Welcome to Olives.
I felt like a bee in a hive of bees, all silently buzzing.
Sun glistened through the flower-cut cinder-block of the open-aired classroom, heavy with dust and perspiration. The picturesque shadows of the afternoon light carried a homey glow that, surely, can only be experienced in Africa. Occasionally, a rooster called outside and the local townspeople chattered at ease, their voices muffled by the clay walls of the school building. It was 4:00 p.m., a quieter time at Olive’s Rehabilitation Centre when the children were in class and the teachers voices could still be heard buzzing over the hundreds of young-ins; a perfect setting to concentrate.
While the majority of students at Olive’s were distracted, a former volunteer, Josh, four students and I, locked ourselves in the empty Standard One classroom with paints and brushes. It had been a week since we had begun the new ‘Olive’s Rehabilitation Centre’ sign, and it was time for us workers to finish the job.
Kizeto, a young man with long limbs and a big, humble smile in Standard Seven, was the perfectionist brain of our project. Every day, he came with rubber in hand and determination in mind to work to his best ability. With few materials, such as rulers, compasses and tape measures, Kizeto penciled everything by his naked eye, and ours. He never lost patience with our criticism, even if it made him erase all of his progress in one day and start over, and over, and over. At the end of each day, Kizeto would step back and admire his work with the beads of sweat still dripping down his face from focus. Slowly, but surely, Kizeto drew the sign to perfection. The letters became centerd, the orange was rounded and the leaves were pointed.
“Finish,” Kizeto said with a white pearl grin and a sparkle in his eye. Yes, he had finished, though we still had much work to do.
The desk-crowded room was pin-drop quiet as six of us held thin haired brushes and acrylics in hand. Being the “artist on watch” of the project, I let the kids go wild with paint. Other than the occasional need of assistance, I was one of the students, and the students were one of me. We all worked together with authority aside. I could tell that some of the kids had never painted before, or had had little experience, but their focused faces and determined hands put my perfectionist mind at ease: these kids were painting, actually painting. The kids mixed their own colours, washed the tins of paint, divided up their work load and helped each other with painting techniques.
After all pencil-line had paint, all seven of us busy workers stopped buzzing and admired our intricate honeycomb. The afternoon light danced on the wet paint as the seven of us stood in awe.
Kizeto, humble and steady, beamed at his work. Up ‘till now, he quietly hid his talent for art under the focus of school and the seas of students. I interrupted his gaze, “Are you proud, Kizeto? Are you proud of your work?” For a split second, he looked at me with his soft brown eyes, then back to the board. He grinned his white-pearly grin and said, “Yes, Madam. I am proud.”
Every day I pass the sign shining in newness and place. I hear all of the students buzzing in the home-hive of Olive’s, and my heart swells knowing that all of our workers came together to make a new comb that would provide sweet honey to Olive’s for years to come.
By Emma Werntz – Volunteer
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