There will be no lolling about this spring school vacation for five Camden Hills Regional High School seniors, who are loading their bags this week with 100 blank white tiles sealed in bubble wrap, along with paint and art tools, and flying to Central America to spend time painting with teenagers in Guatemala.

Julia Kosowsky, Sarah Streat, Mackenzie Gassett, Emily Seymour and Madeline Owen spent the past winter raising approximately $12,000 for the trip, which they will make with Karen Hansen and jewelry maker Patty Boltz, who will work with mothers in Guatemala City to create simple yet salable art.

The group is traveling as part of Safe Passage, a nonprofit founded in Yarmouth in 1999 to help foster dignity through education and create opportunities for children whose families work at the Guatemala City dump. Safe Passage now serves almost 600 children accustomed to spending long hours in the dump scavenging for something to sell or eat. Safe Passage believes that every child deserves an education and a chance to learn skills to lead their families out of “poverty in a dignified and permanent way.”

For the past several years, groups of Midcoast adults and children have participated in fundraising efforts for Safe Passage, or have traveled to Guatemala City to engage in art projects there. Locally, they are the PenBay Friends of Safe Passage. This spring, it is the Camden Hills seniors who will discover a Latin American culture, and work with their counterparts to paint tiles and then mount them in a mosaic on a wall at the community building at Safe Passage.

Their theme is “Identity,” with each artist encapsulating on the tile an essence of themselves. The girls started an art club two years ago at the high school with a mission to connect youth to the community through art. Now they are connecting communities through art in a shared project before they head off in their own separate ways to college.

Safe Passage in the Midcoast is also a work in progress for artist and art teacher Antonia Munroe, a Camden resident who has been involved with the nonprofit for several years. Currently, she is involving children in Guatemala, as well as Waldo County, in the Madre/Mother Project, creating a traveling exhibit of artwork by the children, who paint and decorate with embroidery, beads and fabric a variety of icon portraits of their mothers.

In the creative process, whether in Guatemala City or in art rooms in a Searsmont school, Munroe encourages the children to talk about their mothers.

“Ultimately, their respect and love for their mothers shows in their work,” said Munroe.

The Madre Project, she said, is guided by the philosophy that art and the creating of art is a universal language that transcends social and economic barriers. The goal is to raise funds, awareness and support for Safe Passage and collaborating organizations through traveling exhibits and publicity and to create an ongoing cross-cultural dialogue with the North and Central American communities.

This summer, Munroe will host Carolyn Wright-Eakes, director of the art program at Safe Passage in Guatemala, for a week of art work with children at Munroe’s Camden studio, creating even more portraits of mothers.

For more information about Safe Passage, visit To follow the trip by Camden Hills seniors over the coming week, visit their blog,, or on Facebook, penbayartclub.