As Arianna prepped you in the previous blog, the NCAS-I team spent the day at Anjali House, a registered non-profit here in Siem Reap, Cambodia. This site is pretty incredible, they offer education, healthcare, food, and much more to these children who were previously selling items on the street (perpetuating the poverty cycle) and/or not receiving the opportunity towards an education that they deserve.
We spent six hours today at Anjali House, offering two art groups: one with shadow puppets for the younger students, and making handmade journals for the older students. The conditions were extreme, and something that us Colorado folks had to step up to. The heat, but mostly the humidity, were off the charts, and the luxuries of air conditioning, or even proper lighting, were miles away.
About an hour into one of the journal making groups, one of the students grabs some yarn off the table and starts weaving a beautiful braid that she plans to use to tie the front and back covers of her journal together. Another student starts painting an elaborate scene within his journal and then writes, “I am the man,” and looks over at me with a huge smile on his face. You can tell that he is proud of his work. Another girl is practicing her English and writes a short poem in her journal, including a line that states, “I am happy.” Half-way through the group, we encouraged the students to take a 15 minute break, which to our surprise, most of them refused. They kept working diligently, raising their heads only to find the next art supply that they needed to complete their creative vision. I noticed that each student stayed true to their unique interpretation and expression of the journal task, and barely followed the trail of their friendly neighbor. This resulted in over a dozen authentic, handmade journals that each student respectively created. Most of them filled their pages up right away with all kinds of images, some were lighthearted and playful, others were serious and suggested layers of struggle and pain.
Half-way through the day, a volunteer at Anjali house ( a peace-corps member from Chicago who has resided in Cambodia for 1.5 years and plans to stay as long as possible) came over and sat to talk with us. He said, “we are very happy you are here. Art offers the kids a way to heal that conventional talking just can’t access. It crosses the language barrier, and is very beneficial for the kids. Thank you.” Of course we were all tickled by this because we feel the same way. Well, we’ve been studying the powerful impact of art for several years now, especially Sue, and we all are considered “Masters” of the topic. So you can imagine our excitement, especially since we are honing our skills towards a multicultural perspective. This is powerful work, and we we are all so grateful to be blessed with the opportunity to work closely with the loving students at Anjali house.
With love and gratitude,