Stepping into Pumping Hearts

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This is an article I wrote for Dr Corbitt at Buildabridge and thought you’d like to read it…

Last year. I sat across from a total stranger and was given two weeks to decide. I chose to go and they gave me the name “Artist on Call”. I stepped off a plane, stepped on dirt and garbage, and stepped into the pumping hearts of Kenya. When I first stepped into this position with Buildabridge I was nervous and just crossing my fingers that I could push my way through six months. But this worry subsided so quickly as most of my time I have felt the freedom to dance with rather than push alone.

I stepped into Kibera. The Center for Transforming Missions Resource Center is our home on Thursdays, as many artists including myself meet together under the CTM program title “Art from Below”. It began formal, reflecting my rigid ways and nervous mind. Artists failed to keep time so I learned Kenyan time. Artists didn’t attend events and I learned that they cannot afford. Artist’s came and went. Now I am beginning to understand how it happens that a solid group of committed artists is formed.

Those who are committed were those who hosted the Diaspora of Hope arts camp in Kibera and people here say this camp is the first of its kind to hit this community. The camp extended beyond the committed few that come on Thursdays, but instead it extended past Kibera, past Nairobi, past Kenya. But extending outside of the community does not mean that Kibera did not own the camp, rather finding support at every available opportunity brought greater impact. Four community centers donated their space for us to use for three days. Artists were represented from four different organizations within Nairobi and those organizations were responsible for recruiting the children. The artists took small steps of preparation for our camp but these steps were consistent and they carried us in the same direction so that come the morning of April 21st .  They were trained in the BuildaBridge model of lesson planning and ready to teach two hundred children about art in light of unity.

These twenty-eight artists stepped into roles of responsibility and influence during each of the three days of camp but they also stepped into the lives of children that will not forget the teachers who inspired. The problem is that the children did not want camp to end, and neither did the artists. Artists from various organizations brought strength in their varieties of expertise and strength of knowledge so that, had they been given the chance, children could have extended class each day and still not have had enough time to absorb all their teacher had to offer. On the final day time of celebration gave each group a platform to share talent and joy with their peers.

Once camp ended the artists faced a cross road. One path was short and simple, involving few steps while the other path was long and winding right to the top of a mountain. Do we continue to walk with these same children in order to have greater impact and influence in their lives year round, or do we wait until camp comes next year before interacting with these children again? Children and artists unanimously opted for the mountain climb.

It is ironic that our theme was unity because that is exactly the result of the Diaspora of Hope Art Camp. Yes, children have benefited, but simultaneously the artists have come together with vision and cause and have now opted to climb a daunting mountain, one step at a time, in order to teach the same children art on Saturdays for one year. I have a feeling that once we reach the peak of the mountain the artists will notice a higher peak over their shoulder that they would not have even been in their view had they not chosen to climb the first mountain. And the way things are going, I think the artists of Kibera will keep climbing.

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