Fun Fridays and Gratitude with Casa Chirilagua

We were beyond excited when our partner Casa Chirilagua wanted to bring back “Fun Friday” with us! We had started Fun Fridays with them earlier this year, then had to cancel when that Friday time was needed for homework help after school re-opened. Starting Fun Friday was double good news – it was a chance for us to bring art and creativity to these cute kids, and they didn’t need as much homework assistance. High fives all the way around!

The setup was a new one for us: Three 30 minute classes for 13 kids in grades 1 – 5. Whew! That’s a lot of kids in a short amount of time! And of course we delivered! In fact, our art teacher Sharmila Karamchandani told us quite a few times how much she loved working with the kids – their innocence, their openness, their freedom of expression.

For the inaugural project Sharmila asked them to draw gratitude trees – who and what are you grateful for, and write that on your branches. And armed with colored pencils and plenty of paper, the kids drew us mommies and daddies, raspberries, owls, and friends. Here’s a few photos to make you say “aaaaawwwww.”

Tibetan Flags with Friends of Guest House

Imagine if you created your Tibetan Prayer Flag, with your own affirmations. Tibetan Prayer Flags are traditionally believed to bring happiness, peace, prosperity, good fortune, health and victory over obstacles. Who doesn’t want that? The residents of Friends of Guest House created their own flags on August 23, 2021 under the loving direction of our amazing Sharmila Karamchandani. Take a look at these videos and photos, and listen to the powerful messages these brave women created for themselves.

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Superpower!

I don’t know who had more fun this week  – our artist art, or the kids at Casa Chirilagua. Once again Sharmila asked the kids (4th, 5th, and 6th graders) to create their superhero with special superpowers that the world needs. And as always, the most important part of our work is the voluntary sharing the last 20 minutes of the class. Who is your superhero? What are its superpowers? Why? Even the volunteers got into the act and as Sharmila said on her Facebook page: “There are a lot of healthy social skills that can develop when kids feel safe and free to engage with older adult/mentors during such creative endeavors.” Check out these world-saving creations!

This superhero can instantly teach you any kind of music or any musical instrument instantly.

A robot who looks mean but actually is very nice and cares for his family. His hands shoot stones and laser so he can protect his loved ones.

A super hero that saves people from hurricanes and calamities.

Meet Forest Man and Plant Dog. They keep planting and guarding trees so our earth always remains green.

A superhero that has magic powers in his hands. He has bionic eyes with laser sharp focus and can zap you.

Delicate girl made with floral petals. She is gentle and kind.

They both created the sunflower sisters and their superpowers are camouflaging and tele-transporting and also distracting people.

A super hero that just wants to go hug people and spread love.

Which Mask is You?

We’re happy when our artists are happy! Bonus if our partners and clients are too. So we hit the trifecta earlier this week when our visual artist Sharmila Karamchandani was able to go back onsite at Friends of Guest House. While Zoom classes allowed us to survive the pandemic, it wasn’t the same. We (and all of us) struggled with blurry images, poor connection, not enough cameras at our partner sites, people leaving mid-class because of connectivity, lack of supplies, etc. “What a relief it was to feel that joy again to see all the women face-to-face!” Sharmila wrote on her Facebook page.

To celebrate her return to Friends of Guest House, Sharmila chose one of her (and my) favorite projects – masks. Each of the women made two masks where one side shows what she feels on the inside and the other side shows how she seems on the outside. The women were honest with themselves and put it all on paper, Sharmila said, and they credited Friends of Guest House with helping them to dive deeper and really get to know themselves. Don’t you just love nonprofits? What do you think of their masks?

She-Art with Space of Her Own

Wednesday, July 1, was an exciting day, and not just because it is July! We held our first event with the Alexandria nonprofit Space of Her Own – a wonderful mentoring program for preteen girls. What better way to kickstart our new relationship than our She-Art project? We got to know each other over Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap (one of my fave Alexandria pizza places, btw) then our amazing Alison McHugh led 12 girls and mentors through creating their own avatar with their own motivational phrase(s) on a 6″ x 6″ tile.

Over the next two hours the girls selected “She creates from her heart” “She turns her dreams into reality” “She makes everyone feel loved” and more as they focused on phrases that resonated with them while creating themselves with colored paper, scissors, glue, and imagination. We ended our session – way too soon – with everyone sharing their new masterpiece and why they chose and created what they did. Til next time, SOHO! We loved hanging out with you and can’t wait to do it again!


Caring Cards – for us!

June 28, 2021 – Who doesn’t need an affirmation every once in awhile – or every day – to remind us of our awesomeness? Sometimes it’s hard to remember our unique and special selves, especially on those days when the rest of the world seems to say otherwise. So, our Heard artist Alison McHugh led the Friends of Guest House women through this wonderful papercraft class where they each chose their own affirmation (pre-printed, or they could create their own) and designed cards that they can place on a dresser, vanity, or desk to remind them of their greatness or to motivate them with love. What do you think?