On Saturday, July 23rd, hundreds of mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, grandparents, volunteers and other community members gathered in Parque Nuevo Amanecer in Zone 3 for the Feria de Valores (Values Fair). Safe Passage´s creative expression program organized this unique community outreach and art fair. Creative expression teaches skills for self expression and educates Safe Passage’s students
on a different value every month. The fair included games for the children that older Safe Passage students designed and coordinated, along with music performed by students, juggling, drumming, break dancing club shows, graffiti art demonstrations, and a large public art project involving over 200 donated shoes.
“The idea behind this fair was to create an event for the community by the community,” says Mike McCarthy, guitar instructor at Safe Passage. Tristan Green, a college student from Chapel Hill, NC, recently joined the creative expression program as a guitar teacher along with Mariah Sterling, an Antigua-based singer, who has started a chorus at Safe Passage. The Feria de Valores was a chance for students to perform in concert with these new Safe Passage musicians and a chance for Safe Passage to display its first public art installation in the garbage dump community.
The theme of the public art installation was “Pasos para un mundo mas pacifico” (Steps for a more peaceful world). Safe Passage and community members were given a couple of different opportunities to paint hundreds of donated shoes in any style they wished and were encouraged to put words and phrases on them to capture their wishes for their community. The first such opportunity occurred during June’s reunion mensual or monthly meeting. This is a time once a month when, instead of kids coming in to Safe Passage, a parent is required to come instead. It can be thought of as extended parent-teacher conference of sorts. Volunteers in the creative expression program led discussions posing the questions, “What are your hopes for your community, fears in your community and what does it need?” McCarthy says, “Those conversations got very tough and emotional at times, much more than I expected.”
That conversation was continued in public this past Saturday. On the fence enclosing the park, creative expression program Coordinator, Carlyn Wright-Eakes hung posters with the prompt: “Que deseamos para una communidad de paz? (What do we wish for a peaceful community?)” on. 3rd grader Belen and older sister, Lisbeth (4th grade) wrote some of their wishes on the poster while taking turns caring for their 2 year-old brother at the fair. Lisbeth writes, "More love and peace and freedom in communities in Guatemala."
Other suggestions included:
- “Leave behind rivalries!=We need solidarity!”
- "That we take back the night to spend time with our families!"
- "That we take care of and guide our children and teenagers=we don't abuse them"
- "Less corruption"
Guitar student, Fransisco Cifuentes really stole the show when, following his performance, his teacher Tristan
announced that the two songs he had just sung and played for the audience were written by this talented 6th grader! The 14 year-old said of song writing that he likes to write about love more than anything else, but that “to express something like love it’s difficult, you know, because one wants to do it well.”
Watching from above as 20 kids painted shoes, another 15 patiently waited in line for face paint, others ran around with siblings, cousins, friends and volunteers, I spotted my former student Cesar down below. He was in the 8th grade class in which I was a classroom assistant last year. He’s a very talented kid–especially in English and on guitar, but I know he has struggled with substance abuse and issues at home in the past. He was standing in his official, black Fair
Volunteer shirt smiling and confidently leading activities and games of at least 15 elementary school students. It struck me then that that is what Safe Passage is giving to these kids and this community—a chance to cultivate and hone their talents and share them with others to make this community a better place.