Reflections from South Africa

The following post was written by Art for AIDS Marketing and Communications Intern Robyn Bell.


At Art for AIDS International, it is always our intention to have an impact on young people that extends far beyond our two-day workshops.  Last year and the year before, we travelled to South Africa to host workshops in Soweto, a township outside of Johannesburg.  At every workshop, we hope to educate about the impact of HIV, but also to build confidence for participating young people.  We seek to educate, inspire and motivate them.  Our hope is that after these workshops have ended students can continue to make a difference in their communities.

From our workshops in Soweto in 2012, we received overwhelmingly positive feedback.  It was wonderful to hear how confident each student felt after the workshop, and about their desires to continue with community involvement around HIV awareness after the workshop had ended.

Here are some of our favourite comments from participating students:

“This workshop was a blessing to me.  It taught us how to be determined to get what we want in life.  They taught us to love our community and to love ourselves, and to engage in the community.”

“What I found most valuable is that keeping something to yourself is not a good thing, you must learn to express it and that a collage can tell a really good story.”

“It taught us about what we never knew was real.  It encouraged us to realize that anything is possible.  It brings hope to those who never thought they could make it in life.”

“We were able to be open and we were given a chance to speak about anything we wanted to.”

“I really appreciated the help and idea that we got from Hendrikus.  We were made to recognize things we didn’t know we could do.”

“The workshop was brilliant, it took our minds off a lot of problems that we have as teenagers.  Participating in it was therapeutic and helped me to distress.”

“The workshop opened my eyes and made me realize that art is more like your daily routine, meaning that art is what you eat, sleep and walk.  It really made my day.”

“The workshop really taught me to believe in myself and not to think about what people say behind my back.  From today I will stand up for myself and achieve my goals as a young woman.”

To these students, we reciprocate the thank you, and say keep up the great work in your communities.

Growing Up With Art for AIDS International

This post was written by Art for AIDS Workshop participant, and long-time volunteer Serena Merucci.

My journey with Art for AIDS International began when I was a fourteen-year-old grade eight student from Strathroy Community Christian School in 2006. Our art teacher contacted Art for AIDS in order to do a workshop for one of our art assignments. Our teacher told us about this organization the week before our workshop was scheduled and we were all quite intrigued as my classmates and I were never fully aware of the AIDS pandemic and how awful it truly is. I clearly remember coming in from recess the day of the scheduled workshop, sitting down at my desk and seeing this strange white-haired man standing at the front of our classroom with our art teacher. When we all quieted down, he introduced himself as Hendrikus Bervoets and began snapping his fingers in a steady rhythm.

“Every time I snap my fingers, someone, somewhere in the world dies from AIDS,” he said in a solemn voice.

We were shocked; there was a dead silence throughout the classroom for a good thirty seconds before Hendrikus starting talking again. He then proceeded to tell us about the AIDS pandemic in Africa and how Art for AIDS International’s mission was to help those affected by HIV and AIDS. After his short speech he told us about how we could help the cause by making collages and selling them in order to raise money for those who needed it most. We were all thrilled that we could actually help and the mood in the classroom changed significantly. Everyone became increasingly engaged. For the next two art classes, we had a great time making collages.

Pieces were then selected from our class’ work to be printed and then sold. We organized a small fundraiser in our school gym after the collages were printed so family members could come out and buy their children’s artwork.

At that point in time I was aspiring to be an artist, and for the first time in my life someone was buying my art. I was so thrilled by the idea that I was an actual artist now, as well as I was able to help people affected by HIV and AIDS in Africa by raising money for organizations that provided them with care and support.

Two years then past from my first encounter with Art for AIDS and I never forgot about them. When I was in grade ten at the London District Christian Secondary School, an announcement was made that Art for AIDS was coming to do a workshop at the high school and all who wanted to participate had to sign up. I was sick on the day of the announcement and when I got back to school a friend of mine, who was in the same grade eight class as me, told me about the workshop and I was thrilled. I asked my teacher if I could leave class to go sign up in for the workshop and I was devastated to learn that it was already full.  I rushed to the office and begged to be allowed to participate. Luckily, our kind secretary somehow managed to squeeze me in and I am still forever grateful to her. I was able to participate in the workshop and I made new collages that were printed and sold in the new gallery space that Art for AIDS had recently opened. This was another boost for my artistic aspirations.

It was after this workshop in 2008 that I began volunteering for Art for AIDS. For the next two years, I volunteered regularly at the gallery on a weekly basis and helped run Art for AIDS booths at events and festivals.

I am now in my second year at Western University where I am completing my undergraduate Bachelor’s degree in Art History, Theory and Criticism.

The influence Art for AIDS has had on my life over the past seven years has been dramatic and profound.

Through this organization I have become more confident, not only as an artist, but as an individual as well. I credit Art for AIDS for helping me become the passionate and determined person I am today.

Teacher Candidates Reflect On Their Art for AIDS Workshop

The following post was written by Art for AIDS Marketing and Communications Intern Robyn Bell.

Windsor 6

On February 1st, Art for AIDS International hosted a workshop with teacher candidates as part of the Professional Learning Series at the University of Windsor, held during the Faculty of Education's 6th Annual Social Justice in Education Conference. The annual conference seeks to encourage students to reflect on the importance of social justice and equity in education. At the end of the workshop, participants had an opportunity to provide feedback on their experience. While we had a fantastic time hosting the workshop, the responses we received were truly heartwarming for our team to read.

This is what they had to say:

"Immensely Enjoyable workshop.  I very much enjoyed the hands-on aspect of this workshop and Mr. Bervoets is visibly passionate about what he does.  The explanation of the motive behind the workshops/organization was also presented well.  It was a very encouraging environment and it doesn't matter if you're an 'artist' or not--I was very impressed by the caliber of work produced! I would definitely bring this workshop to future classes I may teach.  Not only does it raise awareness of AIDS/Social Justice issues, it's also hella fun! A++, Would workshop again!"

- Brian Laine

"This Workshop was very useful and fun.  Its nice to do an activity rather than just listen.  The concept of using our art for a cause is great.  I'm glad I came to this."

- Jenn Ducroix

"This workshop surprised me--I'm not sure if I read the description or not, but it is not what I expected. The Surprise was pleasant.  I particularly enjoyed the message about turning your passion or talent into a tool for betterment and hope.  The activity was great; A wonderful de-stressor after a hectic week! Thank you for coming and sharing your passion with us."

- Tia Papa

"I very much enjoyed this workshop because it was not just a lecture but a hands on experience.  I will be taking and using this within my own classroom.  Thank you."

- Anonymous

"Thank you very much, Hendrikus, for your dedication and the transmission of your passion.  We learned a lot and we learned how to put our heart and compassion into the learning process.  Keep up the good work.  Good luck!"

- Alia Khalaf

windsor 8

Thank you to all of the participants, the Faculty of Education at University of Windsor for hosting the workshop, and Lisa Staley for all the great photos.