Arts for Peace: Guatemala

28 01 2010

Imagine teaching peace in a place where violence is always the answer…

This past July, a group of Arts in Transformation students traveled to Guatemala in hopes of teaching peacemaking skills to children in Guatemala’s toughest neighborhoods. Armed with a peace curriculum and an arts typology of their choice, they headed into the gang-controlled slums in hopes of achieving the impossible.

Here’s what some of them had to say:

David Melby-Gibbons: Teaching music to these incredible children was one of the hardest and most rewarding things I’ve ever been asked to do. I’m not going to sugar coat the experience or try to sound like a hero. It was tiring. I didn’t always feel full of light and love while standing up in front of the class. Some days were harder than others, but the kids’ smiles and hugs were enough reward for each day’s work. I saw the familiar glimmer of Jesus’ eyes in their eyes which have survived a lot of pain. We were reminded (again and again) that we live through the Spirit, the presence of God who binds us together, keeps us going, and teaches us all how to love. One highlight was teaching these kindergartners how to “Scat” sing. We introduced them to the vocal improvisation of Ella Fitzgerald, and explained a little of the history of Jazz music. Then we asked them to make up something entirely new with their voices. They were initially reluctant, but the majority of the group eventually joined in as we passed around a ceramic mango and took turns “scatting.” It was a wonderful moment!

Aleea Slappy: The resilience of the children in La Limonada was surprising. There was a stark contrast between the living conditions in La Limonada and the upbeat, hopeful attitudes of the children. Each morning when we arrived at the school, the children would greet us with smiles and hugs as we walked to the building. By the third day teaching in La Limonada, I felt emotionally and physically drained, but I was able to gain strength and energy from the children. They were anxious to participate in our classes, sing and play games. Since the children came to La Limonada and persevered, then I knew that I could as well. While in La Limonada I learned to be flexible, I learned how to manage my emotions and I learned to be resilient.

Joshua Cooper: Leadership. That’s what the children at La Limonada gave me. I usually don’t trust or value my own ideas, and I don’t make decisions quickly. But I am good at building relationships with people. I developed relationships in which ideas and quick decisions were required. I was able to start where I was strong and progress to building strength where I was weak. That is why I enjoyed working with these children. Through the students and staff at La Limonada, I became a better person. In my old age of 33 years, I received that which I had never received, or learned. Through them, and with the help of Almighty God, I became a great leader.

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