In coming here the idea was that I would be learning Arabic and largely using my artsy/craftsy/creativity skills to do…something. I have done some reading on art therapy, I studied art in college, and I am constantly in my own life working on any number of art and craft projects at a time. There is a niche for that here. People make stuff, sure. You can find art if you really look for it. But if you walk around the city there is a lack of art and a lack of apparent handicrafts. If you know a bit of my journey in getting to Africa you will know that this isn’t exactly the place that I had in mind that I would be. It’s what came up and I went along with it and it seems to be working out better than anything I could have come up with on my own. I was talking with a friend here about how I have all these ideas and things that I could do with the boys and such but that I’m honestly feeling a little unsure about my abilities. She was super encouraging and is the one who pointed out that what I love–painting/drawing/crafting/recycling/reusing/creating is what there is a need for here. There’s that quote by Frederick Buechner, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Yes indeedy, it is.
So I have a lot of ideas. Art therapy with the boys. (This is where I will be starting out..and I have slew of other ideas for this!). Using the plastic bags, bottles, and trash littering the streets as raw materials for…something. (I have been experimenting with ironing and fusing the plastic bags to make plastic fabric, crocheting them, weaving them…) Way, way down the road maybe even evolving into an income generating project for some of the graduated boys or for some of the mothers of our boys who live in poverty and prostitution. Teaching the boys to paint and draw… I have visions for sure. The truth of the matter is that in order to be successful in any which way I need, NEED good Arabic to do it. So that is what I am focusing on now and will work on formulating the other stuff as well as I go along.
I am excited and kind of overwhelmed. I doubt my own courage and abilities–but not in the hand that led me here. I have already seen improvement in one of the boys. OJ, who I have talked about before, is 6 or so, super cute, the son of a lady who sells herself and drinks constantly. We think he has some developmental struggles for sure. When I first got here J told me that he would never draw for her. He wouldn’t color or try and if he did it would be on the table or something. She said she would plead with him to no avail. The last few months as I was doing art activities with the boys I slowwwly got OJ to draw or color. It started with me asking where his picture was and him giving me someone else’s. Then I would playfully give him a crayon and some paper. I would start a little drawing and he would take it and play with the paper. The first time I got him to color anything was when we made paper airplanes one day. He loooved the airplanes. He played with my example one until I took it, made him a blank one and had him color it just a little bit so he could play with it. The day we drew faces I drew him a circle and he colored it in. That worked so well that I continued to have him color or draw on paper with something else already on it. Days that we would paint he would paint more himself than anything else, but that’s something. By the last week he, without any prompting from me, drew his first picture–or at least that I know of. It was him and a tree. My heart swelled. Now, I’m not saying it was anything I did. I wasn’t even planning or plotting to get him to participate, thats just the stuff I did and that’s what happened. I’m not taking credit for it. But, for whatever reason, I saw a boys attention span with a pencil or crayon in hand go from about two seconds to like seven minutes.
I really believe that using art can help heal the deep wounds inside of these traumatized kids. I can’t wait to see where this goes…