Three years ago a teacher from Macedonia came up with an idea. He was teaching German in Vienna when a primary school student was looking out the window at the grey school walls. “Why don’t we make them more colorful”, he suggested?
That’s how Gerasim Dimitrov started the art project “Let’s heal the world with colors.” He started in Vienna in 2019 and eventually implemented the project in his home country Macedonia. The first group to support his idea was the “German Teacher Association”; later the Red Cross and several schools followed. Together with the students he painted on the school walls in Radovis, Bitola, Chair and Karpos. To underline the connection that art brings, they left puzzle pieces across the four walls. “The idea is to project all the puzzle pieces to the first wall in Vienna”, Gerasim explains.
Covid-19 stopped the project for a long time but on an October morning the project continued in the private school “Yahya Kemal College” in Karpos. “In my opinion the name suits even better now. Especially during a pandemic art is essential for connection and expression.”, the teacher says. Students from Yahya Kemal, Red Cross volunteers and VCS volunteers spent one day in the school to paint the hallway walls. The school provided breakfast for the thirty volunteers. After that, painting was on the schedule for four hours. At the end of the day we could see rainbows, a tree made up with colorful hands, a red cross (from the Red Cross) and many pictures related to the never ending learning journey.
“In the beginning we were all careful and a bit shy with painting on the wall. It’s a wall, not a paper. The painting will be there for a long time. But after a while we felt more secure and let go of the insecurities”, tells our German VCS volunteer Chris. “Also I like the social aspect. Everybody from my group spoke perfect English so there was quite a lot of exchange.”
About the school and the activities
One week later I am once again invited to Yahya Kemal to speak with the teachers. Right when I entered, a concert in the auditorium took place – at some point even the Maths teacher performed a guitar solo. The coordinator of activities sat next to me and explained why they have over 100 activities including music clubs, science competitions, environmental workshops and Erasmus exchanges.
“We are always ready to offer new activities. It is essential to teach the students how to build their character.”, the coordinator of activities tells me. “I think when they participate in projects their motivation goes up. When they feel good, they will be kinder to their friends and their environment.”
“Are children heard enough? Do they have a voice?”, I ask Gerasim while walking through the school halls. “No, unfortunately not. They are taught what to do and how to behave but they are not asked what they actually want. There is not enough time for them to be wild and simply children.” The coordinator of activities agrees: “But we want to hear voices, know what they feel and know what they see.”
Before I leave the school I pass the hallway one last time. One week later the paintings are almost finished. Now everybody could spark colorful paintings on the former white walls.