Last Saturday, we were treated to an exhibit of beautiful, colorful and lovely artworks by some very talented young artists who spent the last two months painting away in a little corner called Intelliboost.
I had never been to the center or met the directress, Maria Melissa Esguerra, better known to her students and friends alike as Teacher Missy. But based on the raves and reviews of friends, I took a chance and enrolled Adriana for the summer.
I didn’t know what to expect other than an “art exhibit” at the end of the program where we could see what they had come up with.
But as the weeks went by, and throughout the hectic schedule of the last two months, one of the things I looked forward to the most was coming home and seeing what my daughter had painted in her classes that week.
The kids used acrylic and sandpaper and painted different things—from fruits to landscapes and jeepneys. Of course, the girls’ favorite themes were ballet slippers and cherry blossoms because they got to use pink as main color.
I was able to visit a couple of times, but the door was always locked so as not to distract the budding artists. Sometimes I would peep in and watch the kids concentrate on their projects as their artist/instructor, Arthur dela Cruz (Teacher Art), demonstrated different techniques. He would lead them by painting a picture step by step, but without interfering with their own creative interpretation of what they were seeing.
Curiosity got the better of me, and soon I learned more about my daughter’s new favorite hangout. Teacher Missy began Intelliboost Study Corner as an after-school tutorial center during the school year “to reinforce and supplement classroom instructions, ultimately supporting students in becoming independent learners.”
During the summer, it offers reading and math proficiency enrichment programs to keep young minds busy even outside of school. But one school break, Teacher Missy decided to add an art workshop, and the rest is history.
Parents were thrilled (naturally!) with their children’s works and suggested that she stage an exhibit. This was three years ago. Today, Teacher Missy looks forward to putting the exhibit together as much as the parents who excitedly await the chance to see their children’s work on display. She has even come up with a way to make it socially relevant by partnering with a chosen foundation every year to benefit from the sales. Yes, at four years old, these kids’ paintings are being sold!
Before we knew it, the summer was over and it was time to unveil the works at the exhibit! Two proud fathers gamely cut the ribbon to formally welcome the guests, who happily gazed at the fun and colorful paintings, all beautifully framed.
Each student donated two pieces to be sold for the benefit of the Kuya Center for Street Children, the chosen beneficiary for the last two years due to the active involvement of Teacher Art with the facility.
Teacher Art gives workshops to the children of Kuya Center for free, promoting love for arts and developing their creativity while keeping them away from destructive vices on the street and healing issues they may have.
It was heartwarming to listen to the kids who knew even more about the cause than their parents. Kuya (“older brother”) Center is the apostolic outreach of the Luzon Association of Religious Brothers, which includes the De La Salle brothers, Capuchins, Redemptorists, St. John of God, Marists and Blessed Sacrament Congregation. It began in 1991, and over the years has evolved from a “drop in” center for children from the streets into a real home where boys who need love and guidance are welcomed with open arms.
Peace and forgiveness
The center aims to reach out to boys who live on the streets of Quezon City, Cainta and Marikina, and get them to reside in the safety of the center. It aims to reconcile runaways with their families and guide families back to peace and forgiveness among members. It also aims to give the boys a stable and loving environment though Christian formation and values development.
Quite a tall order for a center which only has 10 staff members! But where there’s a will, there’s a way. Over the last two decades, Kuya Center has grown and helped hundreds of young boys find their way back to their families, and to a more peaceful and productive life through scores of generous volunteers, many of whom are college students and young religious in formation.
Altogether, the staff and volunteers provide center-based programs that aim to make children turn away from their harmful lifestyle on the street and help educate them through regular, special or evening classes. There are also the community-based programs where families are supported and assisted regularly, because a family that has additional support is less likely to send their children to the streets to beg or work, and gives the child the opportunity to go to school and hopefully, end their cycle of poverty.
Ideally, children would return home to their families or turn their backs on the streets and go to the center. However, there are a number who prefer to remain as vagrants, and Kuya continues to reach out to them through street-based programs which include psychosocial intervention, medical care, feeding programs and legal advice, among many others.
Sometimes, it’s so easy for our children to take for granted the opportunities they have been blessed with. But through constant exposure, we can remind them of their responsibility to do what they can to give others an equal chance to enjoy life.
It’s never too early!
“Field Trip,” the exhibit, runs until June 15 at the LRI Design Plaza, Suite 324, Nicanor Garcia (Reposo St.), Bel Air II, Makati City.
Intelliboost Study Corner is at Unit 409, Maga Centre, Paseo de Magallanes. Call 0920-9521677.