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Christie's Art Classes

Christie’s Art Classes

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Greetings from Chenai, India.

By the time you are hearing this it will be 11:00pm on Sunday, and my plane will be departing in just 5 hours. Here’s a brief update.

Lucy and I went to visit 11 of the new graduates on Saturday at the Elder Care Home where they now live and work. Their employer and the patients gave glowing praises of the girls. It was a special opportunity to see how far they have come since they started their nurses training program just one year ago.

There was a tearful and heartfelt farewell program on Friday before we departed from Pravaham. Words can not adequately express what a joyful time it has been to teach, play, and pray with the students and staff for the past two weeks. I will have many photos to share with you all when I return, so you can see the smiles and happy faces.

There is a river in New York that the Iroquois called Muhheakantuk  (Muh-he-kun-ne-tuk) which means “The river that flows both ways.” I leave here again humbled by the Grace of God, feeling once again that perhaps I have received more than I could give. It is truly a blessing to be able to come and share the love of Christ with the girls at Pravaham and others here. To be with people who come from such simple means and yet give so freely touches my soul and teaches me about the true meaning of God’s love. It is Amazing Grace, live and in full color, and it is such a life changing experience. The smiles, the laughs, the tears…. The memories of these moments are worth more than gold.

Please keep the 24 new students and staff of Pravaham in your prayers. I look forward to seeing you all soon and sharing photos and more personal stories of the students.

Peace and Grace,


Note: Senthil has posted more pictures of Christie and the students along with photo vignettes of Pravaham during this season on the Friends of Pravaham Facebook page.

Class of 2012/2013 with Dr. Vivian Churness and Anne - Pr. Devadoss

Class of 2012/2013 with Dr. Vivian Churness and Anne – Pr. Devadoss

This delightful news comes by way of Angie who forwarded the email from Dr. Vivian describing their visit to Pravaham past weekend. The photos were downloaded from Senthil’s Facebook page. Thanks, Angie, Senthil!

We had a wonderful visit to Pravaham today.  Pastor Devadoss picked us up at the hotel in Ranipet and drove us through Vellore and other villages and up the hill on a winding road to Pravaham.  About a 2-2 1/2 hour drive. The young women are delightful.  I gave them greetings form the United Methodist Church in San Pedro and from you and Christie.   I can see why you like going there.  I would love to visit again.  Everyone I talked here knows about it and many have gone there for retreats and family holidays. We left at 8 AM and returned at 5 PM. It is 7:30 PM now and we will be eating soon and then to bed!  God bless you, Angie,  thank you for introducing Anne and I to these wonderful people.  God is at work here in a quiet way and is touching many lives.
Please feel free to copy parts of  this letter and send it on as you wish.
In the Pravaham Chapel with Dr. Vivian Churness and Anne

In the Pravaham Chapel with Dr. Vivian Churness and Anne


Pr. Devadoss leads in worship

Pr. Devadoss leads in worship


By Christie Van Vugt

Late last summer I had a random thought to bring some basic art supplies & projects to Pravaham on my 2010 trip to use as a communication aid for working with the new batch of students. This idea was born in part because I have no formal training as a teacher, and on our 2009 trip I found it difficult to teach English using the traditional materials we had available. It occurred to me that working through art could help bridge the language barrier because I like to think that art is a universal language in its own right. This was a spontaneous idea that I hadn’t prepared for, but once I found out that a third piece of luggage could be checked for the bargain price of $48 it was easy to make the decision so I set out to procure light-weight and easy to pack supplies.

The maiden attempt at transporting art materials involved many packages of 5×7 canvas boards, bottles of acrylic paint, brushes, glue, glitter, gel pens and ready-to-paint wood crosses. It turns out that wooden crosses do not travel well, as many were broken in transit. For that reason the finished crosses ended up staying with the students & staff. I did bring home numerous pieces of canvas artworks created by students and staff. After scanning the artwork to make cards and prints, some of the original pieces were then given out to sponsors.

Most of the students were tentative at first and probably had little or no previous experience using art supplies that we find readily available in America. Once they got the hang of it though there was no stopping them! It was really exciting coming to the classroom/“art studio” in the late afternoon during free time and finding staff and students busily painting and chatting. This was when we had the most productive practice of English language. In this casual, calm setting it was easier for everyone to relax and as a result I believe we made much more progress learning conversational English, and I even learned a few words and phrases in Tamil!

My first foray into teaching with art at Pravaham was such a success that we ran out of supplies rather quickly and had to get creative with what could be found on campus. A ready supply of large dried leaves and a handful of clay potshards turned out to be great alternative materials for painting. One afternoon a family touring the property stopped to observe us painting leaves. The father spoke excellent English so we conversed a bit, but I did not understand what he meant when he said “you are of heart-mind.” I’m paraphrasing here, but he defined that concept as the ability to see beauty in everyday objects. What a touching moment to share with strangers in a foreign land! Before they left he asked to take a photo of me with his three young daughters, each girl holding a freshly painted & glittered leaf.

In case you are wondering, art therapy is generally defined as using a creative process to help people of all ages improve their emotional well-being, but here are a couple more definitions that make it even more relevant for use at Pravaham. From Art Therapy Sourcebook: “… a belief in the inherent healing power of the creative process of art making. This view embraces the idea that the process of making art is therapeutic; this process is sometimes referred to as art as therapy. Art making is seen as an opportunity to express oneself imaginatively, authentically, and spontaneously, an experience that, over time, can lead to personal fulfillment, emotional reparation, and transformation.” From the International Art Therapy Organization [IATO]: “Art has the potential to change lives and in profound ways. When words are not enough, we turn to images and symbols to tell our stories. And in telling our stories through art, we can find a path to health and wellness, emotional reparation, recovery, and ultimately, transformation.”

This year if all goes well I hope to return to India again in the fall to meet & work with the incoming students, and if the timing is right, to reunite with the graduating class of girls that I met last year. I’ve already started purchasing some of the materials to bring along, with the thought of supplementing the American art supplies with materials that can be purchased locally in the city of Chennai.

If you are interested in donating to purchase art supplies for Pravaham, or if you are interested in sponsoring a mission trip, please feel contact me!

All of the students’ artwork and photos taken by Christie may be viewed on Pravaham’s Picasaweb site.

Email Christie at cvanvugt at cox dot net.

2010 was a rather busy year for Friends of PravahamUSA! So much so that we had no time to update our blog in a timely manner and must now suffice with this brief entry :(.  Three events occupied us in the last quarter of this year. We had a good old fashioned Pravaham get-together with Indian food in Sept.  to preview the 2009 Graduation & Inauguration ceremonies video edited by Nancy Chong and also welcome old friend Angie d’Aleo along with her new friend Sue Headley.  In October, thanks to Sue Headley we were  invited to host a Pravaham table on World Communion Sunday, at First Presbyterian Church, San Pedro! Which we did!! In November, for the third year in a row, we were at the Alternative Christmas Bazaar at Irvine Pres. Church.  Thanks to all our good friends and the Missions team at IPC! In December, thanks to Shanti Ernest, Pravaham was invited to participate at Cornelia Connelly High School’s first celebration of Human Rights Day. YAY! God is so good! All of these invitations are great, good affirmations and blessings of our call to serve the people at Pravaham and God’s steadfast love and provision for them.

You can watch the YouTube video here: 

The Pravaham April 2009 Newsletter is now available online. Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

The Pravaham Newsletter for October 2008 is now available as an Adobe Acrobat pdf file. You can download and read it from here:oct08online.

This is the Friends of Pravaham weblog; we hope to share news about the Pravaham global community by publishing a quarterly newsletter here.  We will also try to post other news monthly or as much as possible related to Irvine Presbyterian Church and San Pedro United Methodist Church, and other Friends of Pravaham, in the United States of America.

Pravaham means an “ever flowing stream.” It is located in South India and was established in 1993 by the Rt. Rev. Ananda Rao Samuel, former Moderator and Bishop of the Church of South India. With very little outside help it serves the marginalized, oppressed, poor, and rural villages among whom it is situated.  A handful of staff run the many programs including:
1) 1-year Nursing Aide program for high school dropouts, particularly girls;
2) Evening tuition centers in the villages;
3) Model school outreach, whereby students are brought to the campus for competitions and games, Christian devotions, and hot, nutritional meals;
4) Free health and medical camps; and
5) Christian ecumenical retreats.

Pravaham’s mission statement is: a community which lives to enlighten, receives to enable, with God as its source, Christ as its model, and people as partners.

Please browse the Pravaham website for a full picture of the campus and programmes.

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