When I think about my childhood, perhaps the strongest recollections are of long days spent drawing and painting in my bedroom, copying from books or simply dreaming up a more interesting world. I was forever collecting toilet roll tubes, shoe boxes and milk cartons in the aim of reproducing the next amazing idea I had seen on Art Attack or Smart, or working current projects. Art was always part of my life. I was always embarking on a new plan, whether a simple sketch or a crazy invention. The thing that I took for granted, however, was that as a child I always had the opportunity to be involved in creative projects. I was given inspirations from a young age and always had the chance to act on it. At home and at school, in craft classes and art clubs, I had the tools available to do just about anything I wanted. Without such outlets I may not have been able portray my creative fantasies as a child.
Recollecting on my past, it seems alien to think of a childhood without art. However, for most children, particularly in the developing world, there is little opportunity to be involved in artistic projects. For this reason, I think it is incredibly important that organizations such as JWOC are endeavouring to provide underprivileged children with the means to be more creative. When I applied to volunteer at JWOC this summer, I was unaware of what sort of work I would be involved in. When I discovered that they would like us to run an activities camp for children in the area, I was immediately drawn to the idea of running some arts and crafts, reliving some old childhood projects.
Since starting the activities camp we have introduced the children to a range of activities, from sport and dance, to drama and art. On the first day, standing in the blazing morning heat, surrounded by excitable children, everyone was doubtful as to whether our plans would succeed. On that first day I helped two groups of children with different art projects. In our first session we did some Butterfly pictures with kids from around 2 years old to 6 years old. Although in the beginning there were a few puzzled faces, by the end everyone had created beautiful pictures and seemed very happy with their work. After, we helped the 6-11 year olds to make some wonderful balloon men complete with googly eyes and feather ears. For me, it was the first glimpse of the creativity of the kids with every character having its own expression.
Although as the camp has gone on there have been some less successful projects, on the whole the kids have always put so much energy and enthusiasm into their artwork. From simple environment themed colouring sheets to personalized photo-frames, the children have shown incredible creativity and talent. It is hard to pick a favourite project but if I was pushed I would have to say that my best day was when we made mobiles with the older children in the group. After much discussion the previous night and various failed plans we had tentatively settled on the idea, worried that it would be too childish for older kids, or too girly for the so-called ‘lads’ of the group. However, after some nervy opening minutes explaining the idea, we soon realized that we were on to a winner. From the children who diligently followed our example, meticulously making little felt pandas and stars, to the others who took their own course, every mobile was better than the last. One child even made a Cambodian themed mobile complete with a felt Angkor Wat!
Working on artistic projects with the children has been an immensely rewarding task. I hope that, even in some small way, our input has helped to spur a love of art in some children who might otherwise have never experienced the joy of starting and finishing their own creative project. These children are also lucky enough to continue growing artistically with the help of JWOC, who run an art class every Sunday with children from the area. I hope that some of them will take up the opportunity, because seeing their creativity and talent has undoubtedly rekindled my love of art.