In January of 2007 Canadian artist and retired visual arts teacher Frank Smith traveled to Tanzania, Africa for the first time as part of a Rotary International group helping to rebuild and renovate schools and hospitals.
On this first journey Frank was struck by two life-altering observations. The first was the poverty evident in the appearance of many of the children he met. The second was that despite the hardships of their life, they showed heartwarming joy, enthusiasm and happiness in school. School was where they wanted to be. These children live in rural areas located in the forested foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, where people are just getting by with subsistence farming. Many villagers are caring for children who have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS. They are often unable to continue in school as their caregivers cannot afford to pay for their school costs.
In 2008 Frank returned to Tanzania with a vision of teaching children to make art that he could sell back in Canada to fund their own school costs. Working with local villagers, Frank and Lynn Bird (a member of the Rotary group) were able to identify 30 disadvantaged children whose caregivers could not afford school fees, uniforms and school supplies. When they heard about Frank’s visit, nine of the children walked for hours to become part of this project that would help them to stay in school.
With Frank’s encouragement each child made a drawing of their dream for their own future. In every case the children wanted to finish school and engage in jobs within their communities: doctors, teachers, store-owners and truck drivers. These dreams were poignantly illustrated in the children’s drawings which Frank brought back to Canada along with photographs of the children and their compelling stories. So, it was after that second visit to Africa that ABCD: Art Building Children’s Dreams was formed as a registered Canadian charity.
Every two years ABCD action team members take time out of their lives for travel to Tanzania (partially at their own cost) to visit the children, their families and their schools, to personally deliver funds raised, monitor the children’s progress and collect more artwork. We also take a team of volunteers with us to augment the work and this helps to get so much more accomplished. There are now over 60 children who are being supported in achieving their dreams through completing their education. Some have already entered post secondary training at local colleges or apprenticeships supported by ABCD. Furthermore, in 10 primary schools close to 4000 children are receiving a hot breakfast before class starts thanks to the ABCD Breakfast Program funded by our generous supporters. ABCD is also funding school libraries, teaching resources, computer classrooms, new toilets in schools, new kitchens in schools and other school infrastructure projects.
We are proud to say that, as the work continues, we are greatly assisted in the identification of needs and in the disposition of funds by our new intermediary organization, ABCD Tanzania. This is a locally registered Community Based Organization composed of local education and municipal leaders, as well as parents, who volunteer their time to advise ABCD Canada about how to best help their communities.
Making a donation to ABCD: Art Building Children’s Dreams is a hands-on and direct way for you, your family, business or organization to give a child a hand-up, out of the difficulties of their lives towards a brighter future.