Monday, March 28, 2011

Painting t-shirts with the Smile Group

I have been doing some activities recently with a group called Helping Hands in Saigon. This weekend I was asked to help lead an activity with children from the Smile Group - a local group that works with children (and their families, where possible) affected by HIV and AIDS.

There were some kids visiting from Singapore who wanted to do some volunteering while they were here, and they wanted to do painting on t-shirts with the Smile Group children. So my job was to find plain t-shirts and some fabric markers.  It sounds easy - but it wasn't!

Actually, what I really wanted to use was fabric crayons - as I thought the easiest way to do this activity would be to get the kids to do a crayon drawing which we could then 'iron-on' transfer onto the t-shirts.  The activity was scheduled for Saturday morning, so I set out on Thursday to try and find the fabric markers or crayons.  I completely failed!

On Friday, I texted my young Vietnamese friend, Luyen, and asked her if she knew where I could find the markers and she came and picked me up on her motorbike after she finished her classes at university in the afternoon. Rainy season seems to have started, so I had to stop and buy one of those attractive disposable raincoats to wear on the back of the bike, making me look like a giant polka-dotted marshmallow.  Some markers and fabric paints ok.  I wasn't that happy with them - the markers are big and kind of difficult for little kids to use - and fabric paints are quite messy - but it was the best we could get.

Then we went off try and buy t-shirts and couldn't find them anywhere. It's not that you can't buy kid's t-shirts - they are available everywhere.  But you can't buy plain ones.  All the t-shirts have patterns, or big pictures or words on them.  Plain t-shirts just didn't seem to exist.  In NZ there are a lot of shops in malls and such that sell plain t-shirts and offer to print or embroider them with whatever pattern or words you choose.  You can always buy plain t-shirts at those places if you need to.  But I haven't even seen any places like that here in Saigon yet.

Luyen took me home, and unfortunately for her made an illegal left turn at the traffic lights. She was stopped by the traffic police - and this particular police-officer was absolutely incorruptible.  He would not accept a pay-off, no matter how hard she pleaded.  He also spoke quite good English.  Poor Luyen had her license confiscated and has to go to the station to pay a fine before she can get it back.

In desperation that evening, Martin and I headed out shopping again.  We would buy plain t-shirts of any colour if we could find them, obviously.  But if we couldn't find t-shirts we would buy maybe pillowcases, or baseball caps. Luckily I found some polo-shirts for sale at one of shopping malls.  It wasn't ideal, as polo shirts don't have smooth fabric so using the pens was a little bit difficult, but at least I didn't show up the next day with nothing!

I sat most of the time at a table with the two youngest - a 6-year old boy and 7-year old girl.  We got them to practise their drawings with crayons on paper first, before giving the t-shirts out. My kids in particular kept reaching for the crayons to use on the t-shirt - crayons are just a lot easier for little hands to use.  Most of the other kids were between 10 and 12 years old - so the activity was easier for them. 

I really enjoyed working with my little boy, in particular.  He was the less confident of the two, in the beginning.  When they were doing their crayon drawings he didn't know what to draw, and was copying exactly the picture the girl next to him was making - which was annoying her!

So I intervened and showed him how to draw a bicycle using and M as a starting point.  He was off! This is his t-shirt below:

The bicycle in the center he drew by himself with only a little bit of prompting.  Because the t-shirt fabric was quite bumpy, it was difficult to use the fabric paints to draw in a line.  So I showed a lot of the kids how to make a line by dotting the paint from the dropper.  The girls were getting me to make heart shapes on their t-shirts, and bunnies and other girly things.  But that doesn't appeal to the boys so much!  So I showed my boy first how to make a 5-pointed star, and next I offered to draw a helicopter for him to colour in.  That excited him so much he asked for two of them!

The final set of t-shirts drying

1 comment:

  1. That is so awesome! I wished I was there to give you all our leftover Friendly Girls Society craft making stuff!