The following post was written by Alex Kruger, Art for AIDS International student intern.

Students at an Art for AIDS Assembly at the Northern Lights Secondary School

Hendrikus Bervoets, Executive Director of Art for AIDS International, recently returned from a trip to Moosonee, Ontario, sponsored by the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, where he hosted an art and HIV awareness workshop and assembly with the staff and students at Northern Lights Secondary School.

“I’ve traveled to many different parts of the world with Art for AIDS,” Hendrikus notes, “but none of them were like this experience.”

Beginning with a 4:00 AM wake up time in London Ontario and a solid 8 hours of travel, Hendrikus arrived in chilly but beautiful Moosonee Ontario, a small community located at the base of the James Bay, where he made his way to the Northern Lights Secondary School to plan for the following day’s assembly and workshop.

“From the beginning of when I walked into the school, they had this large lobby, and I just had a feeling that was where [the exhibit] had to be,” Hendrikus recounts of his initial thoughts of the school. “It had light coming down from the ceiling and I kept thinking that the exhibit needed to be in a circle.” While this was the first time Hendrikus had ever conducted an exhibit in circle form, the symbol,with neither a beginning nor an end, was perfect for capturing its participants’ energy.

As the exhibit was being set-up for the assembly the following day, students stopped to satisfy their curiosity. With many questions and much enthusiasm, they were a clear indicator of what the coming days had in store for Hendrikus.

The next morning, as the 9:30AM assembly was about the start, the entire lobby filled up with students and staff who surrounded the circle of prints.  Hendrikus walked around the circle, explaining how excited he was to be conducting an assembly with students in Moosonee Ontario, whose work would be on display not only across Canada, but also in their twinned school in Soweto, South Africa, as well.

After the assembly, Hendrikus and the students ventured to a classroom where the students began to, with enthusiasm and passion, create beautiful, powerful, and unique works of art.

Tom Steele, Superintendent of Education of the James Bay Lowlands Secondary School Board, who joined Hendrikus in Moosonee, described his experience in the Art for AIDS International’s workshop, “Through art, lives are shared and through collaboration young people speak to one another in stories from opposite sides of the globe. When Hendrikus is welcomed into a community and connects with educators whose mission and passion is also to put meaningful opportunities in front of young people, there is virtually no limit to the creativity that can result.”

“Through his images and those of his collaborators, Hendrikus inspires and raises questions,” Steele says. “Struggles resonate, images arise, meaning and connections flow out of collages created for sharing across the world.”

Remembering his trip, Hendrikus has a final request, “I look forward to going back. Once we have all the artwork from South Africa and from Moosonee, I very much hope to have a celebration where we invite the entire community to share in the incredible work made by an incredible group of young people. I am so thankful that this opportunity was actually given to me, and hope to continue this partnership in the future.”

Although thankful for his experience, it is not the face of Hendrikus Bervoets that matters—he is just the facilitator. In his words, “It is the students from many parts of the world that will know more about HIV, AIDS, and broader issues of social justice, that matter.”

A special thanks to Angela Tozer, Tom Steele,  Mark Fleming, Curry Gray, the Ontario Teachers Federation, and everyone else who made this workshop possible. Your dedication, passion, and support are greatly appreciated!


Since leaving Moosonee, the staff and students at Northern Lights Secondary have already sold 78 prints (in a matter of days!!!). All of us at Art for AIDS International continue to be extremely excited about this partnership and look forward to continued collaboration with the staff and students there.