New York Students Connect With Nicaraguans Through ‘Books Of Hope’

Books of Hope
By Michelle Byamugisha

Last summer, buildOn and NURTUREart’s Books of Hope collaboration inspired children in rural Nicaragua to craft illustrations of their daily lives. The bright strokes and swirls of their watercolor pieces expressed everything from their favorite foods to their local celebrations. This winter, their art will converge with the drawings of buildOn students nearly 3,000 miles away, in New York City.

Each page in this third edition of Books of Hope will be a creative, visual layering of young lives in a Nicaraguan village and New York City. With the support and guidance of NURTUREart’s Education Outreach Program with the guidance of artist Steven Ketchum, students are experiencing not only a memorable exposure to art, but a special bond with Nicaraguan children.

“I drew different types of transportation—a bus and a car. And I also drew how NYC looks with buildings… I feel like it is a great way to connect with them,” explains Keanu Simpson, a freshman at the High School of Enterprise, Business and Technology (EBT). “And I know how kids like pictures. I already have a connection with them, even though I haven’t met them yet.”

The book sessions are especially exciting for the students going to build a school in Nicaragua next month. NURTUREart will publish a number of the books for distribution in the Nicaraguan community where buildOn is going to build a school school.

Elvis Visdal, a sophomore at EBT, is eager to embark on this journey with the Books of Hope in hand. “Even though you are just one person very far away, you can do something and they appreciate it,” Elvis says. “You don’t have to know someone and meet them to make a difference.”

As they make the finishing touches to the Books of Hope, the students can look upon each page as a reflection of their selves, their artistry, and their newfound tie to children in rural Nicaragua. Deion Slocombe, a junior at International Arts Business School, says, “It feels good, like I am contributing to the world.”

You can read The Epic of Sundiata, a book buildOn students created in collaboration with artist Cooper Holoweski in 2012. Copies of this book have been delivered to a buildOn school in Mali, where they are used as English learning tools.

Editor’s Note: Since the publication of this blog, the last round of Books of Hope (title Questions of Answers) have been sent to Nicaragua. You can read it here.