Sylvia paints compelling picture in bid to boost children’s creativity

Sylvia and William Holm at their Bassendean home.
Sylvia and William Holm at their Bassendean home.
Share this article

MANY local primary school youngsters will no doubt take for granted their easy access to brushes and paints in their classrooms.

But as Borders College art lecturer Sylvia Home recently found out, there are children in schools and homes around the world who have never seen a paint brush, much less had the chance to daub their own artistic creations on paper.

It was this realisation that inspired Sylvia, who lives near Gordon, to follow in her son’s footsteps to the roof of the world and spend her Christmas and New Year break teaching youngsters in the Himalayan country of Nepal.

William, was already in Nepal finding worthwhile ethical projects for his new charity ‘Volunteers For Volunteers’ which provides volunteers for the developing world.

The impact of the month-long trip has seen Sylvia start to organise a collection of art materials to ship out to Nepal so that many other children can enjoy the chance to express their creativity in the way so many Borders youngsters already do.

Sylvia works at Borders College in Duns teaching leisure painting and life drawing.

William, 25, and a friend from his university days are in the process of finalising the charity’s formation. Both had become disillusioned by knowledge that some of those working in the sector which organises volunteers for worthwhile humanitarian projects in the developing world were making a lot of money from it.

“That’s why they are setting up Volunteers For Volunteers,” explained Sylvia. “They want to organise volunteers to help in other countries but on a very ethical basis. The charity has already organised volunteers for a football project in Cameroon and William has been involved with this one in Nepal.”

William was staying in a children’s home in Nepal’s third largest city, Pokhara, so Sylvia knew there would be a possibility of volunteering to work with the children.

“Working with students in Duns, Galashiels and Hawick over the years has helped me develop my teaching skills and I took a selection of colour blocks and all my old paint brushes with a view to holding a workshop,” she told TheSouthern. “The children were delighted with the paints and it was interesting to see them paint the same style of houses with paths just as British children do, the only difference being that they included the Himalayas in the background.

“These children were luckier than most in that they had a good education, and a stream of volunteers staying and giving them treats. But most were fatherless and because the children’s home was also a backpackers’ hostel they could find themselves without a bed, sleeping on the shed floor.

“They were well fed in a traditional Nepali way in that they had white rice, dhal and vegetable curry twice a day, but because it was white rice many suffered from vitamin B deficiencies.

“For the children in the remote villages it was a different story, with the worst type of 1950s-style education.”

Pokhara is a city of close to 2,500,000 inhabitants in central Nepal, some 200km west of Kathmandu. It is the third largest city after Kathmandu and Biratnagar, and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, regularly being classed as one of the top three most beautiful places in the world.

It is known as the tourist capital of Nepal, noted for its tranquil atmosphere and the beauty of the surrounding countryside. Three of the 10 highest mountains in the world can be viewed closely from Pokhara, making it a popular base for trekkers undertaking the Annapurna Circuit.

After Sylvia left Pokhara, the paintblocks and brushes which she had taken with her from the Borders were passed on to another school courtesy of her daughter, Rebecca, who had accompanied her mother on the trip but was staying longer.

Sylvia told us these paints and other materials ended up being used by three to five-year-old youngsters who’d never used paints before.

“The paints and brushes proved so popular with the children, that I’m thinking about collecting unwanted art materials in this country and sending them out to other children’s homes.

“The children I worked with were delightful and so pleased to see me. It was a fantastic trip once you got past your comfort zone and accepted how basic things were. We were staying in some very cheap places and all the beds were very hard. But the food was cheap, it meant we could eat out all the time.

“I would recommend to anyone planning a visit to Nepal to take a load of of their old clothes with them because the people will take anything very gladly. They are very poor, especially in the rural village areas.

“But the Nepalese people were wonderful. They were so warm and welcoming and, even though most have very little to offer, you soon forgot all your own hardships.

“That will be my abiding memory of Nepal – not the poverty and hardship, but the smiles on the faces of its people, their friendliness and warm welcome.”

Anyone who is interested in helping Sylvia collect art materials for the children of Nepal can contact her by emailing: