[vc_row][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]I had an enchanted childhood. When I wasn’t coloring, playing dress-up, or playing with my stuffed animals, I would daydream for hours in my backyard, swinging on the jungle gym, singing softly to myself, and listening to God whisper through the leaves how much He loved me. In the age of innocence I walked in my own golden Garden of Eden. I think of it often now when I pray.
In addition, I am the only child of two wise, loving parents. Growing up my mother was my playmate by day and my favorite storyteller by night. She encouraged all of my wide-eyed wonder and creative efforts with the most sincere enthusiasm. My father, who came from a broken family, hugged me every day and often told me how my mother and I were the fulfillment of his lifelong dream to have a family that loved each other. Not for a moment did I doubt my infinite value or the infinite amount that I was loved.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][mk_image src=”http://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Smalley_Dad.jpg” image_size=”large” lightbox=”true”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_column_text]I am well aware that not everyone grows up this way. In 2014 I travelled to a small, rural town in Guatemala and met a group of kids who my Spanish professor, through her recently founded non-profit, was sending to school. There was one little girl—Elvia—who looked at me with such astonished, aching hope whenever I paid attention to her, that I sobbed at night thinking about it. Elvia barely has enough self-confidence to speak her own name, so I don’t know her story. Others’ stories I do know: Lluvia and Luis’ father was killed while walking home from work one day, by a man he may or may not have owed money. Irineo, an orphan, spent part of his childhood shining grown men’s shoes in the town square and sneaking into farmers’ sheds to sleep at night. Marvin, the gentlest, sweetest 12-year-old I have ever met, still says he wants to be a barber like his father, who died of alcoholism.
[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][mk_image src=”http://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Smalley_Marvin.jpg” image_size=”large” lightbox=”true”][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]In less than a month I’m going back to Guatemala to see these kids, and this time I’m bringing a team of artists with me. Through Athentikos we’ll be putting on an art camp called I AM ART, designed to help Elvia, Lluvia, Luis, Irineo, Marvin and the other kids understand that they are works of art created by God, and therefore of infinite worth, infinitely loved.
God has asked me to share my time and talent as a writer and photographer to help with this camp, but as a recent graduate who works at another nonprofit, I am still a little lacking in the treasure department. If you would like to contribute to I AM ART, and send me there as the official Storyteller (i.e. person-who-gets-to-take-photos-and-write-about-what-God-does-in-the-hearts-of-the-kids-and-artists-during-the-camp), you can visit my fundraising page. THANK YOU for supporting Athentikos. Even when we don’t have enchanted childhoods, God never stops trying to reach us and communicate His love. I believe He’s using I AM ART to do just that.
Thank you![/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][mk_button dimension=”flat” corner_style=”rounded” size=”large” url=”http://athentikos.kindful.com/i-am-art-se-luz-2016/courtney-participates-in-i-am-art-a-special-art-camp-for-at-risk-youth-in-guatemala” target=”_blank” bg_color=”#dd3333″ btn_hover_bg=”#dd9933″]Support Courtney in I AM ART[/mk_button][/vc_column][/vc_row]