Peru: Painting the future
Whether you’re a spotty teenager in a gorilla suit trying to flog pepperoni pizzas or an elderly postman doing Torvil and Dean proud on a wintery morning, everyone knows how difficult it can be to spread a message.
We’re no different.
When we were first asked to design and paint a mural addressing environmental issues here in Peru, my first reaction was a mixture of trepidation and excitement.
Naturally, I wanted our work to be good-looking, smooth-talking and pack an almighty punch. But with my limitations with a pencil and a paintbrush in mind, I feared it would be the washed-up amateur boxer equivalent – sluggish, stuttering and missing the target.
Nonetheless, I was excited to be trying something new and stepping out of my comfort zone and luckily I was not alone. Our team at Vida y Esperanza consisted of Mark, Lana, Nelson and myself so my artistic incompetence was very much countered.
We set ourselves four weeks to start and finish the mural and it was a long and careful process. First of all, we came up with the theme of water usage in Villa El Salvador and encouraged our students to draw a mural design. After much deliberation, we settled on a design by Clarita, the teenage daughter of our placement co-ordinator, Aurora.
Then the hard work began – initially we had to scrape and file down the wall to prepare the surface for a base coat of white paint. The owner of the local stationery shop had to stock up on erasers when we sketched the design onto the wall.
The process of painting the wall brought everyone together as our colleagues, students, fellow volunteers, one of the sons of our host family, Luis Antonio and even the occasional passer-by all chipped in to give the project a real community feel.
And on the eve of our final afternoon on placement, the mural was completed and as we munched on cookies and crisps and guzzled Inca Kola, we basked in a fantastic achievement and a job well done.
Meanwhile for the girls at MANTHOC, it was a race against time as they left themselves with just two days to paint their mural. After they also welcomed designs from their students, they decided on a simple but effective design that encouraged their students and colleagues to recycle and use water responsibly.
But ultimately it was a happy ending as the girls with the help of their fellow volunteers and the children at MANTHOC defied the odds and finished the mural with enough time to be able to put their feet up, knock back a few lemonades and revel in their achievements at their goodbye party.
Now the challenge is for the people of Villa El Salvador to take stock of the messages our murals convey and make a difference in our absence.
The baton has been well and truly passed but such is the initiative and determination of the people here, I have no doubt that our murals will contribute in their own small way to developing a better living environment for the people of Villa.
This was evidenced by a recent community event attended by Mark and myself, where locals and officials from the Municipality discussed and outlined plans for developing the Oasis area of Villa El Salvador, where our mural is already attracting attention.
The cogs of change are turning.
By ICS Progressio volunteer Jourdan Rhule.