by Dolores McWeeney, volunteer from Ireland.
I was part of the first group of volunteers for 2012 for the Umbrella Foundation. It was a fantastic experience and the volunteers were encouraged to discuss any ideas that would benefit the children such as activities, teaching programs or any other projects that would help the foundation as a whole.
In the second week we had the opportunity to decorate one of the activity rooms into a new library. This was to be our first project! We were asked to share our skills and manage the project. Each of the volunteers were only too happy to take on such a challenge.
The idea was to turn one of the activity rooms into a colourful well-constructed easy accessible library for all the children to use. It was a bright, comfortable space with two boxes full of excellent books. The books had been donated by pervious volunteers, people who had visited and by other connections attached to the Umbrella foundation. All it needed was a lick of paint, a drop of creative imagination and it would be a perfect library. We decided to involve the children of Umbrella as much as possible. In this way the children had responsibility in making their own space were they could share with each other and have access to a variety of reading material which they could really enjoy while they learned once the children were involved the task seemed extremely easy for us.
We began by asking the children to come with their own ideas for the library. What colours of paint they wanted, how it should be decorated, how it should be laid out and what materials should be used. We quickly found some great ideas as each child was very enthusiastic. It was a joy to discoverer many really good young artists in each house. Their creative ability was amazing however the only problem were there were so many great ideas for the wall decorations that deciding on one idea proved impossible. So the children decided to use all the ideas that each house came up with.
Firstly the children had to decide on a theme in which to start painting the wall with. We gathered the children in the room to decide on a theme. The theme needed to be something that both the boys and girls were happy with. While the children were busy colouring and painting their ideas on to paper by way of practice, one girl stood up and announced: “Sister the theme must be simple yes”. I said, “Yes, simple is good. Then another boy said, “Well why we don’t show people where we come from” and there and then the theme was decided.
The children wanted to display their culture, heritage and their beautiful country. Having decided on a theme the next task was to buy paint. The money for the paint and the entire project was donated by a Singapore school, which helped with pervious projects. It was recommended that the room needed to be repainted with white paint so that they children could start from a blank canvas.
We decided that we as volunteers could handle painting the walls white and blue while the children were at school. After a meeting in the volunteer house we thought that we couldn’t make that many mistakes with white paint. We quickly found that there was a lot to learn! The difference between enamel and emulsion paint for example. At this stage we needed help. Thankfully one of the Nepalese staff Raj Kumar volunteered to help. A very talented Nepalese painter bought the paint for us and even showed us how to mix it. After a very amusing week two walls of the library were white while the other two were white and blue, now ready for the creative expertise of the children.
They painted an outline of the Nepalese flag on which they marked out the different regions, which included their villages. It was amazing; the children had a great time doing it. On the back wall they painted a detailed description of what life was like in each village. They painted mountains, valleys, riverbanks, and rice fields. They even painted what type of trees, flowers, birds and animals were native to their particular region. Around twenty children were involved in painting the room. Music was playing and the atmosphere was so much fun.
Now the room is beautifully decorated. The room is bright, very well planned out. The cupboards full of with books for which intrigue creative minds for. There is an area for the children to stretch, colour and paint in their free time. There is even an IT suite where children have the opportunity to learn and practice IT skills, thanks to one an ex-volunteer who donated several computers. This area has a long queue as the children are very excited to get surfing around the world from their cool new library.
Now the girls and boys of each house are getting their fingers to the ready and stitching up some traditional Nepalese material to make their own funky bean bags which they can chill out on while they read.
This once dirty and dark room is now a magical space, which was planned, managed, designed and implemented by all the great children of the Umbrella Foundation. To the volunteers delight and surprise they had little to no work do. The volunteers were on hand if the experts needed a hand or advice. It was a pleasure to be part of this project. Furthermore it was a valued learning experience to witness what can be done with little resources and a lot of imitative hard work. It is a credit to all involved.