“I believe there is something higher than all of us, and all of us calls this force many different names, but still we experience it all but the same. Sometimes we have to be very still and awake to see the shapes that it takes.”
Cześć! My name is Cherly-ann Franken, but I love to think that my name is 2 in 1, so I’ll give you the permission to choose, you can call me Ann or Cherly. I’m 21 years old, and I come from a very small beautiful island in the Caribbean called Aruba. I dropped out of college when I was 18 years old, see the thing is I wasn’t where I wanted to be. I consider myself an artist, I love to paint on canvas, carve wood, and just recently started sculpting. I believe that my hands can create anything and until now I still end up surprising myself. I am still debating if I should continue in art or psychology, both or something completely different. I’m a very indecisive person, and I hope being here can make me less afraid to make a choice based on what I feel is right for me.
how I got this opportunity
I was working in a family business thinking to myself is this it? and I remember asking in the open to the universe, to God; should I hold on for a bit longer? or should I leave? the first time I noticed a few minutes after it starts to drizzle outside, and then stops. I didn’t think much of it the first time, but after a few months I asked again, and to my surprise a few minutes after it starts to drizzle again, and then stops. Honestly there wasn’t any rain cloud, it was just a very small cloud that had a bit of water, and to think it would let it drizzle right where I am after i just popped a universal question is no coincidence. I took it as my answer and somehow I took it as ‘better days are coming’, and even thou for me this was the hardest one year and a half of my life, I took it to hold on. and I did.
December 2019 when I was 20 years old, this project came knocking at my door while I was working, and guess where.. at that same family business. A friend of mine called Sherwin Wester that I met in a competition came to me and asked me if I was by any chance interested into working as a volunteer abroad for some months, that I wouldn’t have to pay for anything and that it would be an experience of a life time. For me this sounded like a dream there is no way that’s possible. (My friend Sherwin has no idea how grateful I am for him in my life. Thank you again.)
Next thing you know I was set to go to Northern Ireland, it was between me and another girl, and again I said out loud to the universe; “if this is for me, let them choose me, but if it’s not and the other girl needs it more, that’s okay too, I am grateful”. To my surprise I got chosen to go to Northern Ireland for 9 months. Now there is no coincidence, so the next part is funny how it all went; I actually had to go in March, but I didn’t because of the pandemic. After the pandemic calmed down, I still had to wait for an answer if I will be going in August or September but nothing. So I was asked if I want to choose other open options because there might be a chance that Northern Ireland won’t be possible. At first there were options to go to Spain for 10 months to work with people with mental disabilities or Greece for 10 months to work with wolves and sheep dogs, I wasn’t sure because the universe gave me Northern Ireland, and the options they gave me didn’t get my attention at all even thou they sounded amazing, but then they gave me Poland for 10 months, and somehow I said yes to Poland, the thing is I have never heard of democratic school so I had to try. Again I said; “if it’s for me, let them choose me, but if not, and I have to wait for Northern Ireland, it’s okay, I am grateful, and I will”.
AND GUESS WHAT?!! I was chosen for Poland and in a very short time after that, here I am volunteering in Szczecin at an amazing democratic school called Szkoła Demokratyczna Droga Wolna ( Democratic Free Way School).
My personal 1st month experience
The first two weeks here I was so fascinated and overwhelmed, I’ve never been to Europe even thou my nationality is Netherlands. For example; I come from an island where it’s always summer and low trees and dry, I mean the only very tall tree we have in Aruba is the palm trees. Well here, there are so many tall trees and super green, and that only has me walking around, open mouth, looking at everything with bliss, and even thou I am already one month here when I walk I love to look up at the trees and see how slowly they are changing with the season from green to yellow and bright orange. I had no idea I could fall in love with how slowly and noticeable the season can change. I am just getting used to the cold, and noticing how my body reacts to it, is crazy. I also saw a foggy day like I’ve never seen before, I could’ve barely see a thing, and I was constantly smiling of how amazing all of this is for me and people will look at me like; what is wrong with this girl?
The progress that I can really notice is; the first week I was so afraid of going out and looking around, but now I am more confident and I am going everywhere and anywhere, and I can say that I am super proud of me for walking 40 minutes away from my home at night to go to an art gallery and it was worth it!
The school 1st month
The school still amazes me everyday, even though the first two weeks I was overwhelmed, I didn’t know what to do, where to be, and I was just concerned if I am doing the right things, or should I teach something? I was mostly observing and exploring the school, and after I just let it go and tried finding my place in the school, which was mostly in arts, things just started to happen around me. I am teaching Spanish, I did origami, I do paintings, I tried sculpting, and if the small and tall people (the “students”) are interested they just join you and so it goes. It’s funny, because you learn more from them than you can teach, and sometimes I just feel the same as them, learning a lot of new things together. I am amazed of how open minded and free all of them are and still super unique in their own special way. They inspire me so much, and I hope in the future there could be more democratic schools to give our children a more diverse education not only by the books but by existing with each other as a whole.
I am afraid the days are already moving too fast, and that it will be over soon, but I love the feeling of waking up every morning, realizing this is really happening, I am not in Aruba anymore, I am right where I am suppose to be by just trusting the answers of the Universe.
Wood art, “I am the universe in human form”
Communication without words
A walk in the park is like medicine
Making tiny people with nuts and acorns
The kids were hunting the criminals in school so they can win paper money, it was exciting!
A walk to the kids gallery
Galeria Przepraszam, Tworzę się
Let’s decorate the school for Halloween, our kids are super creative!
Cherly-ann from Aruba, volunteer in Szkoła Demokratyczna Droga Wolna in Szczecin.
Project is co-funded by European Solidarity Corps
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