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Children’s art provides for Guatemalan community

The aroma of Latin American food and explosions of color from Guatemalan art filled the Siloam Springs Community Building during the 2012 Guatemalan Children’s Art Expo tonight.

On the back wall hung over 100 pieces of children’s artwork gathered from young people of La Terminal garbage dump in Guatemala City. Each sold for $25 and featured the child’s artwork, picture and name on a piece of matte board.

By the side door stood the Artisan Market, featuring handmade pieces from Guatemalan artists. Backpacks, purses, headbands, ponchos and jewelry were available for purchase.

Joe Walenciak, associate dean of the College of Business, said the money raised from these stations will go toward a community Christmas celebration in the dump as well as to provide scholarships for students to start school in January.

Walenciak’s Gateway Seminar class partnered with Acción Urbana, a ministry to the families and children in La Terminal, to gather the artwork from the children and execute this project.

“We have done this project before with other causes and it just seemed like a really good idea,” Walenciak said. “They are down there praying it will go well.”

Junior Ben Hesslen, a student in Walenciak’s class, emphasized the importance of using the Guatemalan’s own work to bring in money to the community.

“They’ve actually made beautiful things with their art and with their crafts,” he said. “We’re just helping bring back what they’ve done… It’s not Americans throwing money at them. It gives them value.”

Sophomore KaLee Halloway added that through the class the children of La Terminal have found a special place in her heart.

“[This artwork] is actually a piece of our heart, too,” she said. “It’s become important to us. Not only are they proud of the stuff they did, but we are proud of it, too.”

But the artwork was not the only thing bringing value to the Guatemalan community. Near the kitchen, the Guatemala Water Project, an Enactus initiative, provided authentic Latin American food to fund its purpose.

The group is raising money to implement a water purification system in Cortzal, Guatemala. The system costs $30,000, and every dollar made at the expo went toward that amount.

Junior Andrea Morales said the children in Cortzal are dying of diarrhea, which is considered a normal occurrence. The machine they plan to bring in will last for 10 years without a filter change. But the project also calls for the implementation of hygiene and health classes.

“I am from Guatemala and I have seen how these people have been affected by the water,” Morales said. “I just cannot imagine children drinking this water that has fecal coliform, and that’s what inspired me to help with this project.”

For those students unable to attend the expo tonight, the opportunity still exists to donate to these projects. Pictures will be taken of any leftover artwork and posted on the Guatemalan Art Expo 2012’s Facebook page. Students can contact Walenciak if interested in purchasing artwork or artisan work.

The Guatemala Water Project also can be contacted through their Facebook page, or donations can be made at guatemalawaterproject.com.