Make your art matter. creating an impact in faraway places using your artistic skills.
Painting a mural in an Indian school.
Tooting tuk-tuks and crazy traffic, the sound of India that always excites me and keeps me alert, the chaos has a system, crossing the road and you feel you should receive a medal for your skill at staying alive. Here I am again, my third visit to Jaipur and about to visit the new school my Indian friends were eager to show me.
"We have a lovely wall for you to paint so please bring your paint brushes."
We turn the corner into the slum area, and I glimpse the faded set of wings on the old school wall, we painted them three years before Covid stopped us traveling. They remain a solid reminder of the power of art and how we connected and shared inspiration. Despite the challenges of time and circumstance, the image still carries the memory of the joy and excitement that we created when it was first painted. It's a testament to the impact that art can have on a community, "Sure let's do it again" I was happy to oblige because I always feel appreciated here. Artists need that lift and I am no different. Around the next corner I see the entrance to the new school. It has five rooms a large entrance and a yard at the rear.
I absolutely love travelling; however, I am a terrible tourist and have been described as a lifestyle traveller. Learning about the lives and culture of a nation I always prefer to immerse myself in a homestead and live like a local or involve myself in a volunteering project especially where I can be creative and get messy.
I am introduced to Yaamini Ramdev a young local artist who has been asked to come along and help. Her family are artists and have their own gallery.
As we survey the playground area, it's clear that there is a lot of work to be done. The two grey walls and one brick wall offer a blank canvas for design, but the uneven ground and scattered debris pose a challenge. However, with creativity and collaboration, these challenges can be overcome. Creative people make wonderful volunteers: because they often bring a unique perspective and skillset to the projects they work on.
We are joined by further volunteers who visit every year from a business college. They are not artists, but we listen to their ideas. This is going to be an experience for them. They ask about what they should do and as artists we always reply...."whatever you want" and the fun begins.
The first ideas were to create something sensory to stimulate play. These ideas were met with some confusion and it soon occurred to me that these children needed little stimulation to play. Yaamini suggested we paint a huge smiling sun which will greet them every morning as they enter school. Compared to our kids in the west I watched them, intrigued by how they used their raw imaginations. Nobody entertains them, there were no devices, film shows neither is sport or crafts on the agenda. However, I was concerned about safe play and we started a fund through social media to raise money to pay to have the ground levelled. We achieved that project quickly through the kind donations of my readers and we were able to show the process step by step as we did it.
Creative volunteers can help bring new ideas and approaches to projects, which can be invaluable for organisations looking to innovate and make a greater impact. I note the lack of arts and crafts on offer for the children to engage in, so whilst we create our mural for the school, we encouraged the children to participate under supervision. Watching a child who has probably never held a paint brush filled us all with emotion.
Using art to build community and strengthen bonds across cultural divides.
Your art becomes a powerful tool for social change, helping the kids to paint we were able to teach them patience and how to focus in their chaotic world. It's an exciting and inspiring endeavour, and one that is sure to bring joy and meaning to all involved.
Become a Volunteer
Finding affordable ways to volunteer can be challenging. There are many companies offering volunteer programmes and they can be expensive trips. I found my project through booking an Airbnb. They advertised that their profits went to an NGO they were running, and they were happy to show their guests and let them visit the school. That was six years ago, and we have become good friends since then. This time they said there was no charge for my accommodation as I am now family. I wanted to repay them by the help I gave them with the playground and making my community aware of their project. It helped them such a lot.
The Saksham school will always find you a space to volunteer there, whatever your skill may be. The school is in dire need of help to pay teachers and the running costs. There is also a project to find a sewing teacher to teach the mothers so they can earn from making garments.
There is a plan to run a volunteer program in 2024 to help the school. If you are interested in participating in any way please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
We also have a way you can donate by using this link.
Alternatively why not organise an art cafe with us and add a fund raiser?