photo credit: bottom centre: Chelsea Dennison, bottom right: Melissa Findley
Jonathan and I were kindly invited to spend our final Melbourne days with our new friend and kindred spirit Cindy Rochstein. We were put in touch through OrphFund's superstar Bela Mitchell as Cindy's organisation Pencils Community had lovingly put together over 50 individual pencil cases bursting with school and art stationery for all the children at the OrphFund orphanage in Kasese, Uganda. We were soon going to be personally delivering them, along with over 50 copies of the very first Colour Our Story colouring books! It soon became clear that our visions and passions so beautifully aligned and we started to dream of all the future collaborations that could bring colouring pencils, creative magic and smiles to children the world over.
The Auckland and Melbourne children, responsible for all the drawings and stories in the first Colour Our Story book, understood and wholeheartedly embraced the concept.
Auckland, New Zealand Bookmaking Event:
Melbourne, Australia Bookmaking Event:
I was overwhelmed with emotion reconnecting with all the beautiful Kasese children I had got to know on a previous trip and I couldn't wait to deliver all the Colour Our Story books along with the very special pencil cases from Pencils Community. And it was beyond anything I could have hoped for! They instantly connected with the lovingly sent drawings and stories from far away, which confirmed everything for me. These books could help ignite a deeper sense of global community and humanity across borders and oceans.
One of the little girls rushed over to me with an open page from the book of a drawing and story from another little girl in New Zealand. The drawing was of a squirrel and the little story next to it read “I love squirrels! Do you have any squirrels in Uganda?” With the biggest smile she told me that yes, they do have squirrels in Uganda and asked me to let the young artist know that as soon as possible
Just a few days later they excitedly got to work on their own drawings and stories and beamed with pride at the thought of being authors and illustrators of their own UGANDA book that would be shared far and wide – filled with stories of who they are, where they're from, what they love and the message that ultimately they are no different to any other children. They too imagine and dream of bright futures and work so incredibly hard to achieve them whilst supporting and nurturing each other. Through their drawings and stories it also became so apparent to me how much they care for others, for the planet and above all, want to be global citizens shaping the kind of future we should all be striving for.
However, what had the greatest impact on me when I visited these children for the second time in two years, is that having a creative outlet and being encouraged to express themselves goes so much deeper! It led me to further research and to discover the therapeutic benefits of creative activities for children who have suffered trauma and loss – in particular colouring books! From my own personal experiences with children from various parts of the world, I do believe the benefits of creative expression and freedom are profound! It is therefore so important that we care for their bodies, minds, hearts and imaginations.
OrphFund is a grassroots organisation close to my heart that is 100% volunteer-based. It supports abandoned, orphaned and vulnerable children around the world.