Artist Steph Hargrove has provided arts education to the ACK Madeleine School in Bungoma, Kenya since 2014. Most of the students are orphans, many of them having lost their parents to AIDS. For these children, the school is their only source of food and medical care, and students walk long distances to attend school. Around 200 children are served. Individual photos along with personal stories can be found at www.orphanoutreach.co. The teachers and staff tend crops in fields on school grounds and also grow food in a large greenhouse. Food is prepared in a new roofed structure that was completed in May 2015.
The primary objective of Art Is For Everyone is to implement and continue a curriculum that includes arts education as well as utilizes art supplies in hands-on projects across multiple subjects to improve student participation and success. Before any resources are dedicated to this endeavor, we must first ensure that all of the basic needs are met for each student and teacher. Fortunately, Orphan Outreach fundraises to provide food, clothing, shoes, clean water, teacher salaries, and medical care which allows Steph to supply funds for art supplies.
Art Is For Everyone is not a non-profit organization. It is simply an artist, Steph, who creates and sells art and organizes fundraisers to support the project and then donates funds collected to Orphan Outreach, a non-profit organization based in Plano, TX. After extensive research, it was determined that funds used in this manner would go further and do the most good. Steph is able to dictate exactly how funds are to be used by Orphan Outreach. Orphan Outreach purchases the requested supplies in Kenya, which supports the local economy. Also, due to exchange rates, the funds are worth about 3 times more when spent in Kenya than in the US. This method also alleviates shipping issues, as getting large amounts of goods from the U.S. to Kenya is no small or inexpensive feat.
Steph, along with the volunteers from Orphan Outreach who travel to Bungoma annually to work at the school, see great value in bringing the arts to the lives of these children. The teaching style used in most African cultures is lecture based. Any children who are visual or kinesthetic learners struggle to connect with the material being taught. Statistically most of these kids will not finish school. We hope to improve their chances of success by engaging them in new ways. When art supplies are introduced into the classroom, suddenly teachers have new ways of connecting their students with lessons. And not just in art, but also in science, history and other subjects. What was once a struggle is now a fun and exciting experience. Secondly, the arts provide these kids with an alternative voice. Unfortunately many will resort to violence to express anger, fear, or sadness. With the arts, those feelings can be freely and safely expressed through music, dance, creative writing, painting, etc. resulting in healthier, happier humans.