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The following blog was written by Courtney Smalley. Courtney has been working with our partner organizations to gather interviews from the children about their experiences with I AM ART camp. 

A few weeks ago staff members of our partner organization, Vidas Plenas, asked their students what they learned in the I AM ART camp held there last July. Today, we’d like to share their answers with you! But first, some context—Vidas Plenas, which translates to “full lives” is an organization dedicated to “giving opportunities, through education and integrated care, to the neediest among us, so that they may have full lives.” It serves the people of La Limonada, a community of 60,000 people wedged into a ravine in the middle of Guatemala City. A river of black water flows through the ravine, and families of up to 10 or even more people make their homes in 10’ x 15’ plots of land on the sloping sides of rock and dirt. According to Vidas Plenas’ website, “this community has been forgotten, ignored, and isolated,” and now struggles with gangs, drug trafficking, and sexual, psychological, and physical abuse. And yet, “all it takes is will and love for the inhabitants [of La Limonada] to lead lives of dignity.”

Vidas Plenas helps the people of La Limonada find that will and love through two complementary programs geared toward the children and young people of the community. The first provides academic scholarships so that the kids and teens can get an education—“the best way to combat the cycle of poverty, abuse, and gangs that plague the community.” The second provides a place for kids to learn, play, and grow outside of school hours in special “little schools” or “life academies” run by Vidas Plenas itself. The students of these life academies are fed nutritious meals, get homework help, receive counselling support, take classes in art, music, English, and Bible studies, and are nurtured and cared for in numerous other ways as well. Vidas Plenas truly puts them on the path to leading full lives!

Athentikos has been honored to partner with Vidas Plenas and bring the I AM ART camp to their life academies several times. What’s even better—the kids hearts are truly changing as a result of the camps! These children and teens who are under constant pressure to join a gang, to mistrust or look down on those from the other side of town, and to doubt their own value, have been transformed by the God’s message of love delivered through I AM ART.

Take a look at what the Vidas Plenas staff and students had to say below:

What did you learn?

  • “I learned how to work in a team, how to be free, and how to share with others.”
  • “I learned not to hold onto ugly feelings, and I learned how we can express our feelings through dance.”
  • “I learned how to work in a team and learned that I can’t do anything alone—I always need help.”
  • “I learned that you should always work to come to an agreement, and I learned to be creative.”
  • “I learned that we are art because we are valuable and God loves us.”
  • “I learned that my heart shouldn’t become filled with sin and to always believe in Jesus. I’m not in any fights anymore.”

What does “I am art” mean to you?

  • “It means to paint, express myself, and draw.”
  • “It means to express myself, to paint, and to play, and it means freedom.”
  • “It means being an artist, a drawer, and a singer.”
  • “It means I am something good for God.”
  • “It means I am a creation of God.”
  • “It means God created me because I am one of his works of art.”

What changes do you see in the students?

(These questions were answered by staff members who work with the kids on a daily basis.)

  • “Many times they suffer from abuse or lack of attention at home. The camp helped Oscar* and the other kids feel free and free to be themselves. He is more expressive.”
  • “Ana Gloria learned to express herself better, to share, and to work in a team. A thousand thanks for the time you took to plant these seeds in the kids.”
  • “Edgar is better at working with others and working in groups.”
  • “Daniela participates more and communicates better. For the kids, the camp was an opportunity to express themselves in a way that doesn’t make them feel vulnerable.”

Thank you for making these stories possible. Your support is helping to change the lives of the neediest among us, to make them full.

*Names have been changed to protect the children’s privacy.

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