A friend of mine had just come back from Darfur and when I saw his footage, I was horrified. I had no idea human beings could be treated with such indignity. I, like most Americans, have become numb to the news and media reports, so a blurb here and there about Darfur was not likely to catch my attention.
Seeing this footage coincided with my studies for my Masters in Child Development. Coincidentally, in my child development courses, I had been discovering how important stimulation is to a child's growth. According to research, creative stimulation is as important as nourishment and medical care to the welfare of a child.
After seeing the footage, I was planning to host an event in my home to benefit those suffering in Darfur, but I felt slightly disingenuous speaking about people and fighting for their rights when I had not met them, hence I made a trip to Darfur. I decided I was going to bring a creative, developmentally stimulating workshop into the refugee camps, and to my surprise, it worked.
A friend suggested we have the refugee children paint kites, and it turned out to be an immensely powerful experience on all fronts. Children that had been somber and depressed suddenly came out of their protective shell and drank in the workshop as if it was their first glass of water in days. Thus began our commitment to the art and cultural exchanges that are at the core of the mission of Children Mending Hearts!
Upon returning home, we hosted an event to raise awareness and fundraise for the International Rescue Committee, who had kept us safe on our travels. Through the support of friends, including celebrities, the benefit attracted national press and helped more people learn about the lives of these beautiful children in Darfur.