Surrounded by olive trees, lavender bushes, and mustard-colored blooms, we painted, stretched like yogis across the tent panels of the Project SOAR art area. Too cold to fan their plumes, the namesakes of Peacock Pavilions perched, watching us work to Dave Matthews with a rooster crowing as backup. Maggie requested a Lionel Ritchie encore.
Maggie O’Neill, American artist whose prolific portfolio includes designing the Washington, DC Twitter headquarters, flew in with friends from the Hill to volunteer in the grove. Meeting her was even better than I imagined. Not only because when I asked her about meeting President Obama for the first time she said he was so easy to talk to, so humble, so real, but also because she is, too. Energetic, funny, and friendly, she made our work play.
She said she had talked to the President surprisingly easily until asked to show him the portrait she’d painted of him. Then she became emotional. With tears in her eyes (which triggered tears in mine), she extended her arms to show how she had presented her work to him as an offering. All she had been able to say was, “I made this for you.”
On Sundays the girls now see our offering to them– newly painted walls of blues and greens on their sports court and walls left for them to finish in their art tent. Project SOAR is a beautiful space for beautiful girls. It’s a community of volunteers who cultivate confidence and nurture creativity through arts and sports.
Over lunch Maryam Montague, always the perfect hostess and founder of Project SOAR with her husband, Chris Redecke, shared stories of life in Marrakesh and needs for the girls and the village. The Be Girl program, a success in South America and South Africa, will roll out soon with Project SOAR chosen as pilot for Muslim countries. Health initiatives such as dental care and designs for trash pickup and a hamam for the village were discussed. If you’d like to volunteer or donate, please see how you can help here.
I left with new friends, like my painting partner, designer Adrienne Chinn, visiting from London. As her Twitter page reads, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. It’s about creating yourself.” And bringing together creative people who care.