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collecting moments

11 Aug

We ended our week long art camp in Bogota today. We celebrated our projects with the community. We shared our work. We sang and laughed and danced.

My class painted a mural in a lot that had been used for trash. It was a reclaiming of space. It was transformational.

My kids stood in front of their neighbors, tall and proud, to share their dream world, the subject of the mural, with their real world.

I stood back and watched through tear-filled eyes as they explained the process and told what they learned.

Adults from the community came to the stage, in an impromptu mic share, to express their gratitude for the newly renovated space.

We took a group photo.

It was a monumental day. I will never forget it.

All week long, though, nothing that we were doing felt significant. We drew pictures of our worlds as they are and then of our dream worlds. We picked up trash. We scraped chipping paint off of a dirty wall. We sanded it. We primed it. We drew on it. We painted it.

None of those tasks felt deserving of recognition. None of them felt noteworthy.  I wondered if I had wasted my time, wasted the kids’ time. I wondered if they would have rather been riding bikes or playing video games.

I wondered if the finished project would mean anything to anyone but me.

All of those not-noteworthy tasks ended up being noteworthy.

All of the pieces came together to make a new picture. I couldn’t see it in the moment. I could only see the pieces.

I do that sometimes. I get lost in the middle.

I forget that the details matter, the days in January when it’s difficult to get out of bed. Those days are actually the substance of the school year. They are what we stand on when we get to the days in June.

I forget that the middle is the rich part, the part that holds the flavor.

They matter. They mean something.

They make it possible to have the final projects that are so easy to recognize as mattering.

Today, my kids were proud of their work, the community was proud of their work, and I was proud of them.

We marveled at the finished piece. And I remembered that it was merely a compilation of tiny little pieces that don’t always make sense in the moment. I remembered the value of the moments we are constantly collecting as we move into the future.

I remembered the need to be fully present in every situation, to live in the now.

I remembered to not get lost.

We took a picture. Maybe I can look at it in January and remember again.



Nairobi Artist on Call

13 Sep

Kaylie Sauter (Center)

Hello, my name is Kaylie Sauter and on August 31st I arrived in Nairobi Kenya for the first time! I will be living with a family here and working with the Center for Transforming Missions Organization (CTM) as a BuildaBridge Artist on Call Teacher. I am here in Nairobi for six months to facilitate art-related projects including art teaching in Mathare Valley slum, network with Nairobi artists to facilitate community, plan for the annual Diaspora of Hope Art Camp, and begin work on a website for artists to post their arts and crafts.

I have started to meet people involved in CTM and along my way to see the Center a few days ago I was introduced to a couple who has just recently started an art ministry right across from the largest informal settlement in Africa- Kibera. Kevin and Brenda Ochieng have started a progam through the various art programs they offer to the children every day throughout the week! Its incredible what they are providing, which include beadwork, painting, music, drama, and dance as well as also weekly sports clubs, leadership seminars, and bible studies. Their vision to impact the youth of Kibera by providing quality art teaching and learning opportunities is truly remarkable. They even are putting the finishing touches on a recording studio! As I met with them I got excited about the possibility to begin networking with artists that Brenda and Kevin know and possibly using their facility as a potential meeting place. For more information, here is their website:

Last week I also visited The Inspiration Center, where I will teach Saturday art classes in Mathare. Mathare is the second largest in East Africa and was pretty devastating to see since there are so many children and so much waste around where they live. Yet amidst a harsh setting, the Inspiration Center, headed by Moses Boyyee Okonji, holds a huge vision to bring hope, possibility, and opportunity to the children in this exact place. During the weekdays they provide free childcare for women who are working outside of the slum, so when I went there were about seven babies just sitting in the corner on an old mattress, as they wait for provisions for the childcare facility. And although it was a sad sight to see, these babies are better off here than many because they are being looked after and fed during the day.

I was also able to meet many of the Mathare children at an End-of-the-Summer Picnic! We piled 70 people (mostly kids) in a matatu van with our chapatis, lentils, juice, biscuits, and cake. For some kids this is the first time they will have left the slum. Once we got there, before we ate we introduced ourselves and also shared what we want to do when we grow up. This was so neat to hear… each was unique and the children were so proud to share their dreams. A man came through offering to paint the children’s faces for a very low price so they were also able to have their face painted! They were so proud. We played soccer and other group games and also got to watch the guy’s dance group preform to music coming from a cd player hooked up to a generator.

Painting Faces

I was amazed at a few things during this picnic. One is how happy and eager the kids are to share- they actually boast about sharing! I thought this amazing because for some of these kids this was their only meal for the day and yet they were not grabbing but receiving with an open hand. Even the cake that we had- for all 70 children- was 10 by 10 inches and so we literally tore off small bite-sizes pieces of cake and passed them around in a cup for each child to receive only one piece and yet they were so happy for it.

Another thing that struck me was how my perception of the children changed based on their surroundings. When we waited for the bus at Mathare the kids were playing in dirt but when we were in clean air and open grassy field laughing and playing games the kids changed in my mind or something. They transformed from these unfortunate children with little hope to children who had such potential, gifted-ness, and beauty- which I had somehow missed when we were in Mathare. I was so encouraged by this time with the kids, that though they live in awful conditions- their “kid-ness” has not been stolen from them.

I am very excited about working with these children, and will begin this coming saturday morning. They have a movie time in the afternoon and a few other classes so it seems like morning is best for me to teach. We’ll see how it goes! Also I am still thinking about a theme and am now stuck on “what is Beauty?”. I would like to show the kids beauty in themselves, other children, and even in Mathare Valley.

Remo Inc. Donates Drums for Haiti

24 Jun

Remo Inc., an award-winning self-described “drummer’s drumhead company” that has been in business for over 50 years, has generously donated a wonderful set of recreational musical instruments for our upcoming Arts Relief trip to Haiti. The instruments donated include 2 sets of 6-pack Sound Shapes, 2 sets of 5-pack Sound Shapes, 1 7.5 X 22 Gathering Drum, and 3 pairs of Kids Bongos, all of which will be used in our music therapy classes with children in the orphanage and school in Haiti. We have no doubt that these instruments and sound-makers will provide these young victims of trauma with plenty of opportunities for excitement, fun, and growth.

Tents Donated by Tents for Haiti Project

23 Jun

Tent Donations

Souderton Mennonite Church, a large Mennonite congregation located in Souderton, Pennsylvania, has generously donated 7 large tents to BuildaBridge for the Haiti Arts Relief trip through their Tents for Haiti relief effort. The wonderful Tents for Haiti program, one of the many charitable ministries run by the church, collects tent and tarp donations to distribute to relief workers and Haitian residents. The tents that they have donated to us will be used by our Artists on Call during our July service trip to Haiti and then will be left with those we are working with in Haiti who have been displaced by the devastating earthquake.

Arts Relief course June 7

24 May

New Course from the BuildaBridge Institute

Monday June 7, 2010
Registration $99

Where:  Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, PA near Philadelphia, PA (Directions)

Advanced Registration Required:  Contact

Note: For fully registered Artists on Call* (Haiti and Diaspora of Hope) and Eastern University M.A. in Urban Studies Arts in Transformation students this is included as part of your training and required coursework.


The Arts Relief Course of the BuildaBridge Institute is a one-day training course for creative artists, educators, and social service and community workers who want to serve in global areas of crisis. Offered in an alliance with the Red Cross, the course provides training in Psychological First Aid and Arts Relief. This is a hands-on, practical course with experiences designed to give volunteers basic skills for working with those experiencing trauma due to war, disaster, and catastrophe; for supporting local organizations; being a member of a larger relief effort; knowing the role of artists; integrating the arts in relief work; and assessing your impact. The course will include viewing videotaped scenarios, group response exercises, and role plays. Part 1: 8:30- 12:30 PM Psychological First Aid with Dr. Ruth Hoskins (Red Cross volunteer and psychologist); Part 2: 1:30-5:30PM Arts Relief with creative art therapists Christine Wineberg, MA, MT-BC, LPC, and Gene Ann Behrens, Ph.D., MT-BC.

To register contact  J. Nathan Corbitt,

*Fully registered Artists on Call have completed an online profile and the online
orientation course All Things BuildaBridge. Contact for
enrollment information.

Project 4: Creative Arts Education and Therapeutic Art at Madame Luc’s Orphanage

22 May
Road North

Road North

Location: Thirty minutes north of Port au Prince Airport

Date: July 15-25 (This is an estimated date range)

Personnel Needed: Two-six Creative artists and therapists

Assignment: This orphanage sustained significant damage by the earthquake. The classroom building was completely destroyed and the dormitory is uninhabitable. It is likely that many of the 53 children exhibit symptoms of being traumatized. This assignment requires artists with basic survival skills and training in psychological first aid and arts relief. (Training is available June 7 at the BuildaBridge Institute.) Training in first aid is recommended. You will live in a tent and bring your own food for the week. While there may be structured classes, much of the time will be in building relationships, making art and planting gardens. French is needed and Creole is a plus.

Cost:Estimated cost $1800 plus airfare.