Tuesday, 20 July 2010


Today we had our first ‘last session’. We began with a warm-up, a group drawing, similar to the first activity the girls did in the first session. However, this time we played music and suggested that the girls illustrate the feelings the different kinds of music evoke in them. This was done with chalk and charcoal on large sheets of brown paper.

In the introduction to the following activity we reviewed the themes (what is important to you, clay animal and a place for the animal to live in) from the previous sessions and asked the girls to draw a self-portrait in charcoal. We stressed that the drawing does not need to be realistic, “real looking”, but rather express how they see themselves. The task seemed to be important for the girls and the group worked in silence without interruptions until the time was up. The resulting works were created in individual styles and represented for instance the girls’ personal goals, dreams and day-to-day life.

While sharing the pictures we felt that the group interaction had become more relaxed and lively. The girls were more willing to engage in sharing their thoughts relating to their and other’s images. Furthermore, even some jokes were passed.

We are excited to see how the remaining four groups will respond to these tasks.


Yesterday we had the last group of girls working on the clay animals and their homes. In the beginning of the session the girls shared their stories written in the preceding week. Also with this group, food (feeding the animal, inquiring its favorite food, being hungry/happy) was a central theme in the stories. During the group discussion this was acknowledged by the girls as well.

At the end of the session we asked the girls to place their clay animals on top of their drawings. “Where in the picture would the animal prefer to be?” The animals with houses were placed indoors “to rest” while the others were enjoying the abundance of food outside. After the session one of the Form III girls returned to the classroom to take another look and comment on her drawing. “I would like to live there also”, she said pointing at the picture. Her clay giraffe dwelled in a cozy hut located next to a river at the edge of a leafy forest with butterflies and birds. The drawing depicted sunny days and rainy nights, “perfect weather conditions”.

When reviewing the art works of all the groups we noticed that the majority of the animals chose to live in traditional houses, a few in lush forests, one in the Bethsaida compound and one in a zoo. The animals either lived by themselves or shared the house with the girl, who often was responsible for taking care of the animal. The independent animals were able to move freely in the house and surrounding area and feed itself at anytime. Some of the narratives included relatives or other animals. They were presented either as living companions or as longed-for others.

Saturday, 17 July 2010


The girls continued drawing the favourite places for their clay animals. On Monday we will lead the last group working on this theme and we will write more about how it went and what kind of homes the animals were given.

For a change, we decided to stay at Bethsaida for the weekend. Both days we offer open art sessions for the girls who are not attending the art club and thus offer them an opportunity to do some art work with us. Twenty girls showed up to today´s session and created animal drawings (oil pastels on A2) which will be exhibited along with the works done in the art club.

At the moment we are sitting on the volunteer house terrace and enjoying a gentle afternoon breeze. The plan for the weekend is to have two more open art sessions, do some of our own art work and improve our skills in rope walking. Since our Canadian friends, Richelle and Taylor, left our house has been soooo quiet. We miss them and their funny stories, which we still laugh about.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010


In the third session the girls will continue working with their clay animals. The task is to “draw a place where their animal would like to live”. The medium for this activity is oil pastels on a white A2 sheet.

Today we began the session by sitting in a circle and checking in on the girls, and this time also, their animals. It appeared that the animals had become very important to some of the girls. Some girls even said that their animals had missed them during the week and were pleased to be reunited. We were not the only ones asking questions, one girl asked us, “why don’t you tell me how my animal is doing, because you said you would take care of it”. We assured the girls that the animals had been taken care of and kept safe while they were away. This led to a playful interaction in the group.


This afternoon we had our last clay work session. That means that we have now met all the groups twice, so it is a good time to reflect a little on the work done. We list some observations below.

The guided clay warm-up, which we had with all the groups in the beginning of the sessions, seemed to work well. Our purpose with this exercise was to help the girls turn their attention inwards through the tactile experience of holding a ball of clay, and facilitate conversation with their inner worlds. The soft and malleable material appeared to have a soothing effect on the group members, who, for the most part, sat quietly and enjoyed with their eyes closed while either of us talked them through the clay meditation.

With the larger Form II groups (14 girls aged approximately 15) we found it helpful to make some adjustments. Because of the rather big group size we preferred to give the girls more time to make their animals and write their imaginary conversations, and have the subsequent discussion in the beginning of the next session. The girls certainly felt that the time went quickly but did not seem bothered that they did not get to share their stories immediately.

Give your animal a name and ask it "how are you doing today?" This was our instruction for the story writing part of the session. At this point many began giggling and probably considered us a bit silly. After we clarified that the task involved using their imagination and writing a story most of the girls understood what we meant. Nevertheless, we noticed that some were still a little hesitant. "It doesn´t say anything!" said one girl. "Listen very carefully", we encouraged and soon everyone was busy writing their stories in their note books. Once started the girls became so eager that apart from asking the one suggested question they created lengthy story conversations until the end of the session.

We noticed a resemblance in the themes of the girls´ stories. Almost all the narratives included references to caring for and feeding the animals. "What did you eat today?" was probably the most common question.

As a whole, we think that the second meetings went much smoother than our initial encounters. The groups appeared more relaxed and lively and the girls showed more of their personality in the group. It seems that we are gradually getting to know each other.


It is Monday again, our third week at Bethsaida. Our weekend kicked off with the special dinner sponsored by Taylor’s and Richelle’s friends from Canada.

On Saturday morning we took off to Kipepeo Beach in Kigamboni. Our trip included several daladala (local bus) rides, a ferry and a tuctuc (a three-wheeled motor vehicle). When finally reached our destination, we checked in a cozy straw hut and rushed into the turquoise ocean.

We spent two days grilling in the sun, walking on the beach and napping in the shade. As company we had a group of Marie’s and Manu’s German volunteer friends. On Sunday, on our way back we were fortunate to get seats in a bus, which took us all the way from the ferry to our second last stop close to Bethsaida. Nevertheless, it still took us four hours to get home, due to the busy markets and Sunday evening traffic.

Friday, 9 July 2010


Time flies. A new Canadian volunteer, Linda, arrived yesterday and Taylor and Richele will return home already next week. Tomorrow they will organize a dinner for us and all the 123 orphan girls who live and study in Bethsaida. This naturally involves buying and cooking huge amounts of food: vegetables, rice and as a longed-for treat for the girls, meat. So, yesterday most of the volunteers and Mama Christina went shopping and running errands in town for over ten hours. Meanwhile Mari took it easy and did clay work with a lively Form II group. Then it was almost bedtime again.

Thursday, 8 July 2010


We all woke up early and took a daladala, a local bus, to go to a market in Mwenge where local artisans sell their products, such as wood carvings, colourful jewellery and leather sandals. The return journey in a crammed rattling vehicle took an extra long time but we got home just in time for lunch and the art club. After dinner we celebrated Richele´s 20th birthday in a great bar just outside the campus. The bar table was only lit by an oil lamp and the blinking stars in the sky. We needed to use a torch to recognize our Kilimanjaro and Safari bottles and find the way back home.

Next, a little about the wild life in Bethsaida. There´s been a lot of talk around a rat who´s been running across the living room towards the pantry every evening around 11 pm. Laura has witnessed its moves on several occasions. Yesterday we did a bizarre discovery. While we were updating the blog, Laura heard a beeping sound under the laptop which rested on a couch. Although the beeping was barely audible we anticipated that a mice/rat (family?) might be living there. It felt absurd but, honestly, the sound came from within the couch. Later that night, after we had shared our suspicions, things started to happen. When Taylor was reading on the couch she suddenly felt something rubbing her back! She screamed and leaped up and, consequently, all four of us hysterically jumped on the nearest chairs. We saw nothing but Taylor insisted that she had literally felt little steps against her back. It was a scary night. Anyway, now the couch has temporarily been moved outside.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010


Today the girls created a whole array of clay animals. The "National Park", as the girls called the collection of their works, included cows, pigs, goats, dogs, elephants, a zebra, a bumble-bee, a cat and a giraffe. We´ll now describe how the animals were created.

We began with a warm-up where the group members, with their eyes closed, held a ball of clay in their hands. This mindful task was led by Laura who encouraged the girls to observe the clay through their senses, for instance feeling the weight, temperature and other qualities of the material. We were hoping that this would turn the girls´ attention inwards. The group engaged well and seemed to enjoy the experience.

The following activity was to model an animal figure out of the clay. "If you were an animal what animal would you be?" was our instruction for the art work. It appeared easy for the girls to begin the work, which was done in silence in the circle. The clay seemed to absorb the girls´attention and the atmosphere became at times quite serene. After the clay work was finished the girls were asked to give their animals a name and to write it down in the notebooks provided. We also suggested that the girls would ask their animals how they were doing and then write the animal´s responses. The girls were also informed that they were welcome to write more about the animal and its thoughts. The art works and the stories were shared in the group afterwards.

When expressing the reasons for choosing a particular animal most girls had chosen their favourites (giraffe, zebra, cat) or an animal that can provide nourishment, milk, or meat (cow, pig, goat). According to the girls stories, most of the animal figures were doing "fine", "good" or "happy". However, there were two stories that were different from the others. In one of them a giraffe was feeling hungry and tired and in another a cat was craving for milk. In the girls´ narratives they were both offered food and thus taken care of.

We think that the art work and the subsequent sharing was emotionally meaningful for the whole group. After the workshop, while we were still cleaning up the space, half of the group returned to continue their stories for a while.

Sunday, 4 July 2010


It’s already our second Monday at Bethsaida. Our short morning walk proved that it will be a hot one. As usual, our plan is to take it easy and read until the afternoon when we’ll run the art club again. Since we missed the Monday group last week, today’s group will still follow last week’s programme. We look forward to start doing some clay work with the girls tomorrow. We will keep you updated on how it goes.

Saturday, 3 July 2010


We decided to stay at the school for the weekend. Life is good. As the locals would say: "level".

Friday, 2 July 2010

When contemplating our first meetings with the groups our attention was drawn to the girls’ initial stiffness in art making. This is of course normal and universal. However, we´ve considered a few reasons that might have caused some extra tension within these particular groups and context:

· new type of activity: non-directed and based on self expression and exploration

· characteristics of the age of the girls including search for identity

· location, boarding school with strict rules and routines

· different views on art

· little or no previous art making

· unusually small groups

· sharing individual experiences verbally and visually

· equal relationship with the group leaders

· encouragement to engage and mutually communicate in the group

So far we´ve had two Form III and Form II groups. We´ve noticed that there´s a difference in the group interaction and the artwork themes of the girls from different class levels. In general, the themes of the older girls are more restricted to school, studies and religion whereas the drawings created by younger students seem more personal and often depict events from life outside the school or imaginary scenes.

In order for the younger and bigger group to function we´ve had to adjust the way we communicate. This we have done by using simpler language and checking frequently that we have been understood. In order not to impose our concept of art onto the girls we´ve taken the habit of asking them their views on art and reasons why people make art. Although "art" as a term appears to be unfamiliar for many, some more practical explanation with samples of what art can be has given a spark for a discussion.

"To become famous."

"To keep the mind fresh."

These were two of the girls´answers on why people make art. Through our conversation we have also learned that some of the girls have previous experience in drawing.