FUNDENOR is a community development organization working in some of the most remote and marginalized areas in central Guatemala. In order to improve socio-economic well-being in these communities, FUNDENOR’s projects integrate food security, health, water and sanitation, environmental conservation and income-generation activities. Formerly the Polochic Program run by World Neighbors, FUNDENOR became an independent organization in 2009.
ArtCorps is helping FUNDENOR more effectively engage people in dialogue about community issues; encourage the growth of young leaders; improve the overall quality of life through various health, conservation and entrepreneurial initiatives; and ultimately transfer techniques and knowledge to organization staff in order to successfully embed an arts-based approach in their programming. In particular, FUNDENOR seeks support from ArtCorps to improve communication with Q’eqchi’ speakers and illiterate individuals.
The department of Baja Verapaz was among the areas most targeted by the military during the Guatemalan civil war, due to its large indigenous population. Although the war officially ended in 1996, the repercussions of this bloody era persist, with continued discrimination against indigenous people. Communities struggle to meet basic needs such as clean water, access to healthcare and education. With only half of the population in Baja Verapaz literate, and a significant number of non-Spanish speaking indigenous, development organizations are challenged to establish productive communication and engage groups in addressing local issues.
- More effectively conveyed health education information on topics such as potable water and washing ones hands, by inviting parents to learn about these topics in adult workshops while their children were learning about them in the classroom.
- Cultivated future community leaders through a series of leadership and arts-based facilitation workshops for young indigenous women, providing opportunities for field practicum.
- Significantly increased participation in FUNDENOR’s projects, while improving community cohesion.
- Engaged nearly 300 students and their teachers in environmental conservation through hands-on education and community awareness projects.
- Improved FUNDENOR’s outreach and communications through a series of workshops training staff in arts-based approaches to educate communities.
2011: Isabel Carrio is an Argentinian visual artist, trained in painting, drawing and printmaking. In New York City, she completed a fellowship in mural-making at the National Academy of Fine Arts and worked for two years as a teaching artist in the public school system. She also taught visual arts at a community arts center in India. As an educator, Isabel emphasizes the value of learning from one another.
- Chosita: Continuing the work ArtCorps Artist Amy began in her Familiy Education Health Centers project, Isabel will build capacity among teachers and FUNDENOR staff to expand this program.
- Women’s Rights: Isabel is collaborating with local teachers to develop curriculum on the importance of women’s rights. In conjunction with the classroom work, students will design and create three murals related to women.
- International Women’s Day: To celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, Isabel took portraits of 100 women in Puruhla, Guatemala. These portraits were then displayed on the wall of city hall. The portraits attracted a lot of attention, with people stopping and pointing out the women in their lives.
- Building a Creative Team: Building on the work done by previous artists, Isabel is working to sustainably incorporate the arts and creativity among the FUNDENOR staff. She will be implementing three intensive workshops on creativity, allowing the team to recognize their own creativity and identifying ways they can utilize it to enhance their work in the office and in the field.
2010: Amy Glasser, a visual artist from the United States, led the third year of ArtCorps’ partnership with FUNDENOR. Her work strengthened FUNDENOR’s community health and youth leadership initiatives as well as the organization’s overall capacity to use Art for Social Action.
- Scholars in Action: Continuing work started by the previous ArtCorps Artist, Amy worked with scholarship recipients each month. While the young women plan the workshops, Amy developed leadership, built self-esteem and encouraged community-building within the group through facilitating icebreakers, guiding discussions on a variety of topics and teaching artisanal skills. The women gained knowledge and skills while strengthening their sense of community.
- Strengthening Livelihoods: Based on requests from community members, Amy facilitated several projects that teach income generating skills. One project was co-led with a local baker who wanted to share his knowledge of bread-making with community members. This project was met with enthusiasm, as locally baked bread is rare in the area and has potential for generating income. Amy also worked with a local artisan cooperative to teach new techniques such as making jewelry out of recycled materials and to market their work through visual arts such as a mural and postcards.
- Family Health Education Centers: Amy, with the help of FUNDENOR staff and local teachers, initiated and piloted a project that transformed schools into family health education centers, where the health topics students learned in the classrooms was also taught to parents in workshops held at the schools. FUNDENOR reports that this two-pronged approach increases the efficacy of the health information they wish to convey. This pilot will be expanded in the all the communities where FUNDENOR works.
2008-2009: Alayna Wool, an artist from the US with a background in sculpture and photography, helped FUNDENOR design an arts-based curriculum to promote health and environmental awareness that was accessible to Spanish and Q’eqchi’ speakers alike. Her work contributed to the transfer of leadership and facilitation skills to over 300 community members. Alayna also achieved a significant increase in the level of community participation in FUNDENOR’s programs by engaging adults, youth and children through a variety of artistic activities.
- Creating a Community Center: Alayna worked with one of FUNDENOR’s partner organizations, Quachu Aloom Association, to construct the floor of a community center. In this project, 700 children, youth and adults turned 7,200 pounds of yellow clay into 1,093 personalized tiles. These traditional tiles then became the floor of the community center. The entire collaborative process was a cathartic and creative way for community members to tell their stories and to celebrate their shared culture.
- Scholars in Action: FUNDENOR and Alayna provided 12 young indigenous women with leadership training and scholarships to continue their formal secondary studies. In return, the young women applied their new knowledge to facilitate youth workshops in their own communities on nutrition, family planning, conservation and gender equity.
- Native Seeds: Alayna collaborated with the FUNDENOR staff and local community groups to create recycled envelopes and bags in which to sell local seeds and to produce a play about organic agriculture.
- Institutional Capacity: Alayna offered workshops to FUNDENOR staff, strengthening their capacity to use art as a tool for change within their own organization. The workshops included Art for Animation, Art for Evaluation and Art for Conflict Resolution. Amy strengthened FUNDENOR’s capacity to utilize Art for Social Action as a tool both within their organization and in the field through monthly workshops.
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