It is Saturday morning, and the village's mini-bus is parked close to the entrance with the engine on; Don Elías, the village director, is in the driver's seat. Little by little, children start to come out of the houses and head towards the mini-bus. They have obviously taken a shower, you can tell by the wet hair and radiant faces, but their clothes are torn and stained, just the proper attire for the place they are heading.
Every Saturday since March 2004, about 20 children (aged 6 to 13) from SOS Children's Village Estelí have gone to a communal centre in Estelí, to attend a Muralism workshop together with other children and youths from the community. Maybe in the future they will become part of a group of talented Muralists who have painted murals all over Estelí city.
These workshops are funded by several non-governmental organizations. There are four other such workshops in Esteli, each attended by an average of 80-100 children.
The mini-bus is packed, and there are big expectations. No one speaks, as everyone is attentively watching the view of the city and the people passing by. Finally, the silence is broken by Michael, who says, "We went to Ocotal in this bus, do you remember?" "Not too well," answers Norvin, "I was a little dizzy because of the road." Silence falls again, until the bus comes to a halt 15 minutes later.
The children chatter and can't wait to get off the bus to greet and play with the many other children from the community who are already there. Don Elías has a little trouble calling everyone inside the building, as the session will start soon.
The instructors, a young boy and a girl no older than 22, ask the children to sit on the floor of the big communal house, an empty structure, itself painted with murals. They explain the general rules to the children, like, e.g., "you have to respect each other" and "please don't throw any garbage on the floor". After this, the whole group divides into two smaller groups, one consisting of the younger children and the other composed of the older ones. Each instructor then reminds the children of how to paint a sketch with water, so that if there are any mistakes, they would not be irreversible. "Now what do we do?" asks Susana, the instructor. As if in a chorus, the children answer, "We paint it with the colors, and then we do the background!" Having reminded the smallest children of the basics, Susana asks them to go out to the small green area in front of the building.
Outside, Susana sits, and the children imitate her. She proceeds to tell them the story of "Calamito", a talking dog, so that they can later go inside and paint it. As soon as the story ends, they all head back inside and find paper canvas and paintings on the floor; there is enough for everyone. Each child chooses a spot and starts to paint. The instructors go here and there, helping their students.
For about an hour, the children paint with full concentration. For instance, José doesn't talk to anyone, and only takes his sight off the canvas to wash his brush and take another color. What he doesn't know is that he wets his neighbor's as he shakes the brush dry.
Don Elías watches attentively. "The children like this activity very much, and I like them to come because they can socialize with other children. Besides, they also paint at their house, so they burn a lot of energy. We have quite some talents at the village," he explains.
When the children are satisfied with their drawings, they let them dry to show them around and compare. Most fold their masterpieces to show them to their mothers later.
Dagoberto, ten, summarizes today's session: "I really liked the story about Calamito; that's what I liked best. Today I didn't feel too much like painting, but look, my drawing is really nice!"