Art classes, fluoride treatments, and friendship with Honduran kids

Photo by Linda Gilbert
Elementary school students work on an art project with their new supplies.

Editor’s note: For 14 years, volunteers with Hands to Honduras Tela have traveled to Tela, Honduras, for service projects that have included constructing health centers, school classrooms and latrines; providing health brigades; leading educational and training seminars; delivering school, medical and athletic supplies, and more. The 2018 team had 46 volunteers, many from Shelburne and Charlotte, ranging in age from 14 to 88. H2HT has developed many relationships and a deep appreciation for the people and culture of Tela.

By LINDA GILBERT

Our past experience in Honduran schools has taught us to balance the high energy of young children with creative activity.

This year, we decided on art classes for the elementary grades to be held in conjunction with the fluoride clinics at the public schools.

Young students waited with excitement for the Hands to Honduras Tela volunteers to enter the classrooms with art supplies (construction paper, crayons, colored pencils and scissors that volunteers carried in large suitcases from Vermont).

The students really didn’t know what “art class” was because art is not part of the elementary school curriculum there.

Our volunteers explained how the art class would function and that it would be followed by toothbrush instruction and fluoride treatments. Our partners – the Tela American School bilingual students – assisted with translation. 

The children were given direction, paper, and supplies to draw whatever they want.  The room became quiet, concentration evident. The and creativity begins. Animals, houses, a church were their favorite choices to illustrate.

Two H2HT youth volunteers from Shelburne put a twist on the art theme by posing as models for the students. The children giggled, quickly adopted the idea, and with great enthusiasm drew the boys. This was both fun for the children and for our volunteers.

When class was over, the students hung their beautiful creations with great pride in a special place on the classroom wall.

We left the art supplies behind with the teacher, hoping they might have more art classes in the future.

On another day at a different, larger and busier elementary school, we observed a very effective way of handling the exuberance of elementary-grade students. 

Part way through the school morning, the teachers and students exited their classrooms and all gathered together in a large outdoor area. For five minutes, all of the kids and teachers screamed – and I mean really screamed – at the top of their lungs.

It was startling to us at first, but a few of us thought, “Why not?” And we screamed, too. It felt pretty good!

After five minutes, a bell rang and the students immediately stopped screaming. There was quiet, calm and big smiles as they walked into their classrooms to continue their lessons.

Linda Gilbert is the director of Hands to Honduras-Tela; lindaggilbert@gmail.com.

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