Meeting the children in the care of Peuan Mit – Friends International in Vientiane
Friends International operates a street children project in Vientiane, Laos, since 2004, working with street living and working children or youth, as well as families and communities in the most marginalized areas of Vientiane.
For more details, see Friends International website.
The morning, Clémence brings us to Peuan Mit where we have a meeting with Ketsone, the director, Bouavone, the case manager supervisor, Kiao, the prevention team leader, and Clémence, who is in charge of the relations with the donors. In a small house are all together the office, a day-care centre for the children, a classroom and another office dedicated to the home-base activities. The atmosphere seems to us both relax and very professional. We explain to our hosts our project and we receive the agreement to perform the workshops the day after.We set an appointment with the staff in the afternoon in order to present the workshops and discuss with them about the key points to make a success of these activities. We also give to them a dozen of plastic art activities that can be done with the children. The remaining part of the day is dedicated to the preparation of the workshops (purchasing the stationary, printing the maps…).
To be noticed: Clémence brought us for lunch in Makphet, the training restaurant ran by Friends International in Vientiane. We definitely recommend the address: in addition of performing a good action, you will enjoy an excellent service and a delicious food. The shop linked to the restaurant proposes some home-base articles made by underprivileged mothers in the care of the association.
Clémence and us arrive around 8:30 at Peuan Mit in order to prepare the first workshop before the children come at 9am. Clémence and some people from the staff spend the day with us even if they usually do not work on Saturday. Thank you! Around 25 children from 5 to 16 years old will spend the day with us, monitored by 3-4 educators.
We begin with the « openness to the world » workshop, which consists of explaining to the children our project and building with them our route on a large map. The children are invited to stick on the map the different countries we plan to cycle through. This lasts around 30 minutes. At the end, we go to the yard all together and the children can test our bicycles.
Then we start with the second workshop dedicated to the self-portraits performed in a free way by the children. They are just told to begin to draw with a drawing pencil before using the paint. Some carpets are laid down in the courtyard under the shadow of a shelter and the children sit on them, except the oldest who use a table. We have brought some mirrors so that the children can pay attention to their face while drawing their self-portraits. Well helped by the staff, we enjoy see the children being interested by this workshop and drawing and painting with attention. We can also see that they help each other if needed. The workshop lasts 2 hours, time to all the children to complete their pieces.
Lunch break! The children have lunch with the staff near the centre.
At 2pm, we find them back and we begin with a short game in the yard, before resuming our activities with the third workshop dedicated to the self-portraits « in the manner of Niki de Saint-Phalle ». This is the first time that we perform this workshop and the beginning is a little bit disorganized – some of the children begin to copy a painting by Niki de Saint-Phalle that we previously have presented before we start to give some instructions… Some of the children are a little bit in trouble at the beginning with this kind of portrait but finally they all seem to have fun to paint a funny face, and are more keen to copy the model than to draw a representation of themselves « in the manner of ». We learned a lot on the way to lead this workshop for the next times! The children (even the youngest) are more confident with the drawing and painting techniques, and the activity goes smoothly.
Around 4pm, al the paintings are completed. We miss a little bit of time to make the children cut the portraits by themselves before sticking them on a black sheet of paper, so we’ll do by ourselves, still helped by Clémence, while the children go the house were they stay at night. We say goodbye and thank them for their kind participation to the workshops. We hope that they spent a nice day and maybe have experienced through the self-portrait activities something new and rewarding to them. At 5pm, everything is done and cleaned, we leave Peuan Mit. It was a very good day. And we are pretty exhausted also…
The portraits will be first presented in an exhibition in Vientiane set by Friend International in April before being sent to France for the exhibition that we plan to set at the end of the trip. After that, we’ll send back the paintings to the children.
Here are the children’s masterpieces:
And the portraits in the manner of Niki de Saint Phalle: