August 17, 2006
23 Av, 5766


 

Gesher reaches out to kids in Nigeria

Campers and staff at Camp Gesher show off the tapestry that is being sent to a Nigerian school as part of the Art in All of Us program.

By FRANCES KRAFT
Staff Reporter

TORONTO - Campers who attended Camp Gesher last month, as well as seniors from the Lodzer Centre Holocaust Congregation, are reaching out to schoolchildren in Nigeria as part of an international program called Art in All of Us.

Rochelle Michaels, the mother of a camper and a Lodzer member, was the catalyst who brought the groups together. She learned of the program after its co-founder, Belgian photographer Anthony Asael, e-mailed her in June to wish her well in her efforts to rid a website of some hate-related postings.

He also asked if she would help bring his project to North America.

When Michaels learned that the headmaster at Nigeria’s Rantya School, which has 400 children from ages two through 18, was eager to become involved with the intercultural program, she thought of Camp Gesher and contacted its director Shaul Zobary.

“It was a perfect fit,” Zobary told The CJN. “Although we are a Zionist camp concentrating on Judaism and Israel, we also teach our campers to know that we are part of the world… We want to do things to repair the wold because part of our camp is tikkun olam.”

The 160 campers, age 10 to 16, who attended the July session of the Labour Zionist summer camp, which is affiliated with the Habonim Dror youth movement, all took part in the project. They used markers to draw pictures and write messages on 10-inch by 10-inch pieces of fabric for the Nigerian children, who are English-speaking Muslims and Christians.

One square depicts three figures, identified by the Muslim crescent, Christian cross and Jewish Star of David over their heads. The accompanying quote reads, “‘Let’s be friends.’ – God.”

Members of the Lodzer Congregation, where Habonim Dror’s youth program will run as of September, used that square and 29 others to create a tapestry that will be sent to the school as a gift. The remaining 120 pieces will also be sent to the school.

Art in All of Us (artinallofus.org) involves at least 90 countries. It aims to develop creativity, curiosity and artistic sensitivity in children through poetry, drawing and photography.

In addition to finding a school to pair up with the Rantya School on a longer-term basis, either through an exchange of art or letters, Michaels is hoping to help Art in All of Us attract schools across Canada to join its programs. She said the program is “a very simple and grass roots way to bring children together,” particularly at a time of “uncertainty… and diminished hope.”

For more information about the program, call Michaels at 905-881-8907 or e-mail her at rochelle_michaels@yahoo.ca. Asael can be reached at anthonyasael@artinallofus.org.