Friday, March 13, 2009

Children of the Guatemala City garbage dump

The letter below is from a dear friend of mine's daughter who has been working as a volunteer with the children of the Guatemala City garbage dump. On her own, she has also started an art program for these kids and she is asking for support.

It warms my heart to hear of young people willing to give of their time to make the world a better place and I'm sure that bringing art into these children's lives is more significant then any of us can even imagine.

She needs to fund this program on her own, so I am forwarding her letter and asking that you please send in a check for whatever you can afford to:

Safe Passage - Art Program
PO Box 712849
Cincinnati, OH

She says that even five dollars can make a difference.

SAFE PASSAGE is a 501 (C)(3) tax deductible organization with a four star rating from Charity Navigator

Please forward this email


From: Nell Pierce

Dear friends and family,

As many of you know, I decided last spring to take a gap year before college in order to volunteer in Guatemala City with the organization Safe Passage. This Non-Profit organization , founded in 1999 to work with the poorest at-risk children of families working in the Guatemala City garbage dump, has now expanded to support nearly six hundred children (from infants to those in their early twenties) as well their families through educational reinforcement and opportunity. Since August, I have worked as a classroom volunteer with several different age groups and the amount of potential and ambition that these kids possess is humbling, to say the least. Having been raised with an artistic eye, my attention has been drawn especially to the ridiculously creative doodles that I find in their school notebooks. At the moment, there is no structured art program in existence for any of the kids at Safe Passage. Given the spirit of change that has characterized the New Year worldwide and the corresponding energy behind new development at the project, I feel compelled to do something about this.

I wrote up and presented a proposal for an Art Program that would start off with both third and fourth grade and eventually expand to include all ages as support is gathered from both the Guatemalan art community as well as international contributors. The curriculum that I am developing includes projects that are fun and diverse, and each is complemented with a bit of art history as well as some type of reflection (whether it be on self, others, nature, society, etc.). The response has been very positive from all levels of administration, however, they are limited in the resources that they can provide. They kindly provided me with a space that I´ve been fixing up to use as a classroom and storage area, and I have been bringing kids in every afternoon to get things rolling - using materials that I´ve either found, recycled, or bought with the support of a start-up donation. Many of them have directly expressed to me how important art is to them – both as an emotional outlet and as a way to help their families. A fifteen-year-old wrote me a note the other day and told me that he though of drawing as “dreaming with his eyes open.” This sort of desire should not be dismissed.

As the major goal for the program is sustainability, I have created a separate art account to be available for future creativity – hopefully even after I leave towards the end of this summer. Safe Passage has been clear that they cannot provide any financial support, so I´ve taken on all responsibility for fundraising. I´m writing all of you to ask for whatever support you may be able to offer – whether it be financial in the form of a check or fundraiser or mental in the form of ideas…or just a word of encouragement! Aside from the obvious benefit of providing an expressive outlet for the children, this is also an opportunity for the kids to improve our project, as their art from past initiatives has been sold and/or displayed to bring in lots of funds and positive public relations. If you choose to become involved in some way, I will surely keep you updated with photos and monthly reports as things progress (just be sure I have your email address).

I want to emphasize that every cent counts in this initiative – even $5 can go a long way (that could buy pencils for forty students). Given my own position in life as a volunteer and the absurdly cheap mentality I’ve developed living in Guatemala, I understand that big sums aren’t always at our disposal and that this project will grow piece by piece. If you would like to contribute monetarily, please make all checks out to Safe Passage and specify in the memo or on a separate note that it is intended for the Art Program. Checks should be sent to the following address:

Safe Passage Art Program
PO Box 712849
Cincinnati, OH

If you make a donation online , please let me know via email so that I can notify those in charge of collecting the funds as to where the money should be directed.

Please do not feel any pressure from this email, as my intention is only to get the word out. I'm open to everything and truly appreciate anything you can offer!

Lots of love and positive Guatemalan vibes to everyone.

Nellie Pierce