In the beginning of December I had the opportunity to participate in an Arts for Hope camp for children living in extreme poverty in Chinandega, Nicaragua. The camp used the methodology of Build a Bridge, a faith-based organization that seeks to use the arts in processes of healing and building emotional skills. A fellow volunteer who had participated last year told me about it, so I jumped at the chance to learn more when I realized Build a Bridge would be in Nicaragua again. Because they were short of hands, I was able to assist a teacher named Iskra with Rhythm class.
Preparation for the camp classes began in November with a workshop about planning art, choir, rhythm, crafts and dance lessons that reach the four main objectives of Build A Bridge: academic learning, community building, spiritual values and artistic expression. For example, using what we learned in the workshop, Iskra and I brainstormed to choose songs and games that would help the kids learn about musical notation and note values, learn to work together, be inspired with hope, and perform in the presentation at the end of the week.
Each afternoon, 60 kids from three marginalized communities arrived at the church in a battered old school bus. Our rhythm class was held under a tent set up in the dirt parking lot. The instruments we used were our clapping hands and shakers made from plastic bottles and gravel. Our dozen students ranged in age from 6 to 12 years old. It was a delight to get to know the kids just a bit during the three days I was with them. I saw the most timid ones overcome some of their shyness, and the most boisterous ones calm down slightly as we formed relationships of mutual respect and got better at planning the pace of the lessons.
It was an enriching experience for kids and teachers alike, and I hope to apply some aspects of the methodology in English class this year.
For more information about Build A Bridge, visit their site at http://www.buildabridge.org/
For more information about the Nehemiah Center, through which the camp was organized, go to http://www.nehemiahcenter.net/English/index.asp