Children’s drawings depict hardships they have endured

Published June 1, 1999

One of the children who participated in workshops entitled Mapping Our World, funded partly by the PWRDF, where they share their life experiences.

Blood drips from a man’s bulging, angry eyes. A stick man uses a strap to force a terrified 10-year-old through a dark door. Two frowning children struggle under the weight of bricks they carry on their heads.

These are but three of 101 powerful images created by children 10- to 14-years-old that are touring Canada as part of an international children’s rights awareness program. Sponsored in part by the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, the drawings, paintings and photographs in the Children of the Wind exhibit underscore the often-tragic plight of young people around the planet.

“Many of the children lived in very difficult circumstances,” said Linda Dale, the show’s curator and the Ottawa children’s rights advocate who spent two years running five-day workshops in some of the poorest countries in the globe.

“There were garment workers, child soldiers, brick workers, onion farmers, the homeless … all between 10- and 14-years-old and yearning for a greater sense of belonging.”

The workshops were organized alongside local community workers and provided the young artists a rare opportunity to express themselves and to take part in an activity they wouldn’t normally get to experience. For the aid agencies like World Vision Canada and Save the Children Canada it was a chance for an informal opportunity to see if their programs were meeting the needs of the children.

“Things I thought would be important to them, just weren’t,” said Ms. Dale. “For the street kids in Bangladesh, money wasn’t nearly as important as not having people hate them because they were poor.”

In Asia she said the garment workers weren’t nearly as concerned about working 12-hour shifts as they were about making sure the factory toilet worked or that the supervisors didn’t hit them.

“In the best of all worlds, nobody should be in this situation, but given the circumstances, this provided a unique way for community workers to ensure they were focusing their energies in a way that made the greatest difference to the children.”

The PWRDF has been involved with the project from the beginning. It provided $5,000 toward the initial fieldwork and an additional $5,000 for the production of the exhibit. Fund member Eleanor Douglas sat on the project’s advisory committee and fund staff developed a Sunday school program based on some of Ms. Dale’s overseas workshops.

Suzie Henderson, a spokesman with the fund, said the touring show is important because it offers Canadians a personal perspective on what life is like for children in other parts of the world.

The show is filled with haunting images. One Time When I Was Scared, drawn by a street child in Bangladesh, is a three color tempra image depicting how he was beaten after carrying a heavy bag for a man. The Face of Death is a portrait by an Ugandan girl who was kidnapped and forced to marry a soldier. The picture is of her husband, his eyes red and bulging.

The show opened in Ottawa and traveled to Montreal before moving East. It will be on display at the community college in Truro, N.S. until the end of June when it moves on to the Dunlop Art Gallery in Regina and then the London Children’s Museum in London, Ont.

Ms. Dale said UNICEF has expressed interest in displaying it in New York early next year and other dates are already booked for other Canadian venues including Hamilton.

Steve Proctor is chief of the Truro bureau for the Chronicle-Herald.


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