The WINGS staff and I got an early start, making stops at villages and towns throughout Sacatepéquez and Chimaltenango to gather 40 youth leaders for an 8 am workshop on reproductive health, gender roles and domestic violence.
However, as often happens here in Guatemala, we faced an unexpected situation. Half of our group was stuck in a traffic jam caused by a tax-hike protest. They were told to return to their villages and to not try to pass for the remainder of the day. Meanwhile, the rest of us were waiting at the community center in Chimaltenango where we planned to have the workshop. To add to the challenge, all of our arts and educational supplies –worksheets, questionnaires, drawing and painting materials– were with the other members of the team.
Pepe, the WINGS educator who was going to give the workshop, and I tried to hide our unease in front of the 20 intent youth who had left their homes at sunrise to take part in this workshop. Pepe voiced his desperation to me: “How are we going to carry out this workshop that is supposed to last for five hours with no supplies? You have to help me with this.”
Of course I said yes. Pepe and I started to plan. Pepe was going to discuss different reproductive health topics, and I was left with the task of creating an art project that would help youth address the violence they witness in their everyday lives.
I began to follow the advice of one of my art professors, “If you don’t know what to do, just start doing something and the ideas will come.” This is the strength of creativity in problem-solving.
On the desk, I spotted white printing paper that I started folding into an origami box. As I focused on the task, my ideas started flowing. I thought about the pain that we all experience from some form of violence or injustice. What happens with these memories and these experiences? Where do we hold them? And how do we transform them into something productive?
I decided that we would each take a few moments to write about some of our most painful experiences and then fold the paper into a small origami box. The origami box would provide a safe vessel for our emotions and feelings within the group space.
Everyone had a box with a story inside. “What do we do with this now?” I asked the group.
“Let’s fill it with good things!” was their response. We decided to go outside into the courtyard and look for things that represented beauty, strength, creativity and other positive qualities.
Fifteen minutes later everyone returned with smiles on their faces, wanting to tell their peers what they had found. I was most taken aback by the shy little girls who so eagerly and joyfully shared their work.
Listening to their stories, observing the smiles and boxes, I kept wondering, “What would this day have looked like if we had the materials we thought we needed?”