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AABL News Digest
Ugandan Artists Teach, Protect Kids
Tom Herriman, former union organizer and publisher, has for several years taught English and music in Uganda for several months each year. We are pleased to call attention to a related effort that deserves your consideration. To wit:
Oakland • Sept. 16, 2013 • Opportunities for self expression and creativity are essential to a good quality of life. A group of artists I met in Uganda recognized this and began sharing their skills and their paints and brushes with kids in the neighborhood. It was informal at first. The kids would show up at James Nsamba's tiny studio every morning, brimming with energy and curiosity. James and Farouk Mukwaya would hand out paper and paint and colored pencils...then give the kids some basic lessons in how to use art materials to express ideas and feelings.

Gradually we got more organized. We call ourselves Uganda Art Consortium. We started a website, and we're part of Kisa Foundation USA, a 501 (c) (3) charity.

We now hold two or three workshops every year, attended by hundreds of children where they learn painting, drawing and jewelry making. We have 8 adult artists who volunteer as teachers. The kids become energetic and excited as they see their visions take shape on paper and canvas. They gradually become more confident, eager to speak out, proud of what they can do

Daily life can be grim for children in Namungona, a slum neighborhood on the outskirts of Kampala. Many are orphans...without a stable home life, steady school or even a steady diet. Many kids have to work to help support their families...hauling water, tending to their Mom's vegetable stand, or weeding the garden. They miss school because of work, or because the families can't afford the fees. School itself is pretty strict and regimented. There's a lot of rote learning, little chance for ideas or creativity.

The schools do the best they can with limited resources, but there's scant music, art, or literature in the curriculum. Our workshops help fill this cultural gap in children's lives.

Now we're hoping to build a small permanent art center in the community where we can hold classes, store materials, and have a gallery to display what the children have accomplished. With a gallery, we can attract tourists. The kids can sell their artwork to help support their families, and buy materials for the workshops. Having our own place is an essential step for us to improve and expand our outreach to Ugandan children through art.

The money we raise through Indiegogo will be used to buy or rent a small piece of land. Then, with many volunteers, we'll build a building ourselves, with recycled roofing sheets and bricks we make ourselves.

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