“I want to become a principal.” Cindy Perez’s goal was appropriate as we painted our hands and one of the girls’ primary role models, a female principal, painted her hand and dream alongside those of her students. “I hope all of their goals are accomplished,” was principal Ms. Saira Gutierrez’s hand-painted statement on the wall. She chose a bright green color for her hand.
Some of the hands were painted vibrant hues of the rainbow; others, darker natural colors, like Elvira Chol’s self-proclaimed “toad-colored” hand. “Como un sapo,” she kept repeating with glee. All wrote of bright futures for themselves.
Earlier in the week, after I found suitable colors for the school crest in Belmopan, we outlined the symbol of the school which every student at Bella Vista R. C. School wears as a badge on her or his uniform. We were obliged to paint the school crest in deference to the community and at the request of the principals. The crest contains a cross, a palm tree with five leaves representing Bella Vista’s focus points (Community, School, Child, Church, and Minister of Education-important in a political system such as this one), a school building, and at the bottom, the slogan, “Every Child is Worth Caring For.”
The girls again demonstrated excellent teamwork and leadership in taking turns on the ladder and taking charge of a particular color with her paintbrush. They worked diligently and without complaint, except to ask repeatedly to help with more tasks! My task was to maintain a hands-off approach in order to allow them to take ownership of the project and to learn by doing it themselves.
I was again impressed by their skills and care in instructing one another and attempting to paint to the best of their abilities. This is not always the case in a community where many tasks are carried out haphazardly and without a sense of neatness, perhaps due to a lack of materials or a healthy fear of theft. Once I asked Graciela, one of the girls who visited regularly to climb the climbing wall in our backyard, what kind of a house she hoped to live in one day, as she was drawing a picture of a house. Her answer was “a small, ugly one because if it is pretty, people think you are rich and steal from you.”
Many of the boys hung around the wall, standing back and observing from a distance. I encouraged them to make encouraging remarks! One boy said he would say the wall was “bonita” if I gave him two US dollars!
Afterward, they shared red velvet cupcake treats, and everyone was happy!
Here are a few pictures of the girls’ decorated art supply boxes, along with intricately designed small matchboxes in which they can leave compliments for one another. They used tiny beads, stickers, and glitter glue to embellish these, and it has turned out to be an art activity very beneficial to the girls’ self-esteem. Many thanks to fellow Peace Corps Volunteer Cheryl Frances for this art idea!