A puppet for Ercilia

June 10, 2007  
Topics: Belize, Projects

This is another project I realized while staying in Copper Bank, Belize. The daughter of the holiday resort gardener Fernando asked me once if I have had a puppet when I was her age (9 years old). I knew that Ercilia aimed me to buy her a puppet. Though her family was terribly poor, I generally dislike to simply buy a desired object. Rather I prefer to show that one can have what he wishes for by applying a bit creativity.

I had already a general idea of how the puppet could be made, but as I never created such kind before and wanted the project to be successful, I did a small research on the Internet. There I found a pretty good explanation on how to do a puppet (in German). Now I only had to replace all materials by what could be found in Ercilias house or in the nature. Being ready to share my idea, I headed off to Ercilia.

Ercilia was not all that pleased about my proposal. The problem was that I would not do it for her, but we would do it together, which meant she had to put effort into this project, too. Ercilia was of lazy nature, being nurted too much during her first years of life, as she is the only girl in the family. She was bright, though, and in a way I wished to teach her a bit about the way life is, and what you can achieve if you really put effort into something.

We had nearly all materials together: an old rotten sock, which Ercilia found somewhere in the dirt on the ground, unedible seeds from trees, which were growing all around us, my old skin colored pants made of stretchable material, sewing material, a few security needles, and an old rope Ercilia’s brother found on the outdoor toilet’s roof. When time had come, I bought black wool for the puppet’s hair, which was the only monetary expense we had.

We both, Ercilia and me, where enthusiastic at the beginning of our little project. The first week working on the puppet I spend four days in a row for several hours in Ercilias house. Later on I reduced my visits to only once a week, because my time was limited, and sometimes I simply needed a break from Ercilias company. During my visits I first taught Ercilia different sewing techniques, as they were basic for accomplishing the project successfully. Then step by step I explained what we will do, one step at a time, each time I visited her. During the first hour I showed and explained Ercilia what and how we were going to the new step. In between I let her try doing it herself. The second hour I rather sat beside her, watching how she was doing and providing help whenever she got stuck or nervous – or lost completely her enthusiasm.

At times, she would not do the “homework” I gave, which was essential for the next step. There were moments were she even did not show up to continue our project, or would refuse to do anything. When this attitude towards her desired object became too strong, I pretended to quit helping her at all. I tried to make her think, especially with once verbally throwing away the whole project. Her mom Carmita and me agreed upon my teachings, especially as Carmita in general had a hard time with her daughter. Though, sometimes I was really down, and even lost my enthusiasm because of Ercilias stubborn, lazy behavior. Still, I wanted to finish the project successfully, simply for its educating effect it might have on Ercilia. All I did, if supporting her or refusing to continue the project, was aimed to make Ercilia think twice, to make her understand that she must work to achieve something, and that only with doing it herself she will be able to value her work or her gift, in this case the puppet, accordingly.

Ercilia striked short before finishing the puppet with explaining she would never make a dress for her. Thus I left her, explaining that I WILL finish the puppet, but I will keep it for myself until I found a child that would value the puppet in the right manner. During that time I added the long black hair to the puppet. Ercilia needed one week to think her decision over, and then knocked on my door, bringing material for making the puppet’s dress. It was taken from a skirt her mom was still wearing.

After two months of hard work, and countless ups and downs, the final moment had come. When we were ready to clothe the puppet in her dress, I officially announced, “Here is YOUR puppet.” I was near crying when I saw how Ercilia’s eyes started shining brightly. I could feel that the happiness expressed in that moment was one of those kind that Ercilia hadn’t experienced often before.

During one of my following visits to her house, Ercilia told me seriously that she is about to make a second dress for her puppet, because it could not wear all the time the same. In that very moment I knew that all effort has been worth it, and that Ercilia had truly learned to create things herself, rather than thinking about buying any.