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Article in “Kultur Pur”, Page 8

http://www.stw-on.de/media/mini_pdf.pdf

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Due to the floodings there was no possibility to go to school during the last week. We were supposed to draw the trunk of the “Tree of wishes” on the weekend(the kids would use their handprints as leaves and then create their individual handprint the way they want using white wallpaint), but there was no way we could have gotten to the village, because the roads were all under water. We heard from different sides that the wooden houses (normally standing on pillars) looked like islands in the water. Even on our normal schooldays the road to school would scare us with its deep muddy holes, that sometimes required us to get out of the Tuktuk and walk some part of the way. So now we decided we would not take the risk to go at the moment.
While staying in town and watching the vehikels transform into waterresistent boatlike machines (some motos now had a tube in their exhaust so it would be possible to go through the very deep parts, where the water would almost drown the whole moto), we started figuring out a new plan to finish the project in a way that would still support the funding idea of it and make it possible for us to leave something behind still, even though the last lessons leading to the “celebration” were now cancelled.
During the two months in Siem Reap we realized that a project like “Giving Life A Name” required more preparing towards training the teachers that are working with us, as they are the main bridge to the children when they translate our ideas to them. It is not enough to just have the words translated that we are telling them, but it is necessary to train them in the basic ideas of the philsosophy of arts, its purposes and benefits and especially concerning this project in the understanding of the importance that we see in the project and the reasons for doing it.
After we leave Siem Reap our project will be the starting point for a new artclass in school, that will take place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. They will be tought by the Trainee-teachers who helped us translating during our classes. As this idea of a regular artclass is very new for “First Steps School” we were thinking about a way to support the development of these classes. We now decided that I, Eva, will come back in Febuary to have a workshop with the Art-teachers for about two weeks to train them in basic artskills like drawing, painting and the use of nature materials and to also support teambuilding qualities that will help them to work together and create new ideas for the coming semester and to increase their abilities as art-teachers. Since this workshop will take place about 5 months after the project there will be space during the workshop to talk about the problems that came up during the first 5 months of teaching arts and the ideas that they developed. The workshop is supposed to be a training for the teachers to improve their artskills and their work on “First Steps School”.
For us it has become obvious that it is more necessary to have trainings for the artteachers then doing a project with the children ourselves, because it will guarantee that the idea behind it will become sustainable and be integrated in the life at school and even in the village after we left.
Right now using our time that is left to plan the workshop in Febuary focussing on teaching artskills, the reflection on the past 5 months and new ideas for a future lessonplan. We think that it will be possible to do a two week workshop about twice a year. It will take place in a space seperated from school so it will be guaranteed to be a seperated training to improve your personal skills and ideas away from school. I want to work with the teachers in a group of four, so we can have discussions about problems, wishes and ideas and create new plans for the future together.
The project “Giving Life A Name” has been a wonderful experience for us. We learned how much creativity the children and the teachers have and how much everybody enjoyed expressing themselves. It is good to know, that the project is the start for a continuing artclass at “First Steps School” and we are very thankful to be given the possibility for an arts and philosophy project by “Stepping Stones Cambodia”. We want to keep on supporting this idea by our workshops that we will individually prepare for the teachers and keep in touch with “Stepping Stones Cambodia” to create a new connection between the “University of Hildesheim” and “First Steps School” to combine the ideas of our students with the ones of the teachers in Kok Thnot. Arts is a language that is understood even without words and that communicates our deeper thoughts, because it expresses the source for our ideas that is found inside of us. We hope to have given an insight of what arts can be like and to have opened up new ways of expression. We are exited to see how the artclasses wil develop till Febuary and we will keep exchanging ideas till then. This project is now the source for something new that is about to grow and raise. It is good to have this knowledge to be ready to leave.

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Siem Reap getting flooded 11.09.2011

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06.09.2011

NEW PICTURES ON FLICKR:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/givinglifeaname

Todays lesson required some space inside the little bamboohut, that had become a colourful place during the past few weeks. We were unfolding the plasticfoil on the ground and took away all the benches. Today we would all sit on the floor to paint the bedsheets that we had brought all the way from Germany, because we were told that they would be quite expensive to buy in Cambodia (during the securitycheck on the airport i had secretely wished for them to open my bag and find two bedsheets and wodden beads on their way to South East Asia).
After the bedsheet was put on the floor, the children took on their now well known raincoats, that were partly torn from the lessons before as they are made of really thin plasticfoil and rubberbands.
The children circled the white cloth and waited for instructions. The paint was filled into small bowls and put in front of them. Each one of the 20 children was holding a brush in her/his hands, ready to go.

The bedsheets are supposed to be painted with images or thoughts they have towards the feeling of being home, being secure and safe, feeling comfortable and happy. These feelings painted on the cloth would create the “outside-wall” of the tipi, that we want to build out of it afterwards. This tent should create a new space of security for them, a small place, where they can hide and actually be protected by their own thoughts and associations towards the feeling of being home that they painted.
While translating I already recognised that the real idea didnt really get through to the children. There was an understanding for drawing their home and something that makes them happy, but it didnt become clear, that their images were just supposed to create a new space as a tent for them afterwards, that would allow these feelings.
I was told, that in Khmer there is no word for “feeling home”, that there is just the word for “home”.
In the end the idea was understood as they started painting places in nature that made them happy, hammocks, that would allow them to have a quiet moment or flowers, that were so beautiful to them, that they gave them a feeling of comfort. The trainee teacher and me were asking for the meaning of the images painted and heard of stars at night, that made them sleep better and chickenfights in the village, that made them laugh.
The cloth got more and more colourful and i joined the silent bunch of children painting. We were sitting shoulder on shoulder and saw the colours fit together to a big mixture of thoughts and memories.
When the brushes were cleaned and the raincoats were put back in the big ricebag we hung up the bedsheet to dry. The usual afternoon-thunderstorm made its first noises from far.
I looked at my tshirt that i was wearing. A mixture of red and blue had created a nice little mess. When i left the school i saw the teachers pointing at it, smiling. I smiled back and held up my thumb. Thats how it is supposed to be like!

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Fifth week

ENGLISH TRANSLATION IS YET TO COME

photos on flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/66762659@N06/

Zu zweit jede Woche schon eine schwindelerrengd schnelle Fahrt, fliegt das Tuktuk mit nurn einem Gast geradzu über die “Straßen”. Der Versuch sich während der Fahrt noch einige Notizen zu machen scheitert kläglich an den hiesigen Straßenverhältnissen und Vins halsbrecherischem Fahrstil, so dass einem Angst und Bange wird, wenn sich eine neue Kurve anbahnt und man hofft auch diesmal nicht in hohem Bogen aus der offenen Kabine geschleudert zu werden oder gar umzukippen. Ca. 40 Minuten später erreichen wir dann endlich die Schule, wo strahlende Kinder mit Zahnbürsten bewaffnet einer anderen Voluntärin zur “Hygene-lesson” folgt. Die kleine Bambushütte in der nun nicht weniger als 90 Mobilés hängen und den Namen “Art Gallery” inzwischen redlich verdient wird heute seines Tisches beraubt und mit Plastikfolie ausgekleidet. Angemischte Farben, Wasser und Pinsel liegen bereit als die erste Klasse in bunte Regenmäntel gehüllt hineinstürmt. Bunte Bänder unterteilen die Wände der Hütte, die eher die Bezeichnung Zaun verdienen in 40 etwa gleichgroße Abschnitte auf denen sich heute jedes Kind mit Pinsel und Farbe austoben darf. Komplett frei ist die Aufgabe heute allerdings nicht gestellt, es soll eine Menschenkette einmal run um die Art Gallery entstehen aus Abbildern die die Kinder von sich selbst malen. Nach langen Erklärungen und stümperhaften Versuchen meinerseits das ganze als Zeichnung zu verbildlichen scheinen alle die Aufgabe verstanden zu haben und gehen ans Werk. Die Größe der zu malenden Figuren ist dann irgendwie doch noch nicht ganz klar, aber am Ende der ersten Stunde hat die Klasse in etwa die Hälfte der Wände mit Figuren geschmückt, die zwar eher selten als Abbilder ihrer Schöpfer zu erkennen sind, dafür aber umso farbenfroher sind und sich (meistens) sogar an den Händen halten.
Die zweite Gruppe legt noch ungestümer los und vielleicht ist es diesem Umstand zu verdanken, dass die Aufgabe nicht gänzlich verstanden und so neben Figuren auch ganze Abschnitte mit abstrakten Formen und Farben oder Blumenmustern bemalt wurden. Der Hitze wegen, die sich bei den ohnehin schon extremen Temperaturen unter den Regenmänteln staut gibt ein Teil der Klasse frühzeitig auf, jedoch nicht ohne eine bunte, wenn auch nicht immer als Menschenkette zu erkennende, Wandbemalung zu hinterlassen. Einige wenige begeisterte bleiben schlussendlich übrig und pinseln in akribischer Feinarbeit noch Hintergründe zwischen die Figuren.
Nach einem feuchtfröhlichen Pinselauswaschen und nachdem alle Materialen wieder verstaut sind gehts mit rasantem Tempo zurück über staubige Straßen.

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Photos on Flickr!

We are uploading all our pictures on the following Flickr-page from now on:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/givinglifeaname

and

http://www.flickr.com/photos/66762659@N06/

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23.08.2011

On Tuesday we decided to go to school a bit earlier then normal again to prepare our lesson. This time we wanted to build mobilés with the children and we had to cut loads of plastic string in different colours, matching the painted stones that were laying out on the table already.

For us the task of making mobilés with the children had different aspects whithin the time planning the project: first it was of course something that they could make out of the sticks and stones that they had collected in their environment and that they had painted afterwards. It is supposed to offer a way of doing arts at a low price with things surrounding them in nature, that is always available even after we leave and finished the project. Our second idea about it dealt with the mobilé itself. Putting the sticks and stones in an order to balance the construction is a task that might give the children some time to focus on the things they collected and to even balance themselves in a way. We expected this to be a difficult task for them. But surprisingly they were able to build the mobilés themselves without any problems. It seemed like they had found their own balance and their own way of dealing with the task giving during the lesson. All the way through there was a silence of everyone being focussed, that was just interrupted by some requests to get more stones, sticks or the beads that we brought with us.

Each child found its own style of creating its own special mobilé. It rarely occured that three of them were doing the same thing. Each one in our group seemed to have escaped in her/his small world of colours and shapes that he/she had to put together.

When we hung up the mobilés in the Artgallery after class they were looking around proudly. When the trainee-teachers arrived after their lessons they had a sit on the benches and looked at what had been created during the afternoon. It was good to see how happy everybody was to recognise these colourful creations, that the children had made.
The mobilés were swinging quietly in the soft wind that announced the rain for the coming night. When we drove home in the Tuktuk, i could still see them moving in the wind. Maybe we should have weaved some small bells in them, i thought. It would have created a suttle song of something, that a group of children had built.

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Photos on Flickr!

We are uploading all our pictures on the following Flickr-page from now on:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/givinglifeaname

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16.08.2011

On the weekend we went together with So to the local market, Psa Leu, to buy the material that was needed for the next six weeks. When we realized that we were about to start the third week of the project, we were suprised, as it felt as if we just arrived and started it.

We bought wallpaint and brushes, pastic foil and loads of string. The market was about to close, because we went in the late afternoon. Everybody was packing their goods together and some people were sweeping rubbish, blood and left over vegetables together. The  smell was overwhelming. Unfortunately in a good way. We had to keep ourselves together to not have our stomachs turned upside down. Our bicycles were waiting outside and we drove back home and do some planning for our next lessons.

On Tuesday we brought the brushes, the paint and some cups to fill it in. We arrived an hour earlier to prepare the lesson and protect the tables with plastic foil from being painted. The sticks and stones had already been brought to the “artgallery” and we put a bunch of them on the table for the kids to chose. After having seen that we protected the classroom with plasticfoil, but not us, we decided to buy raincoats from a seller on the street in the village. It is really thin plastic held together by some rubber bands. Their are tearing really fast, but this was our only option. 1500 Riel per coat. When we gave them to the children we were already wearing ours. They grinned and took theirs with exitement. We helped them to put them on and saw them disappearing in the large amount of plastic. Eventually their heads came out the right side and they were holding their raincoats up to not step on them.

During the whole lesson the children have been in a really quiet, concentrated state that made our hearts happy as anything- because you could see how each child found its own way of painting or chosing the material, and each one was careful with it, almost respectful towards it. One boy in particular just chose to mix each colour that he painted on his stone with white, which created a fusion of pastell-colours. He was holding his brush in one hand and the stone in the other, while his mouth was open in concentration throughout the time given to paint.

We were dripping wet under our plasticcoats and we tried to compensate that we the water we brought. Even the children were saying how hot it was, but at the end of the lesson, when we saw how much paint their was on their coats we knew that it had been worth the trouble.

The result of the lesson had been beautiful. We laid all stones and sticks that had been painted on a foil in the sun and the collection of different styles and colours created the picture of the class- each one of them as an individual had chosen their way of painting, and at the end their was a colourful picture, that put them all together again.

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9.08.2011

A small path leading upwards opens up a breathtaking view over West Baray, a water reservoir that is now used as rice growing area, located west of the walled city Ankor Thom. A gaggle of 20 children with plastic bags in their hands is running towards the lake. They are collecting stones and sticks and foul-smelling mussels. We are on a walk through the environment around “First Steps School”. The collected sticks, stones and other natural material will be painted and used for making mobiles which will be hung up at school. This week we are collecting the material that is needed. With great excitement the children launch into the mud. It started to rain just when Vin, our tuktuk driver, picked us up in Siem Reap. It rained the all the way through while we were driving over muddy and partly flooded streets that was full of potholes filling up with rainwater. During the walk it was just dripping on the childrens wishes written down last week, that were now hung up along the way so everybody passing by could see them. Back in school the children washed the sticks and stones and put it into a box. Suprisingly they had collected hundreds of things, that made it necessary to use a bigger box for storage. During the walk the children could be seperated into those that were walking on their own, concentrating on finding the right things and those that were collecting while playing with their friends.It was good to see the sparkle in their eyes, when they proudly tied the knot to put up their wishes into the trees. The wishes that they had written down on plastic foil were randomly given back to them in this lesson and they were holding each others wishes in their hands. Their was no need to get your own ones back. It was a time to share this experience with each other. After cleaning the sticks and stones, we cleaned the place around the well together and we were looking at each other happily. We had found a way to be with the children outside and to still let them take their experience from the first lesson with them. This walk was a link between the first one where we discovered some of their hopes and wishes and the next one where we would start to pratically use what they had found in their environment. Their was still a bad smell in the air of the dead shells they had collected. But the wind also brought a sense of contentment about the freedom we discovered while being in nature.


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