Adjunct Professor Linda Ruth Paskell ’81, ’96M.Ed. and seniors Ashley Gripper and Kate Monaghan recently returned from the Nyanza Province of Kenya, where they worked at the Ogada Children’s Center, an orphanage that cares for children, most of whose parents have died of HIV/AIDS or related diseases. An art educator and photographer, Paskell modelled the experience after the Global Connections course she teaches, The Artist in the Community. Working alongside residents of the center, the Arcadia University trio helped transform an austere community room into a colorful and vibrant gallery. (Photos.)
They collaborated with Chariots for Hope, a non-profit, international, development organization that works with vulnerable children in Africa, and one of their partners, Bethlehem Baptist Church.
“We painted some beautiful geometric African designs on the walls, and did hand-prints around all the windows and doors, and the little ones colored in jungle pictures,” says Paskell. “Principally speaking, I was doing the same thing that I’ve been teaching in my course at Arcadia with the Homeless Shelter, only from a global perspective with an orphanage. Bringing people to themselves, to each other, to their communities, and to our work through the creative process is what I’ve been doing over the last 30 years within my classroom, my community and now back home at Arcadia, the place that prepared me years ago for the work I am so grateful to be doing today.”
This was Paskell’s second time working with Ogada, and this time she witnessed the impact of the organization’s support. The Ogada Children’s Center rebuilt several walls and added a water facility, and it now supports three times as many children as it had two years ago. Encouraged by the changes, Paskell returned stateside with increased energy and enthusiasm for service.
"The possibility of one day taking my course to a global level excites me,” she says. “Transforming orphanages through a mural art program would be a great collaboration of the things that matter most to me.
“It’s great to witness what happens when you align yourself with people that you think are different—whether it is through religion, race, gender or whatever—move past those constructs and come together for the common good with a willingness to make a difference through creative service learning experiences. You find out we are all the same dust and have much more in common that we ever could have imagined!”