This post was written by Sarah Barzak, volunteer for Art for AIDS International in London, Canada

Social justice has been and continues to be a concept I keep in the back of my mind. Immigrating to Canada at the age of five, social issues were heavily discussed at the dinner table and watching the 10pm news was a daily activity in our household. All throughout high school I participated in social justice, multi-cultural and volunteer service clubs. Participating in those activities allowed me to bond with like-minded people and also kept me engaged with current issues. More importantly, it made me realize that there’s always a position to play in the grand scheme of things. However, once in university, studying the complexities of social issues made me reassess my views. I started to label my thinking as ‘idealistic’ and became skeptical of how my actions could contribute in solving social problems. Injustice seemed to be everywhere: locally and globally; and seemed too big to tackle. Now, instead of feeling hopeful, I felt angry. I was angry because I was under the impression that not enough people cared, not enough people were informed and too many were ignorant. The culture of the university lecture played a big part in cultivating my skepticism. The constant critiquing and analyzing of theories was brought out of the classroom and into my day-to-day life to which those feelings felt inescapable. After some time, I thought to myself I wasn’t happy with my current attitude and I missed feeling hopeful. I missed encountering an issue and thinking: “hey, what can I do to be a part of the solution” instead of ‘conceptualizing the complexities’ as I would in class.

Volunteering for Art for AIDS International was a step I took in trying to bring back that hope. When I came into the volunteer workshop, it was my first time interacting with the other volunteers and I was moved by the honesty and openness of the environment.  I felt overjoyed because it was my first time since graduating high school that I felt that level of warmth and comfort in my surrounding. What fascinated me the most about the organization was its way of having art work as a vessel to carry out discussion. I especially admired the organization’s role in working with young people in hopes to evoke consciousness of both social and personal matters. Making collages brought out a different mode of thinking in which I didn’t have to rationalize, I could as Hendrikus put it: “play”. I think part of working with art is allowing your mind to think freely in order to showcase alternative perspectives and modes of expression. Something about not thinking critically felt therapeutic and initiated a feeling of ‘at-one’ with myself. This was an important step in my self-reflection process because it served as an opportunity to regenerate. Also, listening to Hendrikus’ story made me realize that my experience is indeed a part of a journey. Though I may experience ups and downs, disappointments and accomplishments, it is important to always be honest with myself. All in all, I’m excited to work with Art for AI International, not only to see how a charitable organization operates but also to add to my life long learning experiences.  small155-13