By Andrea Krook
Upon stepping into her shack, I thought she would die. I was right, and I’m not even a doctor. She died about a week later from AIDS, leaving six boys without a parent.
Members of my church and I were in the Soweto slum of Nairobi, Kenya in August of 2006 for about two weeks. We were there to visit our World Vision sponsored children and to see different World Vision sponsored projects. We were just as prepared as anyone else for seeing AIDS firsthand.
As of our trip, we knew approximately 6.7% of Kenya had HIV/AIDs. That’s 1.4 million Kenyans. We knew the medication was hard to get, partially because most of the funding for AIDS research goes toward the American and European strain and not the African. We knew the situation was bad.
However, seeing the face of AIDS was an entirely different story. This woman was very, very thin and very, very frail. Barely living. For all I knew she was younger than I! What was going to happen to her children?
It was two years later, and I still hadn’t forgotten her. I thought for a long time about what I could do to help. I’m not rich and I’m not a born leader with the ability to mobilize a lot of people into action. However, the one thing I could do was paint. Not only that, I felt God was encouraging me to paint. I don’t feel I hear Him very often, but this time I did.
I spent about nine months painting watercolors based on photographs of our trip. I wanted people to see what it’s really like over there. Some of the paintings are a bit shocking considering I painted children next to open sewers. Others are more hopeful: vibrant market scenes, walking elephants, a sunset.
Or, you could argue that some are a bit of both. In “They Do Have Faces,” I painted children next to corrugated metal shacks and an open sewer running down the middle of the road. I wanted to reveal real living conditions. I’ve been to those sewers, and I threw away those shoes.
I left out each face because I feel Americans often ignore Africa and anyone, for that matter, living in poverty. We look the other way. On the other hand, the viewer is drawn in by the bright contrasting colors, and the child on the left waving at you.
It’s as if she’s inviting you into her world.
After all, Africa is a hopeful place. Yet, we can ALL do something to help. One really effective way to help is through World Vision child sponsorship. By sponsoring a child, you can pay for a child’s health care, school fees, sanitation, and AIDS awareness classes, among many other things. A child’s entire community benefits from sponsorship.
This October, I’m having my first solo show for the Kenya paintings. I want to use this show to talk about poverty, AIDS, and the benefit of child sponsorship.
The artwork is for sale with 25% of the profits going to World Vision. I’ll use the rest to fund two art shows and my own trip back to Africa. One of the goals of my life is to meet my sponsored child in Uganda, my child in Rwanda, and now my child in Kenya. I want to tell them myself how much I love them! Again, I want to see for myself the effectiveness of sponsorship and use that proof to encourage others who might be thinking about becoming a sponsor.
To see these paintings, visit Northwest Vintage Wine Bar (253-864-9463, [email protected]) located at 208 S. Meridian in Puyallup, Washington during the month of October. These paintings also will be featured at Cafe Fiore located at 3125 NW 85th St. in Seattle, WA from December 2009 to February 2010. You can also purchase prints of these paintings at AndreaKrooksArt.Etsy.com. For information on child sponsorship, please visit www.worldvision.org.
I don’t know what the next step is. Do I make more paintings about Africa? Do I paint pictures of HIV/AIDS? Do I focus more on promoting sponsorship? How soon do I go back to Africa? Where does God want me next? In His time, He’ll tell me. In the meantime, I’ll be listening.
Andrea is an in-store artist for Trader Joe’s grocery store in the Seattle area. She loves travel to far off places, art, books, social justice, a good laugh, her friends, her family, and God.