Hungarian Volunteer Directs Workshop with Centro Madre
by Carla Ferreira
Neighbors of La Guairita look with great admiration upon the entrance of their community center, now colorfully decorated with a mural painted by the local children. “They should do the same in Caraquita and El Tesoro. When people drive by, they find it very attractive,” explains a proud Mrs. Neyda Ramos, member of the village Community Council and passionate supporter of the children’s mural project. The project was put on by Centro Madre- a non-profit community center that has been working for 10 years in Barlovento – in partnership with the PROUT Research Institute of Venezuela (PRIV). It was designed by Hungarian psychologist Robert Békefi, a volunteer now finishing a three month visit at the community center.
This is the second mural painting – after Madre Vieja – of the villages belonging to the Andrés Bello municipality in Barlovento to create a mural designed by their own children. The process lasted four days (22-26 August) and involved nearly 20 children, between the ages of 8 and 14 years.
At first, Robert, who has used art therapy in school settings and in community projects in his home country, proposed simple and fun games to stimulate creativity and engender a spirit of teamwork. Carla Ferreira, Portuguese journalist and PRIV volunteer, provided language assistance and helped to facilitate group dynamics. In creating the story for the mural the games suggested various themes, and challenges- like assembling animals and their corresponding verbs: a tiger that sings, a butterfly who screams, and iguana who eats…Breaking the ice proved to be a challenge, but following an initial period of shyness came an explosion of joy, excitement and even some anarchy when Robert brought out boxes of colorful paints, brushes and other supplies. Then came “very creative solutions,” he says.
One game, evoking “magic” clocks, told a story using the children’s favorite vacation activities. Robert and Carla watched as these scenes where brought to life for the pride of the community. “Now the Community House is so beautiful, everyone loves it,” said Mrs. Neyda, who also added: “This is a house of multiple uses, serving many functions: parties, meetings, dances, Mercal, and medical appointments … And why not for the children to paint?” In the painting, inspired by the two faces of the day – sun and moon – inhabits a river with small boats, some fish, and a crocodile that watches… children riding their bikes, others helping their parents to farm the land- the vast and rich vegetation that is nature’s gift to Guairita- and not least, the dogs that roam the village.
The reactions of the neighbors have been very positive. “They say it’s very nice!” Julio Cesar, 14, said proudly, followed by Yoender, 10, who goes to school in Caracas and is enjoying his holidays at the home of his grandparents in La Guairita. “I’m the one riding the bike,” said Yoender, followed by a list of all that is missing in the big city. “Here I play ball, here I help to plant, and there are roosters,” he says, and leaves to fetch a little chicken – to show he tells the truth. Vanessa, 11, also recognizes herself in the picture, “I’m the one with the blue skirt” – and suggests that they do another mural in the chapel of the village, a replica of the Virgin of Carmen.
According to Hendrika Renkers, founder and director of the Centro Madre, these activities are critical to fill the gaps in a school system that often fails to provide children with the necessary stimuli to develop their creative potential. “There are very few crafts at school and this is also a way to develop self-esteem. It is important to reach the end, look at the work and feel proud. It is important for one to say: ‘I did this and it is very beautiful.”
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