Lemonade International Blog

A Walk in the Park

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During the first week of April, children from the Limon and Mandarina Academies participated in the “I Am Art” initiative designed and sponsored by Athentikos. Children from opposite sides of La Limonada came together to learn and create pieces of art based on the rights of the child.

Prior to art week, the students had already learned about the various rights they are entitled to as outlined by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The goal of art camp was for the children to express their learning and understand their responsibility to share their rights with others in their community.

The children participated in four different art activities outside of La Limonada. In one activity, the children learned about how they have been “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and as such, have rights that honor their worth and integrity. In a children’s park, the students used sidewalk chalk to create drawings depicting their rights.

In another activity, they painted large wood panels of the ten most basics rights: name, nationality, home, family, food, love, protection, health care, recreation, and freedom of expression. These panels were then placed in each of the academies to remind the children of their rights and learning.

The culminating task was a communal mural depicting the rights of the child using bold colors, words, and intricate designs. The mural was strategically placed in Guatemala City’s Zone 5, at the top of La Limonada, as most of the children pass by several times a day as they go to school.

I had the wonderful opportunity of leading the sidewalk chalk activity. Throughout the week, children used various techniques to create depictions of their rights, with each piece measuring approximately four feet by four feet. They worked in groups to discuss their ideas before drawing. They smiled and laughed with chalky hands in the sunshine!

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When executing an activity such as this, a teacher usually hopes for the best but is always prepared to make changes as needed. Prior to art camp, my only concern was the weather, as I did not want it to rain as the children were going to be outside all week. However, during the first session on the first day, a Guatemala City security enforcement officer approached us in the park while the children were drawing. He requested to see a permit for the activity, stating that the children did not have the right to be drawing in this community space. We explained that the children were only using chalk, which was not permanent, and that they were drawing positive messages. As the adult volunteers intervened, the children became hesitant in continuing their drawing, even though we encouraged them to do so.

It was a stressful moment for me as a leader and teacher, and I felt undermined by my Spanish, as in the moment I could not think of the correct words to explain the value of this activity to the security officer. Yet in the same moment, I was so excited that the children were being questioned for their work, and hoped it would serve as a meaningful opportunity for them to understand the value and necessity of sharing their rights with others. Thankfully the situation was resolved quickly by the art camp leadership, and we were able to proceed and finish as planned.

During the debrief session, I asked the children to explain why the officer may have wanted them to stop, and also asked why they were able to continue. They shared with confidence that they have the right to play in public spaces, and the freedom to express their ideas in positive and respectful ways.

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As the week progressed, many adults passing through the park walked around the children as they were drawing. They stopped to watch, ask questions, and make comments. They were impressed by the drawings and had full respect for the children as they were working.

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Participating in “I Am Art” was one of the most challenging yet beautiful teaching experiences of my life. While it is always inspiring to discuss the Rights of the Child with children, I found these conversations heartbreaking and distressing with children from La Limonada. We talked about the right to education, yet there are children who cannot pay minimal school fees. We talked about the right to protection, yet there are children who witness and suffer extreme abuse on a daily basis. We talked about the right to clean water and healthy food, yet there are children who are constantly hungry. Many of the children are not receiving the basic rights that they are entitled to.

Yet my soul survives on the belief that through knowledge of their rights, children will be empowered to advocate for their rights, and will therefore see a more consistent implementation of their rights in their homes, schools, and communities. Although art week has passed, the memories and learning lives on, and we will continue to explore the challenge of children’s rights with students and teachers in La Limonada.

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“There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they can grow up in peace.” – Kofi Annan, Ghanaian Diplomat, UN Secretary General, and Nobel Peace Prize Winner

– Daniela Lombardo

Note: This post originally appeared on Daniela’s personal blog, where she shares updates from her work with the children of La Limonada.

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