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For the students: Brunswick, Maine students send friendly greetings to Maasai children of Kenya!

Posted in Kenya, Maine schools, Responding to poverty in Kenya, Student Art xchange by Lynn Ouellette on 01/26/2013

 

Telling the Maasai children about the artwork

Telling the Maasai children about the artwork

Hello artists of Brunwick, Maine! Your artwork and the donated art supplies have traveled  a long way to make it all the way past Kiserian,  Kenya where the Maasai children live. The children here and the teachers and parents of the community were VERY grateful to receive them! The trip to their community is about an hour’s drive from where we are staying and we traveled through the town of Kiserian and through some beautiful countryside. It was common to see donkeys grazing on the side of the road or to see herds of cows crossing the street and even to have to stop for them as they pay absolutely no attention to the cars sometimes even if they are being herded. Often they are roaming free when not in town. We traveled through the Rift Valley which I wrote about in my last post for you.

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Cows crossing!

Cows crossing!

Our group getting our photo taken in front of the view of the Rift Valley

Our group getting our photo taken in front of the view of the Rift Valley

The Maassai school

The Maassai school sign

When we arrived at the school the children were all very excited to see us because they know that we always bring things that will add to their classrooms and do special projects with them. They are very smart children who are hard workers and love to learn but do not have all the books and supplies which children in the U.S. have. They have very few art supplies (maybe a few crayons) and their school has tin walls, a tin roof, windows with no glass, and until recently dirt floors. because of some donations they were recently able to make a cement floor on the school which has made it much better. All children who go to school in Kenya are required to wear school uniforms so you will notice that they are all dressed alike in the photos taken while they are at school. Although much of the time the Maasai rely on milk and meat to eat, when there are enough supplies to make it, the children get porridge made out of corn flour, dried milk, oil and sugar for lunch. When we arrived they had run out of the supplies for making hot lunch so the children were getting any lunch. However, we were able to get them enough supplies to make sure that there would be lunch for them for the next year.

Maasai Children waving as we arrive

Maasai Children waving as we arrive

Greetings from the Maasai children

Greetings from the Maasai children

The homes that the Maasai children live in are very different from the homes that we live in and they often raise the baby animals of their herds inside while they are young to keep them safe from predators. The Maasai are known for dressing in very bright clothing and wearing traditional tribal beaded jewelry. Even the very young children wear bracelets made out of beads.

Typical boma or Maasai home

Typical boma or Maasai home

Maasai women in their colorful clothes

Maasai women in their colorful clothes

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When I told them about your art, I explained to the children and the parents that it was a way to send friendly greetings from America and that part of my goal in traveling is to teach the children at home about the cultures of other parts of the world and try to connect them to each other I explained that your artwork had many friendly sentiments and that Mrs. McCormack had been talking to you about Kenya and the Maasai people.

Showing the envelopes of art

Showing the envelopes of art

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Sharing the individual pieces of art

With their masks!

With their masks!

On the day before we had made masks with them so they had just been making masks. I shared some of the masks that came in the art work form some of you which made them laugh and clap!

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enjoying the masks you sent!

I also explained to them that I would be making copies of  the photos that I had taken of them the day before to share with all of you when I return to Brunswick. Since they do not have mirrors or any photos of themselves it was a special treat to take instant Polaroid photos of them and put them on a frame for them to bring home in the same way that you would have your picture taken at school.

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Example of a the nphotos taken of the Maasai children

Example of  the photos taken of the Maasai children

I am hoping that we might be able to continue this exchange back and forth as I go to Kenya each year in the future. Although Many things about your lives are different, there is much more about you and the Maasai children that is the same and it would be a nice opportunity for you to learn more about that. A huge thank you to all the Brunswick, Maine artists and especially to Sharon McCormack for coordinating this with me!!

Maasai children in the classroom

Maasai children in the classroom (including learning the word for” head”  in English!)

Young Artists Send Greetings from Brunswick, Maine to Kenya!

Posted in Giving back, Kenya, Maine schools, Student Art xchange by Lynn Ouellette on 01/13/2013
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Really captures the spirit of this project!

Thank you Brunswick school artists!!!  I am so excited about this project! Once again working with Sharon McCormack, a wonderful and enthusiastic art teacher in Brunswick Maine, we have organized an exchange of art and culture between local students and Kenyan children. Students from Coffin School and Harriet Beecher Stowe School have sent me many wonderful pieces of beautiful art work and a generous offering of donated art supplies as part of the Art of Giving Project.

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Art supplies and envelopes of art work—wait until you see samples of the art

I had so much fun looking at the art work–there are so many pieces that I think I will be able to share them with more than one group of children in Kenya.  Here are some samples of the wonderful work:

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And look at these wonderful masks!

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I wish that I could show all the art work since I had a wonderful time looking at each and every piece. The first stop will be with the Maasai community where I will bring the donated art supplies and many pieces of art. The Maasai children are wonderful enthusiastic learners who are in a new school in a poor community and do not have materials like art supplies. They will be thrilled to get the supplies and delighted to get greetings from the U.S.

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Maasai children of Pastoral Care Development Alliance

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This is the floor in their new school–it’s a lot different than yours.

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And this is a Maasai house–silly me I’m trying to catch a baby goat and not very good at it!

Later I will post some more entries so that you learn more about the Maasai community and the children who live there. I can tell you that without a doubt they will be so excited to get your art, friendly greetings, and the art supplies. The other part of this project will happen when I am there working with the children. The Maasai children love to have their pictures taken and are fascinated to see them on my camera. They don’t ever have any pictures of themselves and they don’t even have mirrors. So I will be bringing a camera that takes small photos that print out instantly so that we can take a picture of every Maasai child and we will make a little frame so that they bring them home. It will be like getting a school picture which everyone is used to getting here at home, but will be very special to these children (and their parents) because they have never gotten them before. My camera also keeps a record of the photos so that when I return Mrs. McCormack and I and anyone else who wishes to volunteer (I already have one parent volunteer–thank you Judy Marblestone) will get together and make a photo of the Maasai children in the same kind of little frame to give to every child who made art work to send over. You will get to see a lot of smiling faces appreciating your friendly greetings! Later I will post about the other community where I will bring some of your art work. I will write some special posts for all of you at Coffin School and Harriet Beecher Stowe School and you will know that they are written for you because the titles will start with “FOR THE STUDENTS” Many thanks again to all especially Mrs. McCormack!

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The Art Exchange at Jordan Acres School

Posted in AIDS Orphans, Kenya, Maine schools, Student Art exchange by Lynn Ouellette on 06/11/2010

Well, I am shamefully late at doing this post since the art exchange and show at Jordan Acres took place 2 weeks ago. I have not posted yet partially because I really fell down on my job as photographer that night. But truthfully, the reason for this was that  I got so engaged with talking with people that I just put my camera down. I really want to thank Sharon McCormack (whose picture I wish I had taken)  once again not only for doing amazing art with the children for me to bring to Kenya, but also for working on such a fun way for us to exchange the art and have a multimedia show  that night. In addition to the poster you see in the picture above we had a table with a  Maasai blanket and carvings and other such things that could be touched,  and all the Kenyan children’s art work, some was displayed and  what  wasn’t displayed was mounted and placed in a notebook as a permanent collection for the school to keep along with the poster. We also had a slide show accompanied by some great background tribal African music. The man and boy in the picture below spent much of their time watching the slide show and I thoroughly enjoyed watching them since  the little boy got newly very excited about each and every safari animal that came on the screen.

I was delighted that many children and parents asked lots of questions and  enjoyed looking at the Kenyan students’ art. Some of JA students were thrilled when they recognized their own art in the photos taken in Kenya.  I could tell from the questions that the students asked about the Maasai, and the animals, life in Kenya and other topics that they had really learned a lot about Kenya in the course of this project. So the Kenyan students art and the poster of all the smiling faces of Nyumbani have been on display at the school for everyone to see and enjoy since that night. For me it’s a really heartwarming thought to think of JA students smiling back and having an opportunity to browse through all the pieces of art and warm wishes that were sent to them.

Once again, thank you very much (asante sana) to all the JA students and to Sharon McCormack! Maybe we can do this again the next time I go to Kenya……

Kenyan Art Exchange in Brooksville, Maine

Posted in AIDS Orphans, Maine schools, Nyumbani, Student Art exchange by Lynn Ouellette on 05/01/2010

Stopping a moment on my "Brooksville tour" with Bec Poole and Maggie

Brooksville scene

Last weekend I headed up the coast to Brooksville, a really lovely small town and home to Brooksville Elementary School where 7th and 8th graders participated in the art exchange with the kids in Kenya from  the Nyumbani Children’s Home and Nyumbani Village. It was my opportunity to personally see the display of the children’s art that I had brought back from Kenya on exhibit with some batik work that the Brooksville students had done. The batiks were inspired by African animals and were beautifully hung amongst the Kenyan children’s art. 

 

 

It was truly a wonderful feeling to see them all hug together (this was a typo that I did find when I proofed the post,  but feeling truly touched by seeing the artwork of all children hung together, I decided to leave it). Beside the art from Kenya was a picture of each child who had created the art and Bec Poole, the art teacher, had done a nice job of explaining what the art exchange was all about and what her students had learned from it. 

Art from Kenya and photos of Nyumbani artists

Art from Kenya and artists from Nyumbani Children's Home

 

Art from Kenya and photos of artists from Nyumbani Village

Though the turn out was small, probably related to school vacation week, I enjoyed presenting a slide show and talking about my trip on Friday evening. Both Bec and I hope that we can find a way to keep this exchange going. I will send photos of the display back to Kenya with Lloydie Zaiser this summer so that the children there can see that their art made it to the US and was proudly displayed! I also enjoyed the opportunity to take in the lovely town of Brooksville on Saturday and just relax in the company of my friend Bec. 

Update on the Maine Kenyan Student Art Exchange

Posted in AIDS Orphans, Maine schools, Nyumbani, Student Art exchange by Lynn Ouellette on 04/18/2010

It’s hard to believe that we have been back from Kenya for a month and a half– in some ways it feels like yesterday, in some ways like years. Fortunately the sharing of stories and photos has created and opportunity to relive the trip again and again. In e-mailing with Lloydie recently I referred to it as “the trip that keeps on giving” because my mind goes back to it so frequently and I have so many ideas about future things that I would like to do.

However, I still have another important piece of unfinished business with this trip– the final piece of the Art Exchange with the students here in Maine. I have been in contact with both the art teachers and each of us have something a little different planned. I was delighted to hear that Sharon McCormack at Jordan Acres had “blog week” for her art students and that they spent time enjoying my blog. I hear they especially enjoyed the Kenyan kids dancing videos.

 

On Friday April 23rd I am headed up to Brooksville (a little over 2 1/2 hours up the coast)  to visit in person. I sent the Kenyan kids art ahead of time  and it is currently displayed in the public library along with some additional African themed art that the students did. I hear from Bec that it is a beautiful display! When in Brooksville I will do a public presentatation to students and families about the trip to Kenya and about the AIDS orphans and what we learned about them and their lives. And of course I will also talk about the art exchange. I am planning to bring some “show and tell”  items like a Maasai blanket, a basket from the village, etc  as well as lots of pictures. Most of all I am really looking forward to meeting the artists!

More about the exchange at Jordan Acres later…….

The Art Exchange: A preview of art and greetings from Kenya to Maine

Posted in AIDS Orphans, Maine schools, Student Art exchange by Lynn Ouellette on 02/23/2010

The real art exchange will be completed when  I am able to give the art made by the children at Nyumbani Children’s Home and Nyumbani Village to the students at Jordan Acres and Brooksville Elemenatary Schools,  but I wanted to show some examples of the art done by the kids in Kenya to everyone on the blog.  Though I have said it before, I need to say again how appreciative all of the kids and everyone else I encountered  in Kenya were for the art and the supplies that were sent to them. I want to say thank you to Sharon MCormack and her students at Jordan Acres in Brunswick, Maine and to Bec Poole and her students in Brooksville, Maine.  I also want to thank Dick Blick Art Materials ( www.dickblick.com) for donating some of the art supplies that were used and left for the kids in Kenya along with the supplies donated by the 2 schools. It was great fun for the kids in Kenya to use materials that they never had used before to create art and I was thrilled to leave them with supplies that they will continue to use. For the students in Maine, your efforts really inspired a lot of good will.

At the children’s home, I worked with most of the children to create art (all except the very energetic St. Paul Miki Preschool kids whose faces I painted instead of doing an art project). With the first 2 groups which were of mixed ages, I told them that they were free to do whatever kind of art they wanted with all of the materials, but  if they wanted a suggestion,  I knew that the kids in Maine might be especially  interested in learning about them and their lives in Kenya.  Below are some of the examples that they created: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The kids at the Children’s home that worked with me in the last group worked on books to send back to the Brooksville Elementary School that were just like the books that had been sent to them. It was perfect that the students in Brooksville had the wonderful idea of sending blank books just like the ones that they had made. I worked with a group of the same age kids at the Children’s Home who seemed excited to have this special project saved for them. They all did a terrific job on the work that they created and stayed beyond the time that we had set up so that they could finish them. They also spent a lot of time looking at the art  books about life in Brooksville and I could tell that they were very interested in them. They all got to keep a book from the Brooksville students.  Here are a few examples of their work:

 

 

 

I also worked on art projects with the orphans in Nyumbani Village where I hung art from Jordan Acres students in their homes on the Kenyan red stone walls and in the school classrooms where all the students will enjoy them. The group I worked with there were students in the equivalent of junior high school who were in a club that had been developed by a prior volunteer called the “Young Ambassadors.” I worked with Lloydie to tell them about the art from Maine and to ask them to make art for me to bring back that would reflect how what they would like to say about their country as “Young Ambassadors”. I was amazed at the art they did, not only because they were so enthusiastic and diligent,  but also because they chose to include a lot of knowledge about their country and had a lot of pride in sharing it. And as the last example shows, they were real embassadors by welcoming people to  “Please pay a visit to Kenya!”  Here are a couple of their posters:

 

I  look forward to sharing ALL  of the art work with the students at both schools and being able to share some more about my experience in Kenya. Thanks to all who participated in this project in Maine and also my fellow travelers, most especially Lloydie for helping me set up and work on the projects in Kenya….and of course to all the Kenyan artists!

For the students: About your art!

Posted in AIDS Orphans, Maine schools, Student Art exchange by Lynn Ouellette on 02/04/2010

Jordan Acres and Brooksville students, I want to tell you about what is happening with your art! I have completed one part of the art exchange. I brought all the prints, the “snake” books, and many of the drawings with me to Nyumbani Village when I was there over the last few days. The orphans there live in tiny, very simple, stone houses in groups of 10 with a grandmother. There houses have plain brick walls and no windows. They were very happy to have your art to hang on their walls.

Shosho looking at JA art hung in Nyumbani village home

I also brought your art to the school in the village and hung it on the walls in the classrooms. They are just starting to have art in school so their teacher was very excited that they will be able to learn from you and very impressed with the work you have done. All the children were very curious and interested in looking at what you sent for them. They did not have any supplies so the teacher and the students were really excited to have all the different kinds of supplies sent by you and donated by Blick Art Supplies. I worked with a group of students to make art work to bring back to you that will tell you about Kenya. They had never worked with paint, pastels, or watercolor pencils before and rarely get to use colored markers so they had a lot of fun and they did a really great job. Everyone told me again and again to thank you and tell you how much it meant to them that you had done this for them and what a special gift it was for them to receive your hand-made art with all the friendly greetings. I will try to insert some photos here later but now working on the computer with really slow internet in Kenya isn’t letting me do that. I’ll also have many awesome pictures to show you when I return.

Nyumbani Village orphans working on artwork to send to Maine

On Saturday I will be sharing the rest of the Jordan Acres artwork with the orphans at the Children’s Home and will be doing art projects with them. I will also share the Brooksville art with the AB group at the Children’s Home. That group is the same age as the Brooksville students and will really appreciate the work that you have done. What’s really great is that you have sent just the right amount of blanks books so that they will be able use them for their project.

I am really looking forward to doing this on Saturday. I’m sure that the kids in the Nyumbani orphanage will be just as grateful as the kids at the village for your art, your willingness to share and your caring. I will tell you more after Saturday and later I will tell you more about what life is like for the kids I have met in Kenya. It’s very different from life for kids in the U.S. and I think you would be really surprised and interested to hear about it.

Jordan Acres artists send colorful “Jambo’s” to Kenyan orphans!

Posted in AIDS Orphans, Maine schools, Student Art exchange by Lynn Ouellette on 01/24/2010

 

"Jambo!" Beautiful prints by JA artists

I received the art work from the Jordan Acres and I looked at it briefly a few days ago when I first got it and was thrilled with what I saw. Today I spent more time looking at every piece and all I can say is “WOW!!” All of you at Jordan Acres did an amazing job on the art work to send to the orphans in Kenya! And all the art work was organized in beautiful little books or packages tied with ribbons.

JA students art work

And what a nice surprise to get a whole box of donated art supplies. I was also touched to find tucked away in the box a  group of yarn dolls made by Mia Denison–thanks for making that extra effort, Mia! There are some children who I will be visiting outside of the orphanage who are very poor and I will be very happy to take those with me as a special gift on my visits to see those children.

JA donated supplies and the little yarn dolls

I was also very surprised and impressed to see how many of the artists had learned some Swahili words. I know I had put a few in my earlier post telling you about Africa and Kenya, but there were so many more things that you learned how to say that I ever imagined I would see on your art. Just like the kids in Brooksville who are sending friendly greetings, the JA art is full of these, too.

Wow!

There are so many things I could say about this art work: It’s so colorful, there’s a wonderful mixture of different kinds of art (paintings, drawings, prints), there are books put together in really creative ways and fun ways (examples below). I love the little books that make long colorful snakes and the one that has all the faces with little mouths that open saying “Jambo.” I wish that I could include everyone’s work on the blog, but of course that’s not possible since there are so many different pieces. I have created a little gallery below with some examples from every kind of art and every group of students. I am sure that the children in Kenya will get the message reflected in the student’s art below:

 

 

Thank you JA artists and Mrs. McCormack!!

 

Sneak Preview: Thank You Jordan Acres Artists!

Posted in AIDS Orphans, Maine schools, Student Art exchange by Lynn Ouellette on 01/08/2010

"Jambo Jina langu ni Holly. " Hello My name is Holly.

I’m so excited to have received some scanned examples of art that the students at Jordan Acres had made for me to take to Kenya. Mrs McCormack e-mailed me some scans that she had made of a few of their pieces and they are terrific! I will be meeting with her next week to get the actual art work but couldn’t wait to share some of what I have gotten to see already. What is particularly exciting to me is that I can tell that the students have learned something about Kenya and were really speaking to the kids in Kenya when they were creating their work. I loved seeing the Swahili words! I’m really excited to all of the actual pieces next Friday. But here are some examples for everyone to enjoy!

THANK YOU JORDAN ACRES ARTISTS!!

"Twiga's" Giraffes

Beautiful Sunrise

"Jambo!!!" Hello!!!

What a beautiful giraffe!

Why the Art Exchange Project?

Posted in AIDS in Africa, AIDS Orphans, Maine schools by Lynn Ouellette on 11/30/2009

When we first talked with Lloydie, our trip leader, about volunteering in Kenya, Tom and I both talked with her about what kind of volunteer activities we could do. There were outlined volunteer activities of different kinds on the itinerary, but somehow that didn’t seem personal enough or enough at all (as if anything ever could be enough.) It wasn’t until we had our 1 hour turned into 5 hour magnificent meeting at our home with her that I really “got it” that a big part of the “volunteering” was just being there and giving the children love in all the possible ways that one can do that.

Being and artist and psychiatrist, I thought of doing art with the children because I know that being freely creative is not something that they have the opportunity to do in school and also bcause I  know that these children have all been tremendously traumatized. They have witnessed their parents die of AIDS; many have  participated in caring for them. Having AIDS in Africa also has a tremendous stigma so many have had that burden to carry as well. They are in the orphanage because they have no adult family members to care for them. Some may have lost siblings. Before coming to the orphanage, some were rescued from horrendous impoverished conditions.  Death and loss have been an integral part of their young lives.  So as I thought about this trauma, I thought that art could be a free, uninhibited expression for them, without boundaries and which required no words. In that way, I thought it might be good for them.

Pictures drawn by children caring for parents with AIDS, photo used with permission from the Young Carers Project of South Africa http://www.youngcarers.netau.net/

Then  I thought more about it, and looked to the example of the other kinds of art exchanges that had been done by the artists  in my women’s art group, I thought that this might create an opportunity to fulfill another goal that I have for this trip—educating people here about AIDs orphans and the situation in Africa. We all live such privileged lives by comparison and my hope in sharing this work, the reason for writing this blog,  is that others will become more aware of these circumstances. In particular, my hope is that children here might have a heightened awareness of a world that is much less fortunate than their own and an exposure to the concept of being “global citizens.” I began to think about the “art exchange” as a way to accomplish this in the  broader sense as well as a way to simply  foster a connection between two really different groups of kids who could communicate through art and really appreciate each other in that way. That’s how the art exchange project was conceived. I’m lucky that the two art teachers working with me had only enthusiasm about getting involved, offered to do more than I was asking for with participation, and that they were like minded in seeing this as an opportunity for their students to learn and grow.

Finally, I also feel that whenever I undertake any artistic endeavor that there is a connection to the support, inspiration, and something that is magically indescribable that has grown from my women’s art group. They will know what I mean and I will carry that with me to Kenya for this project. Thank you Jill, Laurie, Jen, Anita, Cheryle, Annie, Katrina, Cynthia, Blair and Bec.

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The Maine Kenyan Children’s Art Exchange

Posted in AIDS in Africa, AIDS Orphans, Maine schools by Lynn Ouellette on 11/29/2009

I am very grateful to 2 Maine art teachers and their students who will be helping me with a special project while I will be in Kenya. They are Mrs. Sharon McCormack and her students at Jordan Acres Elementary School in Brunswick, Maine http://www.brunswick.k12.me.us/jas/Index.html and Ms. Bec Pool and her 7th and 8th grade students and the Brookesville Elementary School http://www.brooksville.u93.k12.me.us/  in Brooksville, Maine. They will be working on art projects and gathering donations for me to bring to Kenya to share with the children at the Nyumbani Childrens Home, where I will in turn work on art projects with the Nyumbani orphans to bring back to Maine to share with the students here. I want the students in Maine to know that the children at the orphange will be extremely grateful and excited know that this artwork has been made especially for them and has come all the way from the other side of the world. They will also be really happy to have a chance to work on art projects because thay do not have any art or music as part of what they do in school. In addition, they do not have any art supplies and art really isn’t a part of their lives in any regular way so this will be a wonderful opportunity for them. For this reason I will bringing all the supplies for the art projects and hopefully stocking their closet with supplies that they will continue to be able to use. Since I am also a photographer, I will have the pleasure of photographing the project as it’s happening in Kenya and will be able to share that with the students here in Maine when I return and as part of this blog. So thank you, thank you Maine teachers and student artists!

 I hope that I will be able to blog other things about the trip especially for the Maine students and will begin those blog entries with “FOR THE STUDENTS….” so that you will know that those entries are written especially and appropriately for you. I think that this will be a wonderful learning and sharing experience for everyone involved and that you should feel proud that you are making a difference in the lives of children who are much less fortunate.

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