I have recently returned from another amazing experience in the beautiful land of Fiji. This year my 12 year old daughter Rosie accompanied my husband and I, together with others in our group. Our aim was to visit some schools, offer encouragement, love and art tuition. Though we went there to teach and to bless, the children and adults alike were an incredible blessing to us as we shared art skills which linked into the first 6 days of the Creation story. We came away learning such important life lessons from them: to be happy with what you have, to have joy, no matter what your circumstances are, to be generous, even though you have so little, and to enjoy life to the full, not getting bogged down with stresses but taking things easy, one day at a time! I struggle to find the words that adequately describe how I feel, so I have asked my friend Hannah, who came along with us, if I could "borrow" her words below. They paint the picture so well. Thank you Hannah.
You are 6 years old. Or maybe 8. Or maybe 12. Your family is very poor. Just like most families in your village. There are 10 people living in your house, which isn’t big enough for 10 people. Your parents couldn’t afford to buy you a school uniform, so your mother sewed your dress herself and it’s a slightly different shade of green to most of the others. Your white uniform shirt has stains on it that won’t come off. You don’t have any shoes, but then neither do most of the kids in your village. Your family grow their own vegetables, and sometimes you help sell them on the side of the road. Your household hardly ever eats meat, because it is too expensive. You have never eaten chocolate. There are power lines running through your village, but your house doesn’t have electricity because your parents can’t afford to pay for it. You don’t have a TV. You go to a small village school with about 150 other children. The boys play rugby on the field. The goal posts are made from coconut trees. Your school playground consists of one swing set. There is a pile of rubbish outside the toilet block, but it never gets cleaned up. Your school has one computer, which is in the principal’s office. It has a virus on it, but your school can’t afford to download free antivirus software because you don’t have unlimited wireless internet. The floor of your classroom is old. There are lots of holes, and patches of lifting lino that you trip over almost every day, even though you know they are there. The desks in your classroom are also old, but then so are the shabby textbooks inside them. You used to have your own pencil, but it either got lost, or somebody took it. A couple of kids in your class have their own eraser. Each one is about the size of a pea, and everybody shares it because that’s all there is. Your classroom walls are bland. Everything is in black and white. There is no colour. Some visitors from NZ come to teach art at your school. You are so excited, because you haven’t done much art before. You are very polite and respectful. You are so eager to learn. You have only used coloured pencils a handful of times. You have never held a paintbrush before, until now. You think paint is the most amazing thing ever. You had no idea that mixing yellow and blue paint would make green. You ask if it’s magic. All of a sudden, your creativity is unleashed. You are very proud of your work. The art teachers from NZ tell you that you are a very talented artist, but you don’t believe them. You are shy. You are so beautiful. You have the voice of an angel, and a smile that lights up the room. You don’t know half of your potential. You are very smart. You could be anything, but you probably won’t. You could become a nurse or a teacher. But it costs money to do that, and your parents don’t have any. Anyway, you will probably need to stay home and help run the house and look after your siblings. But you are happy. And you are content.
Here are some photos to help paint the picture even more. Do you notice the happy faces?
And below, shows the mural the kids did such a good job of completing, one square at a time.
And all put together!
Always happy to help clean up.
Trying out 'blind' drawing.
And demonstrating positive/negative space with profiles
We experienced incredible generosity from the village woman
Rosie doing a great job teaching children the same age as her!