Lupita never imagined 17 years ago, that her candid offer to help giving art classes at the Parish Our Lady of the Clouds would be so successful. When she heard the request for help from the parish priest who didn’t know how to entertain the kids during the afternoons of vacation time, it occurred to this art teacher newly arrived to Ballenita to present herself at the parish and dedicate some afternoons to this new activity. The surprise came when 200 students signed up for the workshops. They had to create different classes, with only a big room, plastic benches and paint received through donations to finally let imagination fly in their drawings.
This was just the beginning of a big masterpiece. With a bulldozer strength and the unconditional support of Father Humberto Gómez, they made it possible to found the “Fundación Profesionales del Tercer Milenio” (Foundation of the Third Millennium’s Professionals) in the community of Ballenita, a fishing town in the Ecuadorian coast. Over time, with many raffles and some donations, they purchased the land and built the building that today accommodates the Artists of the Next Millennium. The little painters of the beginning were followed by musicians, dancers, mimes, draft people and intellectuals; for every taste. There are now lots of graduates who with their paintings can finance their university studies, almost 8 of them came back and teach what they learned trying to give something back of what they have received with so much effort.
This is the case of Micaela and Ricardo, two siblings 14 and 17 years old, who are now closing this circle of favors, giving back to the Foundation something of what they have learned for over 7 years. They were very young when their dad and uncle encouraged them to come to the foundation so they would avoid spending so much time in the streets with gangs or inside the house watching TV while on vacations. They can’t forget their first impression of Lupita; she dictated to them their first art classes, they were happy to paint and even sell their paintings with the cheerful diffusion of Father Humberto during masses. Micaela remembers: “Lupita was kind, wouldn’t get angry very often, she was good-natured, especially when kids really irritate her! She helped me in my first painting: I had painted the sea, the mountains and other stuff; it was really big, every adult liked it and wanted it. My uncle and my dad, fans of punctuality, would tell us to get compromised with the activity and couldn’t miss any class, so I came every day, and later the ballet activity was added with a Russian professor; then I never wanted to miss a class.” Ricardo was 8 years old when he was invited, and at the beginning he wasn’t convinced of assisting to the guitar lessons, but when his friends started to go too, it became more tempting the group. “I remember that in the first classes Lupita would teach us to do craft, from a piece of paper and some newspapers an amazing landscape would come out, it was so ‘chevere’ (cool)!” Then, thanks to the help of Lupita, he could register in some music and painting contests with the Foundation.
Both very responsible, today they have their own students at the Foundation and we were able to share their first day of classes. Micaela has pupils between 3 and 16 years of age, and she would help each of them according to their age. Coco, her only male student, had fun trying to dance and imitating the girls and their flexibility. “I love this. I love ballet. Now I have 25 students, it is nice to see the youngest girls imitating me and knowing I can teach others what I learnt so they can do it.” Ricardo had older students and even a foreigner, which forced him to practise his English at the same time.
Over time, apart from the various art classes being dictated, they realized that some mothers were concerned because the kids’ grades at school were not so good, so they implemented a space for school support so they could do their homework, complementing this with Library and a Computers room. For many kids this is the sole opportunity to be in front of so many books or a computer. It is important that they feel emotionally supported, in an environment of honesty, respect, responsibility and discipline. Of course, for the youngest, the main thing is the snack and having fun with art after finishing their homework.
Lupita has an incredible drive, she exudes contagious joy and kindness. It seems as if we have known her from a long time. Her simplicity and transparency makes us feel immediately comfortable. She never stops searching, asking for help and gathering people who want to teach; they even come without her looking for them! A foreigner who wants to teach English classes, a Russian for the ballet, an engineer for physics, and many others who keep on showing up. Someone is spoiling her a lot, because the volunteers never cease to appear in diverse specialties. “God helps us and protects us. Like that saying: ‘Search for the Kingdom of God and the rest will come naturally’, right? I have witnessed this, for example, this man was working at the Nasa and now he is dictating physics classes here! And he chooses this, he doesn’t want to go to university, instead he comes here. Thanks to him, a boy won a scholarship to study abroad; they are kids of low income, for them it is a great opportunity.”
Lupita always dedicated herself to community work, dictating workshops in the most humble neighborhoods of Guayaquil, a long life of service to others. Our biggest wonder was where she was taking the necessary strength from, to have the power of an elephant combined with the simple happiness of a puppy. “I believe a lot in the human being, that we have to provide opportunities, and if one can do it, it is that what gives you strength to go on. This is life! If you search for God everything comes.” And this is how it is in her own life, Lupita lives from what she earns dictating private classes (in the short time she has left) but most of all with the help of her kids. When we asked her if sometimes she is tempted to work more for herself and less for others, she answered cheerfully: “What is the measure or the limit? Because this work fills me up, it even gives me more energy to do more. We have finished one project and we are already thinking of obtaining resources for another project. It is something I’m passionate about and I want to go on and on. Of course, it absorbs most of my time, but it is a great satisfaction to see the kids learn. Now we are a big family, the family of the Third Millennium. A moment will come when this will have to continue on its own, but not yet. My dream is that this will grow, more kids will join, and the kids who came here will be the ones that will continue with the project. The resources will come, they always do. ”
Everybody admires her, loves and respects her. Lupita, after raising her own kids, decided to work to improve the future of so many kids in Ballenita, step by step, with lots of Love dressed as Art. Each one can find their own space, in some musical instrument, ballet, painting, drawing, literature, languages, computers, pantomime, physics or math. Even the mothers have their own library to read while they wait for their kids. With the excuse of waiting for someone they open themselves, they help each other and find all these nice people that otherwise wouldn’t meet.