Art As Appeasement

Art As Appeasement:

Art for Charity Works to Create Warm Environment for Hospitalised Children

Hospitalisation can be difficult for anyone, but especially so for children. The often cold and confusing environments aren’t particular conducive to making kids feel welcomed; not to mention the fact that children are often in the hospital due to an ailment of some sort. Art for Charity, an NGO with offices in America and Ethiopia, is hoping to change the environment for children by painting paediatric wards with bright, colourful murals in order to liven the atmosphere. Physicians and artists say that the artwork has helped to improve the overall mood of the patients who spend time in the ward. EBR’s Meseret Mamo spoke with the NGO’s Ethiopia director, artists, and physicians to learn more about the program and the services they provide for kids in need.

When people are hospitalized, they often experience a great amount of fear and anxiety. Usually, the cold and sterile surroundings leave them devoid of calm and comfort, even sometimes plaguing them with fear of dying. In the case of children, the discomfort and fear has the potential to be greater, since hospitalization usually means children are away from their families.
Lessening such anxieties is what Art for Charity, an NGO with offices in Ethiopia, is trying to do by changing the gloomy and depressing environment of public hospitals by painting murals on the walls in order to create a friendly environment. The work of Art for Charity, which started four years ago, now reaches Yekatit 12 Hospital’s outgoing patients department (OPD) wing.
On Thursday, May 28, 2015, a little more than 10 people were painting on the walls of OPD’s reception room of Yekatit 12 Hospital. Volunteers from the Addis Ababa University Alle School of Fine Art and Design, professional painters and members of Art for Charity usually paint the murals. Painting materials are sponsored by Mullege PLC, a private company that engage in import and export business.
Tamirat Siltan, a professional painter who has been in the field for 15 years, is one of the volunteers. When Art for Charity first approached him four years ago, Tamirat says he did not hesitate to join. In fact, he considers the opportunity a chance to give back to the society. “I am happy because I am contributing something to make the children in the hospital in high spirits,” Tamirat told EBR.
Abezash Tamirat, 33, is the founded Art for Charity while she was a freshman at the Savanah College of Art and Design in United States when she was 19 years old. Its members, who contribute their work to be sold in an auction to generate a source of income for the organisation’s humanitarian work, are from all over the world.
A year after Art for Charity was established in the United States, its sister organization was opened in Ethiopia when Abezash came to the country to find a permanent home for her orphaned 11 year-old HIV-positive niece. “At that time, I was a college student and came to Ethiopia to find a children’s home for my niece,” says Abezash. “But what I saw was so horrible, which pushed me to do something for orphaned children living with HIV who have no place to stay.”
Dissatisfied with what she saw, Abezash decided to take matters into her own hands. Abezash still remembers the time when she gathered 16 children and established a children home ten years ago. Now Abezash says these children are leading healthy lives. Some even joined university and a few graduated from higher institutions. “It is a miracle and I am happy for them,” she said.
Abezash is happy not only because she saved those homeless children, but also because the work has inspired the children to appreciate art.. “Many artists come to visit the children’s village and they paint on the walls of the house to comfort the orphans,” she explains. “So after looking the paintings, the children told me to do the same in the hospital.”
The staff of Yekatit 12 Hospital, like Tewodros Hailemariam, Head of the Pediatrics Department, appreciate what Art for Charity is doing. “I am very grateful and even more because they came for the second time,” Tewodros told EBR. Art for Charity painted the two floors that house the Hospital’s Paediatrics centre two years ago.
In the Pediatrics Centre of Yekatit 12 Hospital, bright yellow and blue appears as background colours in the corridors that lead to patients’ room and on these colours pictures of animals such as flowers and different cartoon film characters from children movies are drawn. Even the roof of the patients’ room is filled with drawing of the sun and flowers with light colours.
Tewodros says hospitals can be scary and stressful places for children and that they panic whenever they see a person with white gown. “But now the walls of the hospital are filled with bright pictures that are friendly, which can distract patients’ attention and help them have a good impression towards the place they came for medical treatment,” Tewodros adds.
The first hospital volunteers and members of Art for Charity painted was the paediatric centre of Zewditu Hospital. Then they painted murals in the paediatric centres of Yekatit 12 and Paulos Referral Hospitals followed.
Hanna Tesfaye, a senior nurse who has worked at Yekatit 12 Hospital for the past nine years says the murals have had a real effect on the way children experience being patients at a hospital. “Since the gloomy environment is replaced by paintings children that are in treatment stay calm by looking the pictures,” she says.
Art for Charity Ethiopia is also joined by individual from Art for Charity United States. Cela Mattingly, the woman who is responsible for Art for Charity in United States came to Ethiopia with her husband for her honeymoon and participated in this program. “I come frequently to Ethiopia in order to participate in different humanitarian activities,’’ Mattingly told EBR.
For Art for Charity Ethiopia this programme is one of its four projects. Besides this, its projects include running a children’s home, providing community-based support and providing art training for the children. Abezash she says she will continue her work to lift the children’s spirits as long as she lives. EBR

3rd Year • June 16 – July 15 2015 • No. 28

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