"Serving the creative needs of children throughout Ecuador"
It all began in 2012 when I traveled to Cuba with an organization called Global Exchange. We visited an art school in Trinidad where I found myself impressed with the depth of art and touched by the lack of resources. I came home from the trip feeling “called” to serve in some way.
The following year I traveled with Partners for Rural Health (a medical service trip and 3 credit course for nursing students at USM which serves to treat communities in rural communities of the Dominican Republic). I went as a chaplain, offering spiritual care to the nursing students, some of whom had never left Maine. The experience left me sure of my direction toward serving – but how I asked myself? I knew, before any commitment could be made toward developing a project, I needed to master the language. So I spent the next 2 years studying in central and South America.
From 2014-2016, I traveled to Guatemala, Ecuador and Colombia studying Spanish. On the last day of my trip in Medellin, Colombia, we went to an orphanage where I noticed no presence of art. Upon returning from Colombia, all the pieces lined up. My Spanish was at a level where I could easily communicate and I knew I wanted to return to Ecuador as I felt a particular affinity with the land and her people. In 2016, I researched orphanages in Cuenca Ecuador and with a volunteer organization traveled to Miguel Leon orphanage to teach art for two weeks.
After my 2 weeks in the orphanage, I traveled throughout the country meeting people and volunteering in different after-school programs.
The following year, 2017, I returned to the orphanage, but this time on my own. I communicated directly with the nuns in the orphanage and had followed up on my contacts from the previous year. I taught in an after-school program in Vilcabamba (a small village in the south), went up north to Ingapirca, Otavalo and Cotachahi teaching in schools and communities.
I named the project to dispel any confusion with “mission” work. This is an initiative whose aim it is to offer spiritual care through art. I teach simple bookmaking and 2-D design as well as offer donations of basic supplies such as scissors, paper, paint, rulers, glue etc. It has grown and developed into a successful project, while remaining small and humble in its roots.
This year, 2020, I plan to work in an after school program in the town of Pelileo and from there travel north to teach bookmaking to children studying English and then further north to an indigenous community in Pucará San Roque. It has been an incredibly rich and rewarding project on many levels, and one that grows each year with support and connection to the local people of Ecuador.
Projects in Pelileo
2 of the projects we completed in Pelileo were collaborative. We made prayer flags to hang in the classroom as well as a wall piece in which each student made a 6”x6”: square using cray-pas resist painting, collage and drawing.
Students and I at Otavalo made little envelopes which fit into origami boxes as well as woven journals and lotus fold books.