Rural Ed Murals in La Palma and Jalpa
By Ewa Carter
The power of a putting a colorful mural on a beige wall is incredible. Last week, the students of the Rural Education Institute of Mexico painted the walls of their learning spaces to make their classrooms a little more cheerful. It was an exciting project from beginning to end. Professional artist and long-term volunteer Kim Fairbanks made it all possible. Kim came in with endless enthusiasm, impressive patience, and paint in every color of the rainbow.
The project began with students learning about visual art and painting, and then designing their own ideas of what they’d put on a mural. Kim then took all their drawings and combined them into two gorgeous outcomes: one mural for Jalpa and one for La Palma. The teaching interns helped sketch the murals onto the walls so that the students could paint their designs, and when the kids came in and saw their own artwork projected on the walls, they immediately recognized their handiwork. Wolves, apple trees, butterflies, and more—the results transformed not only the walls, but also the children’s sense of self-worth. What was particularly remarkable during the operation was watching the kids work together. Because they were all painting one collective mural, teamwork was crucial, and the students demonstrated a marvelous job. Sure, their hands got messy and a few shirts may have needed laundering afterwards—but from murals to morale, everything got a little bit more beautiful.
As Mexico has become the second largest economy in Latin America, there remains a stark inequality in the country’s education system. Youth in rural Mexico simply do not have the same opportunities as their urban counterparts. The problem is partly financial (there are few high schools in the campo, and the government does not provide transportation for rural children to attend urban schools), and partly cultural (in rural areas, literacy rates are low, and education is not always a priority). The Rural Education Institute of Mexico exists to help fill this gap, and to give children and youth living in rural areas the incentive and means to continue to high school and beyond.
The teaching interns, who are post-graduate volunteers, come to Mexico from the United States, Canada, South America, and Europe. They receive only an airfare stipend, assistance in finding housing, and daily travel expenses to the classes in the rural communities. Our skilled interns are invited to work in rural community centers, offering diverse educational programs. We build libraries and help children improve their reading skills. Children learn art, drama, and English, among other subjects, and are taught to use computers that we supply. We also provide opportunities to youth so they can meet the costs of going to high school—about US$300 per student per year—by awarding scholarships. For more information about the Rural Education Institute of Mexico, please visit our website at www.ruraledinst.org or call us at 415 124-1357.