Thanks to a grant from LEGO, Athentikos was able to partner with Lemonade International to take children from one of Central America’s largest slum communities to a week long Art Camp on the Guatemalan coast.
The camp was appropriately named ‘Emocionarte’, a combination of the Spanish words for emotion and art. Many of the children from Limonada have experienced violence and abuse, so “Emocionarte’ was designed to teach students how to process emotions and communicate them in a healthy way using various art forms. One of our friends suggested that it was a time for the kids to express their emotions and for us to hold ours back.
Our seven hour journey from Guatemala City took us on three school buses through the mountains, desert and jungle of Guatemala to El Faro, an absolutely beautiful retreat center located on the coast of Punta de Palma, Izabal. Most of the children had never left the dangerous red zones of Guatemala City. The wide-open spaces of the camp were a whole new world to these young explorers from the small concrete alleys of La Limonada. Words cannot even begin to express our delight as we watched them run and play in the lush green grass and swim in the ocean for the first time.
Athentikos taught 90 kids and 30 adults in classes involving painting, sculpture, drama, collage and LEGOs. Every night ended with a special event including a costume party, an acoustic concert by Amy Stroup, bonfires on the beach and a movie night. As camp started, the LEGOs were still held up in customs at the Danish Embassy, and we didn’t know if they would be released in time to make it to camp. Miraculously the LEGOs showed up via boat on the second day. We were thrilled to be able to share this incredible gift from LEGO with the children from La Limonada.
The kids were very creative with their LEGO projects even though they had never played with them before. They built houses with meticulous detail, including toilets, TVs, trash cans filled with trash, stoves with propane tanks, lamps and couches. One boy shared that he built his home with red and white bricks to represent the peace and love that he always wanted to fill his house. Another designed his house with a very large kitchen because he wanted to be able to serve food to his surrounding community. These thoughts were so profound coming from children with such painful stories. We constantly had to remind ourselves that these were children from La Limonada.
On the final evening, we screened Reparando, our documentary that features the community where these children live. They were fascinated to see familiar people and places on the big screen. After the film, the Athentikos team gave each child a doll made by Maria (the Doll Lady) and explained the purpose of the story’s metaphor. It was a perfect way to close the emotional week and a very special time for the Athentikos team to share with the kids.
Upon returning to Guatemala City, we hosted an Art Show for the La Limonada community. Families were invited to see the children’s creations and hear firsthand from several of the students about their experience. The energy level was high and applause filled the room as each group shared. We were extremely proud of the kids and honored to partner with the staff of La Limonada in this life-changing camp! Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible!