As part of my Global Citizen Year program, I’m required to complete an end of year project in my community here in India. I chose to do something in my school community, as that’s been the most impactful part of the year for me and I wanted to give back any way I can. Initially I thought I’d teach some classes or something like that, but after asking my students what they wanted, I choose to follow a much more artistic pursuit. The walls in my school are bare, peeling, and in a lot of places, moldy. I wanted to help beautify my school community through an art mural; I knew the students would love it and it might inspire them to come to school more often if they have somewhere nice to go!
I’m not artistic at all, so my first step was to contact an artist to help me. I got connected to Abha Bhagwat, a Pune native who has done amazing art murals all over the city! She was eager to help me- but I knew I’d have to do some fundraising first, so I created a GoFundMe, and thanks to the generosity of my family and friends, I reached my $200 goal in a week! I met with Abha and we discussed our vision for the walls in my school, and I knew the project was going to be amazing, and it was!
Today, March 16th, I spent 10 hours in my school painting, and the end result is well worth it. We all met at 8 AM to get started, letting 10 students help paint at a time with several rotations throughout the day, ensuring all my students could leave a beautiful permanent mark on their school. We began with a primer, then we all watched on as Abha sketched lively trees and cartoon animals, all with a book in front of them, of course. She carefully explained the different brushes and styles of painting, and gave an example of what the children should paint- and off we went!
My students were all so excited! They normally don’t get to unleash their creative side in school, so this was something really special for them. They asked so many questions about art and painting, I was amazed by Abha’s patience. The students learned how to mix colors, paint with their fingers, and make tons of different textures on the trees and animals. There were a lot of mistakes of course, but that’s the beauty of a painting done by children.
We had originally planned on just painting two sections of wall, but there was a particularly moldy spot on the stairwell that the school principal really wanted covered, so we did a little extra work to fix that part. We didn’t have the proper materials to paint so high up, but improvised with a piece of string and a bamboo stick. Not only does our school have an amazing mural now, but it looks cleaner and so much nicer!
I think the most amazing part was just how grateful my students were. Almost every single one came up to me and said “Thanks Leonie-Didi for making this project for us!”. My heart swelled. I want to relay that thank you to every single person who donated, shared, painted, or was just supportive in general! I wish I could create fun projects like this for my students all the time, but at least this one will last for a very long time. I already heard students talking about how they want to read in the hallway in front of the mural now, and making up stories about the animals and children in the painting.
I went home exhausted and covered in paint, but I am so excited to head back in school on Monday and see the reactions of everyone who hasn’t gotten to see the mural yet. I am so happy that I was able to do this, it’s been a truly amazing day!