Arriba las Manos – combating poverty through education and the arts
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Arriba las Manos is a foundation that supports education and the arts as tools to combat poverty.
Ararca is a small, marginalized community of about 1,300 people on the northern coast of Colombia, by the Caribbean Sea. Up until 2010 they didn’t have running water in the homes and all the streets were unpaved, very dusty in the dry season and muddy in the rainy season. The only public space was the state school, which didn’t have a library because there was no librarian provided by the government.
Two young sisters living in the nearby city of Cartagena decided to organize weekly workshops for the primary students. Every Saturday morning, they would pack our pickup with friends and family eager to volunteer, and the empty school would fill with about 100 children that greatly enjoyed open air games, followed by fantastic sessions of story time + dramatizing the stories + learning songs + doing simple science experiments + coloring and filling fun worksheets. Each week we would focus on a different value, such as love, respect, obedience, generosity, etc. It was the first time those children had that kind of input and experiences.
In 2013, after cooperating with the school in many different ways for over 2 years, we got permission from the principal to set up and run a library and funroom.
Since then, we have provided the children and teens with a very inspiring, welcoming and stimulating space, where they can do their homework and find books, educational toys and materials, under the supervision of a cheerful and loving librarian-educator who guides them in both group activities and personal reading, playing, learning and cognitive development. The Ararca school library is very unique in that it allows them access to a variety of wonderful things and opportunities that so many of us take for granted in a child’s life.
For the last 10 years, the children have been able to learn in an enjoyable way with puzzles, board games, duplos and legos, meccanos, geometrical puzzles, kaleidoscopes, musical instruments, weaving looms, plasticine, memory games, magnifying glasses, tools for drawing, painting and making embroidery, and many other educational items.
The students cultivate good habits such as washing their hands before entering the library, waiting patiently for another child to finish playing or working with an item that they want to use, speaking respectfully to each other, focusing calmly on a task, returning the books, games and materials to their place before picking another one, etc.
At recess and before school hours, the children fill the room, and we often have to almost push them out when it is time to go to class or home!
Over the years we have run many different practical workshops, some for the children, some for their moms. (For example, when the government finally installed pipes and water taps in every home, we had one on how to wash your hands,)
In 2016 and 2017, we partnered with FEM foundation and again ran weekly workshops for the children to explore and learn to appreciate their cultural identity: in what ways they are like children in the rest of the country and the world, and what sets them apart. We did field trips in and around town. The children showed us their families, how is their life at home, the animals and plants they keep and grow, and they took us to their favorite places in town. They also interviewed their relatives, as well as the town leadership and elders, about their present and past way of life. Then they drew it all, and together we wrote books about this experience.
Since 2019 we have also worked closely with several of the school teachers to help reinforce their learning programs.