Art and school supplies are ‘little things that can have a big impact’

Alhambra foundation aims to provide school materials abroad and locally

Playground mural renovation for Elementary school in Bogota, Colombia 2019. Courtesy of the H.E.R.R. Foundation

Why create murals in economically depressed areas? Those areas need money and resources, not art, some might say.

Javier Ruiz, of the H.E.R.R. Foundation in Alhambra, gets it: “The mural is just on the wall. It’s not something that you could really use.

But the reason it’s one of the main services his group provides locally and abroad is because it can beautify neighborhoods and can inspire people to think or dream big.

“It creates a wave towards change”, Ruiz said. “These are little things that can have a big impact.”

H.E.R.R., which stands for Humanity Education Resource Revitalization, was created in 2018 to produce murals in low-income areas and to provide students with better spaces and materials so they can succeed academically.

In a recent interview with UT Community News, Ruiz provided information about the group.

What is your foundation’s mission?

“The mission is to help improve the education environment in any way. We mainly focus on the arts…We do projects where we donate school supplies, murals, and workshops to schools. And we’re a fairly new nonprofit, and a lot of our work has been done actually overseas.”

The foundation has done projects “in Colombia and Ecuador, to Peru, Brazil, and Mexico, and donated to small elementary schools. That’s kind of been what we’ve done the most. But our goal is to also do projects here in East LA. We’ve done a couple of projects where we’ve donated some murals to communities.”

What led you to start the foundation and how did your upbringing in Columbia factor in?

“I came here when I was 10… I was just hit with that concept of, ‘I used to live over there, and now I’m here, and it’s so different here.’” 

“The schools over there, a lot of them barely have any funds to literally function…I saw kids playing soccer with bottles filled with rocks” in Columbia.

“So, definitely it’s a huge drive towards what I want to do with the mission of this foundation, which is to give everybody the opportunity to at least go to school comfortably. You go to school, and at least your walls are painted nicely, and you at least have some supplies, and you could be there and take advantage of education.”

What have been some notable moments since starting the foundation?

“Each project has gotten bigger in its own way. Either we’ve had more people volunteer and… then we’re painting bigger, or we’re doing a different thing. We started with the murals, but last year, we were able to actually donate some school supplies, which to me was huge…The school supplies for the year helps [the kids], helps the school, it helps the parents that don’t have to buy the school supplies.”

How does your foundation fundraise?

“Something new that I’m incorporating to the foundation is that I brought back some artwork, some screen prints, and some other types of prints from various artists from Colombia. And what we’re doing is that we are giving those artworks for a suggested donation. People are getting the artwork, and we’re getting a donation from it…A portion goes to the foundation, and a portion goes back to the artists for their work. So that’s something that we want to incorporate. I plan to do at least one project per year. Right now, we’re fundraising because we want to do our first project in Mexico next year….. It usually takes about six months to plan and see how much we can fundraise. And depending on how much we fundraise, it depends on what we can do on these projects.”

Since you are a college student, would you like to see other students get involved?

 “I feel the nonprofit would really benefit from that. And it’s something that also students could benefit from…. This is something that I made with the intention that it’s going to be community-run almost, the more people that volunteer, the better all this is going to function.”

You have done a lot of work abroad. Where do you want to work locally?

We are looking at Alhambra and East Los Angeles. “We want to start local and just try to expand to as many places as we can.”