When A Dream Becomes A Reality
For the past 2 months I've been working on my graduate school capstone project for the Global Hope Program from Lipscomb University. To me, this isn't just a 4 month project, it's something that I've thought of and dreamed about for about 10 years; and hopefully I can keep doing it long term. My dream began when I was 15, and last Monday I found myself in a surreal moment, where it finally hit me: my dream was becoming a reality.
Behind the Name
Luna is the word for moon in Spanish. When I was a kid, about six or seven, I wanted to be an astronaut. The thought of exploring space and going to places where almost no one has been to, was something that even as a kid I was passionate about. That was my dream. I grew up and discovered other interests, other things I was passionate about, and my dreams changed, but with discipline and a sense of adventure many of those dreams became a reality.
I had people who believed in me, invested in me and challenged me to discover so I could find my talents and use them for good. That's what Luna International is about: empowering children, who come from low-income neighborhoods, to discover their talents through art and sports. To provide opportunities so that maybe one kid can discover a bit more about who they are and why they are on earth.
Astronauts go on missions.
I think I just Landed on my Moon. This is the story of how Luna International begins: this is the first mission.
Last Monday was hopefully the first of many of those opportunities. By partnering with amazing people, who were vital in my upbringing, we were able to give the first art workshop to a group of 57 kids.
Meet Carolina Carias
Carolina Carias was my art teacher since I was 8 years old up until I moved to Texas for college. A couple of weeks ago I approached Carolina with my idea for my project. She loves kids and art and investing in the community and gladly accepted. Even though she has a very busy schedule as every day nearly 100 kids (sometimes more) go to her studio to learn about art, she agreed to come share with this group of kids. She has invested time in helping develop a curriculum that will develop and help discover the abilities that these kids already have.
This isn't the first time Carolina gives back. I remember being a teenager and giving back to the community through art by assisting a Nicaraguan muralist who came to Tegucigalpa as a part of an effort with the United Nations to make the city beautiful.
According to the World Bank, more than two thirds of the Honduran population live in poverty and 5 out of 10 people live in extreme poverty. There are multiple issues that permeate the society and propagate the poverty within, as is violence, "it is the country with the highest homicide rate in the world (79 per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the Observatorio de la Violencia of the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras." On top of that there are other societal issues like single-parent (mothers) homes, chauvinism, alcoholism, lack of education, drug trafficking, abuse of power and corruption throughout the government, as well as a concentration of economic power and a volatile economic environment subject to outside changes.
While Honduras struggles with those issues, there are many things that make Honduras beautiful. I've been reading a book called Switch, creating change when change is hard, the authors talk about the sad reality of how people seem to have a stronger connection to the negative events in life, that the good is quickly forgotten. They propose that instead of focusing on the negative, we should focus on the positive, "the bright spots." I think they're on to something, what would happen if we focused on what went well in any given scenario and focused on replicating the good? So this is a blog post about a bright spot in the history of 57 kids, about something beautiful of this country.
At the end of the day, I do think we can eradicate poverty in Honduras. In my trip to Hong Kong last year, I saw how a city of about 8 million had developed greatly. They still had poverty but poverty was minimal. Honduras has about 8 million people. 2/3 live in poverty. The poverty mindset can be broken. Good people are already doing good things in Honduras. I hope I can be one more on the list.
Meet the Kids: Buen Provecho Ministry
Since 2005 I volunteered at Iglesia en Transformacion, as a translator for missions teams that came to work with the children of the community of Los Pinos. This neighborhood, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, is located across the street from UNITEC, one of the best private universities of Honduras. Talk about contrasting worlds literally across the street from each other.
Los Pinos has many homes that struggle to make means ends and are constantly faced with the threat of violence and organized crime. The children that come to Buen Provecho have had many difficult, sometimes traumatizing experiences. They come to Iglesia en Transformacion 5 days a week to eat a meal and have a safe environment to study and play at. For many of these kids, this will be the only meal they eat that day. I cannot fathom those experiences, nor have I ever had the struggle of wondering if I will have a next meal, or where it will come from. On the outside I seem to be quite different than these kids, but at the end of the day we are all just humans with a desire to be loved and known.
During my college summer breaks I would return to Tegucigalpa, and spend the majority of my mornings by volunteering at Iglesia en Transformacion, helping in any way possible, but mostly building friendships with these kids. I could not stay away. I guess my hope was and is that I can be a light to them, a positive influence and show them that I believe in them and that they have a great purpose for being on this earth.
It just so happened that for over a year, the leadership of this church had been searching for ways to engage the children in artistic workshops. They had invested in sports training and music, with the hope of helping the children discover their talents and continuing the promotion of those. Talk about perfect timing. I needed to find a group that I could work with (so I could meet my University requirements) and they had been looking for someone who was interested in the arts and children.
The majority of these kids (I would venture to say ALL) had never received an art lesson. Even the older teenagers and some of the moms that volunteer at the program participated in the art activities because they had never received a lesson. A total of 57 kids, ranging from ages 3-19, and moms participated. We ran out of some of the paint, had 2 major spills, but I think I speak for everyone that it was a great experience. After all, art without a beautiful mess isn't art, right?
The plan is to have 2 more painting sessions and 1 photography session, and finalize with an art exhibition, where the kids are the stars, so that the children can share their work with their families and the community.
My favorite part: seeing each of the kids faces as they discovered how to make colors, as they discovered how they just made beautiful marks with paint. That was priceless.
With these workshops we hope to show the kids that they are important and that there are more things to discover. For all I know the next Picasso could be sitting in front of me.
HOW YOU CAN PARTICPATE
Click on the SHOP tab at the top and purchase a 2015 Discover Calendar. This is the first product of the Luna International line with which the art workshops are funded.
If you are in Honduras and wish to shop for a calendar send me an email, prices are different and availability is different.
If you would like to make a donation for the purchase of art supplies, cameras, or a small gift I hope to leave at the end of the session, send me an email:
TEAM LUNA INTERNATIONAL
This is something I can't do on my own, it is something that I hope I don't do on my own. I am curious to see what the future holds and the people that become a part of Luna International.
For now, a special thanks to all the volunteers: moms, older teens from Buen Provecho Ministry, from Iglesia en Transformacion who helped with getting materials ready, the set up and tear down of the event. For all other who so far have remained behind the scenes and are great supporters.
A special thanks to my mom, as I was sick most of the week leading up to the ART DAY, she was awesome and helped me prepare the materials and even came to help out on the day of the event, as I could barely talk. The event would not have happened without her help. And to mom and dad: thanks for showing me the world and for being great coaches and supporters for anything I set my heart and mind to do.