I can already tell, this post is going to be a meaningful, mushy one. Way back last Summer, I had an idea. This idea was to create a mural with kids (something I already do in my job a lot anyways), but on specialized fabric, instead of a wall. The mural would get sent to a rural village in Madagascar (the country I served in as a Peace Corps Volunteer 2008-2010), where a current PC Volunteer would help recruit villagers to finish and install it on the wall of their hospital. The mural's subject matter would have to do with Malaria prevention, helping to educate through pictures, those who could not read. If you want the WHOLE scoop, read this earlier post.
Anyway, so then after forming the idea last Summer, I found an extraordinary Principal with an extraordinary staff (Bertha Holt Elementary), to help me make this idea into a reality. They wrote a grant to the Eugene Education Fund to get a residency with me funded through my employer, Lane Arts Council. I also got my old Peace Corps supervisor to help me find the right PCV and village to coordinate with. The villagers there already knew the deal about using mosquito nets to prevent Malaria, but they needed more info about the care and maintenance of the nets to be dispersed. I came up with the design below, explaining to wash the net with regular soap not detergent (so as not to wash away the mosquito repellent), dry the net in the shade not sun, tuck it tightly under the mattress, and repair any holes it gets. The language is Malagasy.
Then, during a week-long residency with the Holt 4th graders, I taught them about Madagascar, did art projects with them that related to it's unique flora and fauna, and facilitated them in painting the mural on the fabric.
When completed, the mural was shipped to Madagascar, along with some adorable postcards that the 4th graders hand drew and wrote on in Malagasy (with some help from me of course). What follows are the pictures we received of it hung in it's final home, the hospital wall in Tsivangiana, Madagascar.
|Women waiting in line at the hospital to get vaccines for their babies.|
|Eddie Carver, the Peace Corps Volunteer who helped us coordinate and finish this project.|
Now comes the mush. I really just am so floored to see these pictures. That a mural my students did, made it all the way across the ocean and is now on a wall in a hospital in the middle of nowhere, where it will help educate some people on an important health topic. I can't wait to share these pictures with the 4th graders, along with the postcards we received back from Eddie's english club in response to theirs. I can't wait to show them that at such a young age, they can make an impact. This is how it feels to make a difference, I will tell them. YOU MATTER.
Eddie also told me that the original design template I created is now being replicated by Peace Corps Volunteers all over Madagascar, in their own villages. During training, Peace Corps Volunteers are all encouraged to paint world map murals on the walls of schools, and murals about Malaria are starting to be encouraged more and more in recent years. Peace Corps wouldn't push this so much to people who aren't necessarily artists, unless they found it to be worthwhile as a form of community development. These pictures disperse information to the public in a bright and colorful way, and are especially crucial to those who could not read other posted health bulletins and announcements. ART MATTERS.
So. Happy. I think of this is as the pilot project. I envision doing many more of these, about other relevant health topics, all over Madagascar. No, all over Africa. Attention International health NGO's: call me ;)