taken, both sets of participants were able to comment on each other’s photos. This evolved into a lively exchange in which both groups had the opportunity to ask questions that they wouldn’t normally have had the chance to ask and it exposed the range of cultural differences that exist between these very different nations; the differences that we all take for granted in our day to day lives.
The Ecuadorian participants used the project as an opportunity to create a “window” into their lives for the Brighton young people who’d be viewing their photos. Therefore, we have a huge variety of photos, including: one young person’s mother preparing chickens to cook and sell in her foodstall, a marimba dance group that another young person is part of, inside the church that one of the group members attends and a variety of pictures which express the realities of living in the marginal sectors (slums) which are home to these young people of Guayaquil.
A very big thank you, or muchisima gracias, to our participants who have constantly surprised and entertained us with their comments, insights, questions and of course their incredible and powerful photos.
Gracias Anabel, Joel, Lilibeth, Marcos Abel, Michelle, Nicole, Omar and Steven and well done to you all.
Please feel free to email cmap with your thoughts and ideas. We welcome your feedback.
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