Written by: Stéphanie Keller-Busque
What an amazing two months of movement and learning it has been! Since I arrived to Estelí in the first week of June, I have been working as one of the Public Education & Awareness Interns with FUNARTE and collaborating with my amazing, dynamic trio of supervisors, Erika, Karolina, and Rafael on two different projects: “Colores Primarios II” (Primary Colours II) and “Arte y Cambio” (Art and Change). Both are fascinating projects in their own respects, and in the frank effort to make this post lest text-heavy I will start by presenting only one of the two, Colores Primarios II.
In order to better present Colores Primarios II, it is important to first give some context of the factors that have motivated this project. Children in Estelí face a variety of challenges both inside and outside of the classroom early on in their education. Poverty, corporal punishment, insufficient classroom materials, and low levels of training for teachers are some of the difficult realities that led FUNARTE to develop new strategies for teachers, counselors, and parents to offer transformative education for their students. Colores Primarios II’s objective is to strengthen psychosocial and emotional development for students in grades 1–3 and to advance the promotion of children’s rights through free art. To achieve this goal, my FUNARTE team gives primary school teachers and counselors workshops on how to develop creativity, sociability, and self-esteem through art, working under the principle that educators cannot share these learning tools with their students until they have experienced them for themselves. So before teachers start bringing paint and chalk into their classrooms… they have to get their fingers dirty first!
Since the project started in 2012, FUNARTE has trained counselors from the Ministry of Education (MINED) to reproduce these workshops for teachers and counselors in the municipalities outside of Estelí. And… dun-dun-dun! This is where I come in! In addition to working the primary schools of Estelí, I have been traveling with Karolina and two MINED counselors to facilitate workshops on self-esteem in the five municipalities outside of Estelí: Condega, La Trinidad, Limay, Pueblo Nuevo, and San Nicolás. Teachers and counselors at times travel for well over an hour from rural areas of these municipalities to attend the MINED/FUNARTE training sessions. The workshops run for just over a half-day and include team-building icebreakers, an art activity, an adapted story-time, a power-point presentation, and other group exercises all offering different strategies to develop a stronger self-esteem. The workshop facilitators debrief every activity to allow educators to reflect upon how they felt during the activity, how they could use them with their students, and what they hoped to work towards, both personally and professionally.
It’s been amazing to watch the different methods FUNARTE uses to strengthen the educational practices and conceptions of the workshops’ participants. There is a strong focus on encouraging educators to discuss their personal hopes, strengths, and limitations and how they have been shaped by past or present life experiences, which is something that I admit I did not expect to witness in professional workshops. After having now spent two months assisting the Colores Primarios II workshops, however, I realize that FUNARTE encourages all the actors involved in their work to grow and develop as individuals as well as members of a community—and indeed this is true for nearly every single one of the FUNARTE activities I have been a part of, whether at the office, during workshops, or in classrooms.
During our internship training session in Toronto shortly preceding my departure for Estelí, I read this quote in a somewhat unconventional place to find inspiration—a bathroom stall: “Make radical space in your self-perception for heart-breaking failures & radiant successes alike.” Who knew that a bit of stall wall wisdom would relate so directly to an internship with an arts-based organization in Nicaragua? I would make one revision, however, and change “failures” to “challenges.” Every day of work at FUNARTE brings new experiences to learn from, new questions to consider, and new cultural insights to develop this internship experience. The FUNARTE team works with terrific amounts of passion and dedication, and it has been impossible not to become increasingly inspired by their mission, goals, and vision as an organization. I will soon write more about my experiences with the second project I’ve been assisting, Arte y Cambio, but until then… ¡que le vaya bien!