Westerly Students Travel to Nicaragua and Make Global Impact
2014-05-20 · By Editor
Last week, Westerly’s eighth grade class accomplished a project that went beyond local service and aimed to create an impact on a global scale. Under the supervision of Director of Student Affairs, David Perram and Art Teacher and local muralist Gregory Navarro Pickens, the ambitious group traveled 2,500 miles south to the country of Nicaragua. Their goal was to inspire the students of an incredibly impoverished and rural community in Villa del Carmen, to follow their hopes and dreams.
Weeks earlier, with the support of Hope and Development Foundation, the Westerly students received pictures from each of the children attending the local school in this very small farming community. The images depicted the dreams of each child. Upon completion, the drawings were mailed to Long Beach, where the Westerly eighth graders worked together to combine these drawings creating a master rendering which would later be formed into a mural on the outside of this small school.
Upon arrival in Nicaragua, the group spent a day and a half cleaning, priming, and re-creating their rendering onto the 21 x 8 foot wall of the weather beaten school. Throughout the process, the local children from the school would sneak out of class to catch peaks of the progress of their images finding a permanent home onto their school’s front wall. Eighth grader Tiffany Holguin said, “I found it truly special seeing the impact our work was having on the community, 9 students from the United States were bringing something new and exciting to their community and they were asking us to come back!”
After hours of prep, the Westerly students left a large portion of the mural untouched and invited the students of the school to come out and join them in the painting. Although there was a major language barrier, the Nicaraguan and American students seemed to communicate with each other through non-verbal’s, scattered words and phrases and a unified appreciation of art. “Working with the kids was difficult at first but once we put paint brushes in their hands, it was incredible watching them make their hopes and dreams come to life on a mural”, stated Eighth grader Senecca Salameh.
“In 25 years as a muralist, I really didn’t know if we could accomplish this task in such a short amount of time”, stated Pickens. “Not to mention that our only water source for cleaning the supplies was from a well down the road with a less than primitive pump”. In just 10 short hours the group literally transformed the side of the building from a sun scorched and dusty wall to a colorful display of hopes and dreams.
“I can’t express how pleased I am with the outcome of this trip”, commented Perram, coordinator of the trip “Research has shown us that this is the age in which development is shaped by children seeing how they can impact their environment versus waiting for an environment to impact them. It’s important to give students an opportunity to show how powerful their choices are and the tremendous influence they can have on their world. I look forward to hearing about this class carrying forward the tools they been given from such a unique and empowering experience”.