By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN They’re not fluent in Spanish, but Mary Wiemiller and Carol Coburn of the Winsted Arts Council have another way to communicate with orphans in Mexico.
“With art, it seems, you don’t really need the words,” Mary said.
At the Refugio Infantil Santa Esperanza (Children’s Shelter of Hope) in Puerto Vallarta, Mary and Carol recently helped children make greeting cards, decorative paper boxes, and other creations.
“We had a wonderful time with these children you can just tell they’re so thirsty for art,” Carol said.
Mary and her husband, Tom, live in Mexico in January and February, and each year, Mary looks forward to her time at the orphanage. During her first visit, Mary remembers being surprised at how joyful the children seemed.
“They form this unique family bond system the older ones really take care of the younger ones,” she said. “Oftentimes, they introduce other children by saying, ‘this is my brother,’ or ‘this is my sister.’”
According to its website, the non-profit shelter strives to provide a loving, home atmosphere for babies and children up to age 14.
“This was my very first experience in an orphanage,” Carol said. “The children have wonderful discipline. They pray before their meals, and are really grateful for what they have.”
The children are all eager for their turn to make art projects, which will be sold to help pay for an occasional field trip or ice cream treat.
Winsted Arts Council serves near and far
As a member of the Winsted Arts Council, Carol is passionate about sharing art not only with children in Mexico, but also with people closer to home.
“I just have an interest in bringing art to the smaller communities; it’s such a great idea for children and adults, as well,” she said.
Carol lives in Chanhassen, and became involved in the Winsted Arts Council through her long-standing friendship with Mary. Both women are avid bicyclists, and, of course, they both enjoy artistic pursuits.
Carol retired from a career in floral design in January, and Mary used art therapy while serving as a school counselor.
“Sometimes, kids don’t want to talk right away, and they like to have something to keep their hands busy,” Mary explained.
Art has been therapeutic for the orphans at the Refugio, as well.
“The art allows these children to speak of their hope, fears, joys and whatever is in their hearts,” Mary noted. “Art is therapy, art is joy, art is the voice of the poor, the wealthy, those with parents and those without. Next year, like years past, we will renew our friendships and see how much the kids have grown up, and who has lost a tooth, and who has learned more English and all will be eager and ready to create!”