Am I a Product of My Decisions or Circumstances?

I recently read a quote that said, “I’m not a product of my circumstances, I am a product of my decisions.”

That phrase has been like a splinter buried in my skin, constantly irritating and demanding attention. I’ve wrestled with it over and over and tried to figure out why it bothers me. Then, it dawned on me. At the core, this statement is about justice …  and was obviously written by someone with opportunity … someone like me.

I understand the context of taking responsibility for the decisions I make in my life, but I’ve had opportunity. I was born in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, to a financially secure and emotionally stable family, with parents that loved each other and loved me. My parents encouraged me to study hard in school that was easily accessible and free because I lived in the US. I was given fertile soil in which to grow and blessed with freedom to make good decisions. But this is not everyone’s reality.

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A young girl at the Terminal Dump in Guatemala City. Photo by Scott Owen Moore.

For the last five years, I’ve been immersed in stories about the least, last, and lost – people whose circumstances include things like civil war, murdered family members, drug addicted parents, physical and sexual abuse, poverty, prostitution, theft, gang culture, street life … and survival. Are these people also products of their decisions? Yes … but where I had the freedom to make good decisions, they have been forced to decide between bad and worse, just to survive.

Circumstances filter the options from which to decide. But, creativity gives us the power to see beyond our current circumstances and limitations. 

Creativity doesn’t just open existing doors, it creates new structures and frameworks to walk into. Creativity multiplies opportunities for everyone regardless of circumstance because it enables us to dream. Creativity empowers a child born into a slum to escape the cycle of survival and move into a new hope of opportunity like micro-enterprise. Creativity also enables leaders to envision governmental structures built upon justice.

Children Playing at the Terminal Dump in Guatemala City. Photo by Scott Owen Moore.
Children Playing at the Terminal Dump in Guatemala City. Photo by Scott Owen Moore.

Our nation’s forefathers dreamed beyond rule of monarchy when they wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Our forefathers collaborated in creativity born from and for justice because the God who created all men equal, also created the creativity which enabled these men to see beyond autocratic rule.

God is the creator of everything … including creativity. Creativity flows from God through us in a spiritual language that shares prophetic vision of who God wants us to be. It’s an opportunity to meditate on truths that we are unable to speak or comprehend on our own. Creativity invites each of us on a shared journey through opportunities that were once invisible. In the midst of fearful survival, creativity illuminates opportunity for justice.

As someone with opportunity, I choose to help others who live without it.

Through creativity, I choose to dream with others to share a story greater than myself. Our story is a beautifully diverse ensemble of broken and lost souls singing songs of grace, mercy, and undeserved forgiveness from a creator who loves us so much that He created a way to redeem us all through his own sacrifice: the ultimate expression of creativity AND justice.

If this resonates with you, we’d love for you to join the community in Athentikos: I Am Art .

Let’s explore creativity and justice together.

I’d love to know your thoughts. What do you think?

Clowning Around

We are well underway in the process of ‘Becoming Fools’!

Clowning is a performance art. It’s experiential. It’s theatre. And … it’s cathartic. Clowning can help these kids process their tragic stories and better understand their wounds. Clowning can also empower these kids to begin to communicate their stories non-verbally – in a way that crosses culture and language – so that we the audience can begin to understand their needs and respond. Both the clown and the audience have the opportunity to heal.

Classes are now in full swing every Tuesday and Thursday.  In these training sessions, kids are learning and perfecting a variety of skills included in clowning and in theatrical performance.  After each class the kids are tasked with specific skills and exercises to continue practicing at home.  How fun it has been to watch the kids being creative, being silly, expressing themselves, and improving their skills!!

At times, it may seem that a theatrical performance at such a big scale may be a goal that is unachievable.  But the kids involved in this project are extremely talented.  And these kids are passionate about influencing people around them in a similar way that Italo inspired them.

“My dream is leaving the streets for good and being able to have myself  a small business to have a training shop – workshops with makeup and stuff like that. And help people that are in need like I am need right now,” Byron says.

“That is part of my dream, to become an artist, a great artist like himself.  I like to bring joy to people’s lives, and I like to see people laughing. My purpose is to bring joy and happiness to people, to bring a moment of joy to others, a moment of entertainment, a moment in which they can clear their minds,” Mefi shares.

The kids have been practicing skills like improvisation, vocal coordination and projection, facial expressions and exaggeration, stage directions, dramatization, the art of applying make-up and everything in between.  All the while embracing a stronger understanding of self-confidence.

Throughout the process of preparing for the Becoming Fools Live Event, these kids are given a goal to work towards, something to practice and thus a very tangible way to see their skills and themselves grow.

We have a long road ahead of us, but the kids are enjoying the ride and so are we!!

Teatro Abril will host Becoming Fools Live Event

We have secured Teatro Abril as the venue for our live clowning event this June, and we couldn’t be more excited! Teatro Abril is one of the most historic and celebrated theaters in Guatemala City, known for its amazing charm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marble floors, spiraling staircases, ornate European-inspired statues and beautiful chandeliers fill the lobby of Teatro Abril to create a breath-taking entrance. These elements give the theater a sophisticated charm that inspires and represents Guatemalan culture. The exceptional attention to detail in the design of Teatro Abril continues into many salons located throughout the theater. It is estimated that over 50,000 people attend events at Teatro Abril each year.

The theater is located off the lobby through a large, golden curtain. It comfortably seats 700 people on the main level and two balcony level seats. The carpet and seats are a beautiful red fabric that gives the space color and continue the character of Teatro Abril.

Take a min to look at some more pictures at: http://teatroabril.com/. We will keep you updated and look forward to sharing the live event with you in months to come.

Art Camp 2011

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.

WATCH THE HIGHLIGHT VIDEO BELOW.


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!









LEGO awards Athentikos grant for La Limonada Art Camp

We are super excited to share this news with you: Athentikos received $4,000 from LEGO to support Art Camp in La Limonada the slum area featured in ‘Reparando.’ La Limonada is one of Latin America’s largest, most dangerous slums in Guatemala City, La Limonada.

The LEGO headquarters in Denmark awarded Athentikos a $4,000 grant in order to provide funding for an Art Camp at a partner school in La Limonada. Tita Evertz, founder and director of 2 schools in La Limonada, hosts an annual week long Art Camp providing children the opportunity to learn basic art skills and develop loving relationships. LEGO project manager for the World Robot Olympiad at the Denmark Headquarters, Claus Christensen, nominated Athentikos for LEGO employee grant after watching, ‘Reparando’ and learning about Art Camp in La Limonada. This grant awards minor funds to organizations recommended by employees.

“Everything I do has to be done with the children in mind. Our core values are centered around giving children the best of the best and the opportunity to use and develop their creative skills. The Art Camp does exactly that. So there was a great match between the cores values of LEGO and the ambitions of the Art Camp,” said Christensen.

The presentation of 10 LEGO employee grants was held on August 23 in Denmark. The LEGOs president, his family, CEO, Chairman of the Board and 100 guests attended the presentation. The employees that recommended the winning organizations gave a short presentation about the organization and cause for the grant. Below is our friend Claus accepting the award from the LEGOs president, Kjeld. (And Claus gave him a copy of ‘Reparando.’) We are humbly grateful to Claus for recommending the La Limonada Art Camp for this grant!

The Art Camp in La Limonada will be held this fall, October 31- November 5, 2011. Local and international staff, volunteers will be working with 100 children, ages 9 to 15 years old, at the camp providing skill and social development. Classes include drawing, dancing, yoga, media, drama and more. Contact Amelia Moore at ameliajmoore@athentikos.com if you are interested in traveling with the Athentikos team to assist in the Art Camp this fall.

“We believe in the therapy and healthiness that art can bring. This [Art Camp] gives them an opportunity to get to know something greater than their reduced boundaries and lets us mark their hearts with the love of God,” says Evertz.

In addition to the funding, LEGO will be donating 20 boxes of assorted LEGO bricks, enough LEGO bricks for 200 kids, to the schools in La Limonada! The bricks will be used at the schools in La Limonada, at Mi Casita and at Art Camp. Athentikos is excited about this partnership with LEGOs, Tita and Lemonade International.

Check out Athentikos’ new project: www.becomingfools.com. Athentikos is raising funds for their upcoming project, Becoming Fools, which will feature youth that live on the streets of Guatemala. Check out more info about how you can be involved in the project.

New Stories

By Susan Marko

I am sitting in a school auditorium in Guatemala City as middle and high school students view the Reparando film for the first time.  Shorty and Tita are sitting in the room with us and I am, once again, moved to tears. This trip is my first time in Guatemala, but I have watched Tita and Shorty’ s stories for the past two years as my husband has been working on footage from his two trips with the Athentikos team.  I couldn’t help but be captivated by their lives and ministries.  Now that Bobby and I are both here to participate in the premiers of the finished product, we feel overwhelmed and humbled that God has allowed us to be a part of what he is obviously doing through “Reparando.”

On Wednesday night the team met at Joel Van Dyke’s House in Guatemala City along with our Guatemalan friends who have given so much of their time, passion, and effort towards preparing for the premiers this week.  I was overwhelmed by the hope they have that this message could make a real difference for their country.  Everyone who has been a part of this film has such a sense that God crafted the story and the results are all to his glory.  Now we are all just standing back in awe as God takes his message to the people.  Again, all of our showings are full and frequent calls are still coming in of people who want to see the film.  But beyond the numbers, we are hearing stories of how hearts are truly being awakened and a passion is forming to serve God’s people like never before.  I include myself in these numbers.

So far this week we led an art camp for students near Antigua who have had little exposure to the idea of creative expression.  It was amazing to see their joy as they realized a talent that they never knew they had, or to see them express their thoughts about themselves, their family, and God, some for the very first time.   This idea that they can see God in the small things, that trash can be something beautiful, that they have the potential to dream and to “ask beautiful questions” is a brand new concept to so many of them.  The teachers, who participated in the classes along with their students, seemed equally inspired and wish to continue the art program in their school.

We have also visited some extremely poor communities and walked with people who are giving their lives away to bring hope to these families.  We interviewed a pastor (Mario, above) who was born and raised in the same hill town where he now serves.  God reached him through powerful visions and some missionaries who came to work and serve in the community years ago.  He then took us to meet some families who have been given a chance to provide for their families through a microfinance project, allowing them to borrow money in order to purchase chickens or other livestock so that they will have products to sell.  These families were so thankful for the little that they had, and they thanked us for coming to their village to share in their stories.  All we could do is hug them and smile and tell them in our broken Spanish how we were thankful too.  God truly does use the weak to shame the wise.  God’s heart is for the poor.  “Blessed are the poor” is not only those who are poor in spirit.  God truly dwells with those who are in need and as Tita says in the film, God is “tangible” in these places.

In trying to process all that we have encountered this week, I know I have to respond.  All I can do is tell God I am standing here with open hands and trust that he will tell me how.  It seems that our involvement in this film is just the first step.  To God be the glory.