Less than a year ago Tracey-Lee Scully was sitting in a London office, banging out designs on her shiny Mac from nine-to-five for a large charitable organisation. She could not have imagined that six months later she’d be in Ecuador, volunteering through CMAP as an Art Educator to underprivileged children.
My nine-to-five job in London was well paid. I’d done all right for myself. I’d gone from South Africa to the UK recession, facing fierce competition in a city abounding with creative talent. By the end of 2012, I’d been working as a graphic designer for 10 years, doing jobs others only dreamt of. I was a success in the eyes of society. Why, then, did I have a gnawing dissatisfaction with my achievements?
I yearned to be creating things for myself, working with my hands and changing people’s lives for the better. As much as I wanted this, I didn’t know how to start upon this road, and I was filled with fear and doubt.
While on a three-month sabbatical travelling in Latin America in 2011, I began to decipher what I wanted in my life. Concrete ideas began to take shape in my mind. I could formulate and put into words that I wanted to run a residency Mexico that used art and creativity for healing. I wanted to create a space where I could, along with artists, artisans, or anyone for that matter, reside for a while and explore, be inspired and feel liberated; as well as work with local communities to empower and enrich them through skills sharing. Mexico had captured my heart and continues to inspire me through its creative energy; it is where I had tapped into my passions and drives to see clearly what it was I really loved.
I needed to learn to speak Spanish; to gain experience in running creative workshops and working with communities. No sooner had I written these things down that I miraculously found an online ad for an eight-month volunteering position with CMAP in Ecuador. It could not be more perfect. I took the risk, resigned from my job and began fundraising to participate in the project.
A large percentage of the money I raised came from selling and auctioning off all the excessive stuff I had. Not only was I making money from this, a huge weight was also lifted off my shoulders by getting rid of what I did not need. I can’t thank those who supported me enough for helping me undertake this incredible journey.
Here and now, in Ecuador, I could not be happier or feel more fulfilled. We work in the impoverished areas of Guayaquil called ‘sectors’ and the children that come to Art Club don’t have much else offered to them. Some come from situations where they have been working on the streets to help supplement their household income, some have the responsibility of taking care of several of their younger siblings and there are a couple who don’t even attend school.
Working with them, I feel I am doing something positive for others and am making a real change for the better. I have seen how their confidence has grown – how wallflowers have become social butterflies and how the defensive have begun to confide. In this space, they can be free to be … children.
I can only applaud Juconi for the work they have been doing to get them off the streets and helping their families through an intensive support programme, as well as CMAP for supporting this cause and making it possible for people to come out here and volunteer.
I have been learning all I have wanted to and so much more. I am on the road to pursuing my dreams. Where to next for me? Well, I will continue taking things step by step towards reaching my goals. I have no doubt that I can.
Visit www.cmap.org.uk and www.juconi.org.ec for more information about these charities.
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