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Testimonial from

As a self taught artist living on the Gold Coast, Australia, it was an inconceivably incredible experience that was shocking in all the right ways, a great opportunity to build experience with working with children, and a creative, positive and spiritually enlightening journey for my art practice; something that I will take with me for the rest of my life and draw upon for inspiration constantly. For the 3 months I was there I was able to work with a wide variety of people and teach and share my imaginativeness with children and students of all ages, personalities and capabilities. The fact that GVI was involved in so many institutions and provided so many opportunities for me to reach out to the community was definitely a highlight, and I cherish the experiences I had being able to work in so many places. Most of my time was spent at the local orphanages (Sneha Bhaven and Prathyasha Bhaven), the S.D.P.Y. Central School, and of course Cottolengo Special School. As well as following the course program with GVI and constructing lessons which fused art and creativeness with English for the kids and students of the aforementioned establishments, I was working on a personal art project I set for myself, which was to complete a portrait series of as many of the children I was working with as I could. I finished 10 portraits throughout the 3 months (all A3 sized and done with graphite pencils), 5 boys and 5 girls, which aimed to capture the pure positivity and joy the children were emanating despite their circumstances, which for me was a moving reminder of how we shouldn’t let petty issues get us down, and instead focus on the happiness and love that life can give us. After spending quality time with the kids not only in classes, but in their leisure time doing free-drawing and games, as well as sports and competitive activities, and just sitting down, one-on-one and doing our best to communicate with each other despite the language gap, I developed a strong attachment to the beautiful people I met, and it was such a wonderful experience seeing the enjoyment and inspiration they found in my artworks throughout my stay and at the small exhibition I held on my last day in Kochi. The exhibition involved the 10 portraits of the children, as well as artworks that the kids had completed in their spare time and classes with myself and other volunteers. I received some local media attention, and any profits made by the sale of prints of the portraits were donated directly to the orphanage of that particular child. Although the prints were priced very cheaply, we managed to raise over 1000rs for each of the two orphanages. The biggest reward for me was being able to see what I achieved in those 3 months embodied in the exhibition and the impact and influence I had had on the community. A fellow volunteer returned to Kochi recently, and she told me that people there still talked about me and my art, and this was several months after I left; so to know that was really reassuring that I had done something good. Coming to Kochi and seeing how much art was part of the town and community, it was really surprising and sad for me to see that there was not much artistic opportunity for the kids, especially in the girls’ orphanage, to express themselves creatively and be praised for it. I am so proud that we were able to cover what were originally bare walls in some of the buildings with bright, colourful and happy artworks by all the children, and it was obvious how proud they were of themselves in their creations as well. It was also great seeing their excitement to have their pictures hung on the walls; they reveled in the praise for their work and I was overjoyed with the increase of kids drawing in their free time and for leisure, knowing that I had inspired that creative drive in some of the children with my own art. As well as covering the walls with the children’s art, we also had the opportunity to create painted wall murals for everyone to enjoy, brightening up the hallways and promoting creative learning. Since returning to Australia I have found countless inspiration for my art and have grown so much in my talents. I am planning on returning to Kochi and then eventually other parts of India at the end of 2014 hopefully, especially after opportunities have been presented to me involving the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, but definitely in the future when fate allows me to again.