ENCINITAS — A local nonprofit that has been supporting education locally for more than a decade is expanding into the developing world to connect children through art. Class ACT-Arts, Children, Technology, Inc. is displaying photos from the organization’s foray into the world of assisting children in Cambodia with after-school programs.
The photographs on display at City Hall were taken by professional photographer Jessica Pereira Wawrzyniak during a trip with Class ACT to Cambodia last year. “It was a case of being in the right place at the right time,” Wawrzyniak said. “How could I not get involved?”
While the work with children from local schools and those in other countries helps her grow as an artist, she said it also helps her grow as a person. “These children are happy to make a friend, they are happy to share their lives through art,” she said, adding that the volunteer experience has given her a renewed appreciation for the simple things in life.
Executive Director Niels Lund said the organization has been active in San Diego County schools to supplement the art education programming. “The board decided to expand the education to encompass global issues,” he said. “Children in the developing world exchanging art work with children in Encinitas has been very successful.”
“As we grow we’re going to be able to connect more children,” Lund said. In fact, the organization has begun a new program that fits into the holistic view of a
more sustainable society. “Microloans for Mothers helps to support the mothers of the children that attend the school where we are working with the exchange program,” he said. With a small loan, women are able to improve their existing small businesses or begin an entirely new path while making enough money to pay school fees and other necessities.
The benefits of an ongoing exchange program that transcends the barriers of language, geography and socio-economic class are exponential.
“Our children are learning that in the great majority of the world people do not live the way we do,” Lund said. “Because of that knowledge, they tend to have more respect for what they have, they grow up less entitled,” he said.
“We’re also teaching our children about the global future. When they grow up, they become global citizens and through that comes peace,” Lund said.
Another photo art project is on its way to Cambodia. Two classes of fifth-grade students at Paul Ecke Central Elementary have been busy under the direction of Wawrzyniak, creating collages and personal photo art that will be hand carried to the children in the “sister school” in Cambodia.
While Wawrzyniak has traveled throughout the world capturing images through her lens, she said the experience in Cambodia was particularly special. “I was touched by just how happy the kids are,” she said. “In a country where children are considered a commodity rather than an investment, the kids in Cambodia showed me how eager they were to learn and share their lives with us.”
For more information, visit www.classactarts.org.