We bounce over the rutted road between fields of sugar cane. There is an opening in the fields, and rough huts appear by the road. Chris and Tina wave to the children who start running towards the school. It’s time for the weekly children’s art class in Zapote.
By the time we arrive at the school, the whole community has come out to greet us. Over 80 children from 3 to 15 crowd into the single-classroom school eager to participate. Mothers with babies on their hips join the group, and the teenage boys, who are obviously way too cool to participate, watch from the open windows and door.
Arte Acción has hired one of the local teenagers to help lead the art workshops, and he has elected to make papier mâché masks this week. We have one container of glue, three tubs for water, and I’m frantically tearing newspaper into strips with the help of some of the children. In Canada, this would be chaos. But not in Nicaragua. The children are so eager to participate, and the mothers are so grateful for help. The children patiently wait their turn as the sweat trickles down our faces. There is no way that the masks will be dry and ready to paint today, so Chris and Tina organize balloon relays in the road. The youngest children agree to be cheerleaders while the older ones race against each other. Everyone is having fun – there are no complaints and absolutely no discipline problems.
Saturday art classes are the highlight of the week in this isolated rural community on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua. The children, and their teenage mothers, are so small. It’s very possible that they are undernourished. The lucky residents who work at Los Cardones Surf Lodge make minimum wage - $3 for a 12-hour work day. And they are the extremely lucky ones. The other village residents rely on seasonal work harvesting sugar cane. Two hundred children attend school in Zapote. There is one room with about 6 desks and a leaky roof. School supplies are minimal or not available.
Tina and Chris, the managers of Los Cardones, are determined to make a difference in their new community. They purchase all the food and supplies for the resort from local people – from the fish to the fresh cheese. Local women make the curtains and work in the kitchen. Tina and Chris started the art classes in March when there was a teachers’ strike, and they realized how many children had no entertainment or resources. They are also teaching the children about recycling and plan to provide the community with garbage barrels so that the litter doesn’t end up on the beach. Their long-term goal is to replace the school roof, and they would welcome groups of volunteer workers.
The children of Zapote thank you for sending them art supplies. (The toothbrushes and toothpaste are distributed to the families who work at Los Cardones.) If you would like to make a further contribution to Arte Acción, or if you would like to take a group to Nicaragua to repair a roof, you can contact Athena Lamberis and Chris Mason, the managers of Los Cardones Surf Lodge, at Izic Sitton c/o C. Mason/ARTE ACCION Apartado Postal PA5466 Managua, Nicaragua Centro America.