Category Archives: Africa

The Joy of Coloring

Coloring and drawing are some of the first ways children express themselves. It’s fun, easy, and even if initial attempts are not much more than scribbling, there is no denying that creativity and imagination are developing! You can find all kinds of articles and charts about when your child should start coloring if that’s your thing….   And of course even in such a seemingly simple pleasure there can be controversy about the importance and benefits of this activity.

But really….isn’t it just fun?

Lately, even adults have gotten in on the act.  Adult coloring books were one of the “it” gifts for Christmas 2015 and the #grownupcoloring hastag is popular on lots of social media outlets (Pinterest , Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr,  and more).  Adult coloring centers are opening at libraries and many workplaces offer coloring stations in their break areas.  I even was seated next to a passenger on a recent flight who was getting in on the action.IMG_4864Adult coloring has been touted as a stress reliever but of course this comes with more controversy… “Are adult coloring books the stress relief tool they’re hyped up to be?” You can decide for yourself. But I digress.

On a recent volunteer trip to Zambia with Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village Program, I witnessed the joy of coloring first hand. During my stay I spent one week living with 13 other volunteers in a very poor (by monetary standards only!) rural community.  The children were naturally curious about the foreigners who were visiting for the week and our house was a mob scene every day – in the best of ways. 🙂  We were escorted to and from meals and work by hoardes of children who wanted nothing more than to hold our hands and practice their English.  And each night when we came home, there were many curious eyes watching our every move.

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One night, we had a surprise for them – coloring books! We brought them out and immediately the joyful ball tossing, jump roping, chasing and laughing stopped. Silence descended on us all and eager eyes were glued to the prize.

Because of the large number of kids, we needed a system. We literally drew a line in the sand in our yard and asked them all to line up, which they did quickly and efficiently .:-)

IMG_6387Next they were asked to choose a “Spiderman” or “Animal” and one coloring book page was given to each child.  Nobody ran off.  Still standing perfectly still in line…  A few milled planks were in the yard and served as a table for the kids. We distributed a few crayons and let them have at it!

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IMG_6390The result was a bunch of happy kids as well as a group of amazed adults. I guess coloring really is for everyone. 🙂

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Gashora, Rwanda (February 2014)

Oh, Rwanda.  This country holds a special place in my heart and it was an exciting moment when I found that I could volunteer with Developing World Connections in this beautiful place!  So happy. <3

I spent two weeks in the community of Gashora continuing work building The COVAGA Community Center, a project that at the time was supported by Building Bridges with Rwanda.  The center will ultimately serve as a gathering place for the community with a library, a restaurant, and a weaving center where women make and sell their crafts.  You can read more about COVAGA here (it’s so nice to see the faces of these women again!).

Our two weeks in Rwanda brought many special stories that will all be shared in due course.  The delightful smiles of the children, the honest conversations about genocide, the beautiful wildlife, the hopeful eyes to the future…they combine to create a special atmosphere.

For now, a few of the moments captured below. 🙂

Eldama Ravine, Kenya (August 2013)

I know, I know!  Eldama Ravine AGAIN?  Well, yes. 🙂

I was scheduled to build in Kenya in March of 2013, but unfortunately that trip was cancelled due to uncertainty around the upcoming Presidential elections.  You may recall that in 2008, there were riots following the December 2007 elections, which led to a humanitarian crisis.  Habitat for Humanity made the difficult decision to cancel our scheduled trip based on an analysis of safety.  Thankfully, those concerns turned out to be for naught as the elections were relatively peaceful.  Nevertheless, it left me without a trip!

Around this same time, the folks at Habitat for Humanity Kenya were reevaluating their program and were planning to put hosting of international volunteer programs on hold in order to focus their efforts in other ways.  When I learned that it might be some time before teams would be returning to Kenya, I quickly found one of the remaining teams and joined what turned out to be the last team of the year!

This time we worked in a different area of town relative to my first two trips, so the experience was new for us all.  We met Dinah John, an elderly woman who cared for her orphaned grandchildren when there were not attending boarding school.  Over the course of a week, we laughed, cried, danced and sang with our new community.  Simon and Stanley, with the help of occasional translation and usual jokes from Eric, taught us to mix mortar, lay bricks and plumb corners of the house.  We chatted and played with the kids and ate delicious meals (ugali! chapati! mandazi!) prepared by the women of the community.

What a team.  What a country!