Sixty square meters, thirty children, twenty litres of paint, five long days and lots of jungle. That basically sums up the mural project in San Martín Jilotepeque.
It has been almost a year since I visited this school for children with special needs for the first time and met director Telma Calan. It’s thanks to her that children with all kinds of special needs receive education at a place where they are treated with love and respect. Not an easy feat because all her students have very different needs and range in age from four to twenty.
The school is located in the centre of the buzzling town of San Martín de Jilotepeque. It’s a bit of a concrete jungle there, with lots of traffic, stray dogs, dirt and noise. The children are from the town itself and its surrounding villages, many of them from low-income families. They’ll likely never go on a trip and are rarely surrounded by soothing nature. That’s why I decided to paint them a jungle in their schoolyard. To have a bit of green in their yard, even if it’s just paint, and of course plenty of animals.Of course, the children were going to be involved in the process. The problem was that I didn’t know them, so I had no idea about their abilities. With that in mind I made a design in which they could help paint the background on which we would add details later on.
The teachers had arranged for the children to come in small groups which worked
out quite well. Dressed in old T-shirts we had brought for the occasion, the
children happily grabbed brushes and rollers. Minutes later everything was pale
blue, yellow and green, including the floor and the children’s faces. It was a
lovely mess and the kids clearly had a lot of fun.
The next group of kids was a bit older and quickly finished the rest of the wall, even the highest parts. We could barely stop them from painting the rest of the wall which we need to keep blank for the children who’d come the next day.
I have never officially opened any of my murals in such a festive way! It was fun to cut the ribbon in front of all the students and their parents. Then it was time for a delicious lunch and afterwards a few more hours of painting for us. Night was falling when we packed up and headed back home to Antigua. Exhausted, stained, stinky and dirty, but quite happy.
This mural is a true community project. Not just because it was designed for all the students, their parents and teachers of the school, but also because it would not have been possible without the help of a LOT of people.
the first place, thanks to Elio Navarijo and Catherine Corry for joining me on
this venture and working their butts off! Many thanks to director Telma Calan
and staff of the school for receiving us so warmly and for providing labour for
plastering the wall. Of course, may thanks too to all the students who helped
paint. So much fun! A special thank-you to Cristy Velasco, our friend in San
Martín Jilotepeque who introduced us to the school and who kept on spoiling us
with delicious snacks. And many, many thanks to all the people who helped
sponsoring this mural! The list is long and for privacy reasons I’ll just
mention first names:
Peter, Fredy, Argi, Wendy, Katie, Pilar, Ria, Casey, Jeroen, Linda, Bonnie, Tamra, Indara, David, Cathy, Dana, Frank, Maureen, Kimberly, Ana María, Patricia, Judith, Jeff, Chris, Maite, Debra, Buddy, Christine, Shoshi, Suzanne, Rokus, Paulina, Judy, Liza and Catherine. Thank you all so much!