The Garden Project at Jose Soria orphanage, La Paz

June 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Our volunteer team has been working with Bolivian orphans in La Paz for more than two months now, and as well as running workshops with the children on everything from breakdancing to knitting, we’ve started our final project at the home – remodelling waste ground in the centre of the orphanage to create a fun and interactive garden space for the children to use.

It’s not just about creating a nicer physical space for the kids (which is nevertheless important, as the home is a concrete jungle with no green areas or trees), we also want there to be an educational side to the garden – the basic rights of children.

We’ve spent the last week furiously digging up the weeds that were choking the ground, with a lot of help from the kids. The children have a huge amount of energy, which can be hard to control in a classroom, but give them a spade and a physical goal and they seem to magically morph into super keen gardeners. We’d never have cleared so much of the grass without them.

The site doesn’t look like much yet, but the plan is to take up all the dead grass, and then set about painting the walls in bright rainbow stripes. After that, the children are going to learn about some of their fundamental rights (such as the right to play or to education) and design pictures that depict those rights. Then we’ll help them to paint those images onto walls and tree trunks around the garden. We’re going to make the space feel exciting and interactive by filling it with painted stones, mosaics and tiled paths to different areas.

We’ve loved teaching workshops with the kids, but the garden project feels even more special – seeing the change right in front of our eyes makes spending hours on our knees in mud fighting earwigs feel completely worth it, and for me getting to work outdoors and get muddy again is fantastic! The added bonus is that the kids seem to love helping us and are incredibly excited to start painting soon. Giving them a creative project as well as improving the physical space they live in 24/7 is one of the most fulfilling things we’ve done in Bolivia.

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