Earlier this month Cultural Canvas Thailand and Art Relief International were lucky enough to host seven students and one professor from a University in Utah, USA. The group are spending three weeks in Chiang Mai as part of a Global Studies Program which encourages students to visit a country outside of the USA to immerse themselves in a different culture and broaden their experience as global citizens.
The students had a very tight schedule whilst in Chiang Mai, and could only spare one day to spend with our team. It is generally quite difficult for CCT / ARI to do anything that demonstrates clearly the work we do with our partner organisations in such a short amount of time. We usually require even temporary visitors to undergo a solid orientation to our organisation, our mission and objectives, the population groups we work with and the methods in which we facilitate our workshops. Given the issues our artists are experiencing, our primary consideration is always their wellbeing, and whether what we are doing with them is of benefit.
In this instance however fate intervened, and whilst considering what we could do with this group of American students beyond a typical information session, we received a phone call from the manager of Baan Nokkamin, a home for young girls who are either homeless or from unstable family situations, asking if we had the time and resources to help them paint a bright and happy mural on all four walls of their common room. This is a big project, but with extra hands we could potentially complete this in a day. We quickly spoke to the Utah student’s tour coordinator, who quickly agreed to assist us, and two weeks later all twelve of us crammed in to the CCT van and headed out to Mae Rim where the home is located.
After a quick introduction and ice breaker with the group and the twelve or so girls, we paired off the students with the artists and got to work by first drawing the mural on to the wall using led pencil, allowing for any mistakes to be quickly erased. The girls had requested birds, butterflies and other flying creatures, symbolising their new found hope and freedom through the support they received at Baan Nokkamin. It was no real surprise that some of the artists (and the American students) were gifted artists, and some of the drawings of birds, trees and flowers were very cute, typifying the feeling of the warm and welcoming home.
The final result, whilst possibly needing some very small and final touch ups (we did indeed run out of time, just), was absolutely beautiful, and the girls (and the manager) were very pleased. What was even more pleasing however, was the seamless way in which students, artists and ARI staff collaborated and worked together, sharing ideas, colours and smiles throughout the day despite the perceived language barrier. A big thank you to participating students from Utah, and of course an even bigger thank you to the staff and artists at Baan Nokkamin for hosting us and being so hospitable as always.