At the end of July 2015, I reached out to Holmewood House School, a prep school in the south east of England to propose an educational exchange between their students and the children of Lobitos via the library projects coordinated by High Tides International. The library initiative was inspired by the efforts of former English teachers who had worked in local school in Lobitos, teachers who wanted to offer extra support not only to learn a second language but more urgently to the improve the quality of general literacy in Spanish, their first language.
As a former student of HolmewoodHouse, I remember how I fostered a passion of languages and literature, of which both integrate into my current degree of Spanish and Portuguese. I was grateful that Holmewood warmly accepted my offer, with excitement for establishing a link with South America, a new venture for them. What makes this relationship special is the willingness to reach out with an alike goal to encourage educational pursuits and a love for creativity and learning.
As we approached our 8th week since the opening of the community centre in Primavera we decided to bring about one of our planned activities linked with the school; an arts and craft exchange which celebrated our favourite childhood stories. With a regular rhythm being settled dividing the week activities between the library, yoga and girls club, it felt like an opportune moment to introduce this new project to engage the kids of Lobitos with the library programme.
One week before arriving to Peru, I visited Holmewood House with squares of card in tow to commence the activity on the English side. My visit wonderfully coincided with World Book Day on March 3rd, and to my surprise the students were going about their school day in superbly crafted costumes also inspired by book characters. It was lunch break when I arrived into the art room with Paul Morgan-Jones, the school’s Senior Master and coordinator of international and charity links (as well as being my former geography teacher). To my further surprise many children were already sitting in the art room and waiting excitedly to see what activity was to come. The instructions were simple and clear: using the squares provided, the children were to draw and colour anything inspired from their favourite stories, books and tales. The activity allowed a sea of creativity as all sorts of tales and characters were being drawn up. Dalmatians, cats in hats, Harry Potters and yellow minions appeared amongst various other book titles. In total we received a whopping total of 35 squares to take to Peru drawn by the students of Holmewood House. It was a terrific quick fire activity bursting with imagination, inventiveness and individuality.
Here in Peru, Leah and I decided to implement the activity a little differently to work best with the centre’s daily dynamics. Each day in unpredictable; we can sometimes receive 15-20 children in one afternoon and on others less than 5. Last Monday, an afternoon which is dedicated to reading and story hour, I strung up the drawings from Holmewood House to put on display on the wall of the library. With the pictures being at eye-level for then younger ones, and an array of recognisable characters, interest and curiosity was generated about where these illustrations came from. When offered to make squares of their own, we curiously noticed that the kids went straight to the bookshelves to find a known story title that they liked before settling down with their paper and crayons. From there they would either trace or replicate the book covers they found. For the younger children, we offered help to trace their book titles, leaving them to do the colouring which was much to their enjoyment.
As kids come and go regularly, we always kept cut paper and colouring materials at the ready. Squares continued to be coloured and designed throughout the week between activities and in free time. Although some of the had children taken their squares home unbeknownst to us, we have still have 13 to hang alongside the squares of Holmewood House. Over this time, the kids did enjoy the activity, but the story squares already on display acted as a great sources of inspiration for the Peruvian children to incite their own creativity here.
Its great seeing which stories and characters come through which are read and loved in both Peru and in the UK.Though this is the project endured a week, the option to add to the wall will still be made available for the future. The more the merrier! A huge thank you goes to Holmewood House School for their contribution to our library initiative, their efforts are truly appreciated by the HTI team. We hope this to be the start of a great and long relationship with a bright future.