Painting the Future

Ayúdame a Pintar Mi Futuro teaches kids more than just art

by Revue Staff

 Artist José Méndez started Ayúdame with his brother Henry

Artist José Méndez started Ayúdame with his brother Henry

In 2008 brothers José and Henry Méndez Chavajay, Maya Tz’utujil painters from San Pedro la Laguna, Lake Atitlán, found out that the children who were visiting their gallery—watching them paint and wanting to learn how themselves—were fatherless, and that their mothers were struggling to raise them and keep them in school.

The young men decided to help these children whenever they could by using proceeds from the sale of their paintings to provide food, shoes, T-shirts and school supplies. They also began to teach the children how to paint in oils. But the brothers dreamed of doing more.

Four and a half years later, thanks in part to the help of Miranda Pope, retired psychologist from the U.S., Ayúdame a Pintar Mi Futuro now has 22 families enrolled. The brother’s dreams have come true. Families receive monthly food baskets, and 30 or more children attend art class every Saturday morning. Several students from the class, because of their talent and willingness to follow-through, have been chosen to receive individual lessons thus realizing their dream of becoming artists.

But the class teaches more than just art. All of the children are subject to the stresses of poverty, and many have emotional problems (the absence of a parent due to death, divorce or alcoholism). As well, some families have drug or criminal issues, and the children are at risk. Along with traditional painting subjects, the class introduces themes of emotional self-maintenance, making positive choices and provides personal attention and self-esteem building. Today many parents say their children are behaving better at home and in school, and one single mother said, “Thank you for giving my child the attention that I never have time to give him.”

Recently the program initiated a communal garden; the land has been cleared and is ready for seeding. The parent group will decide how to manage and maintain the garden and its produce. Children in the program will participate, learning along with their parents the value of organic farming (both for soil preservation and their own health).

On Saturday, July 27, (inside La Fuente, 4a calle oriente #14, La Antigua), you can meet the Méndez Chavajay brothers, see their beautiful paintings and those of their advanced students—most with themes of Mayan Tz’utujil life and traditions. At 2 p.m. José Méndez will speak about the rich local painting tradition, afterward you’ll have an opportunity to chat with the brothers and one of their students. The paintings and original clothing made from traditional Guatemalan fabric will also be available for sale, along with snacks and beverages; proceeds benefit Ayúdame a Pintar Mi Futuro.

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