This "Journal" is a record of the birth and history of ARTS FOR ANIMALS .It flows from the successes of today into the past and back to our humble beginnings.
Our path to starting Arts for Animals began many years ago, when Jim and I felt our first connections to wild animals. For me, it was the lions and elephants at Shambala Animal Sanctuary in California. For Jim, it was the aquatic wildlife surrounding him growing up in Louisiana. As the decades passed and those connections strengthened, it became apparent to both of us that preserving wildlife was in the marrow of our bones.
Throughout our lives, both Jim and I studied the science of the animals we loved, worked closely with conservationists and developed lives that are focused on the preservation of endangered wildlife, both on land and in the oceans.
When we each first visited Africa together, we discovered the majesty and beauty of Africa's wildlife -- and the sad truth that many creatures may be doomed to extinction. A great philosopher once said, "All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."
Arts for Animals was born out of our personal desire to "do something" -- to make a difference, however small, in the future of African wildlife. We hoped to impact a few hundred children and enlist them in the fight to save the wonderful wildlife in their own backyards. We realized it is only with their help that animals like elephants, rhinos, cheetahs and painted dogs will remain on this Earth.
"Safari" is the Swahili word for "journey." And so this journal chronicles the safari of Arts for Animals from it's inception to it's accomplishments today.
Jim and I began in 2011,just as two earthlings who were willing to try to make a difference by using art to teach conservation for the children we met on our travels. Before long, we realized many others shared our concerns and also wanted to personally take some action to protect the future of our planet. To encourage and help those folks make a difference, we created this nonprofit, Arts for Animals Inc.
In 2012, we taught our first "formal" group of African children and helped them tie their creativity to conservation. It has been a journey filled with encouragement, the enthusiasm of children, and renewed hope for animals facing extinction.
As one of our supporters said, "Each spark of creativity ignited adds to the collective light of the world."
We have been fortunate enough to have friends,supporters and wildlife lovers who have supported us on this journey and ,without whom, few of these goals would've been accomplished. Far, far fewer children would be understanding the value of their wildlife and recognizing what art and creativity can bring into their lives. With their help and yours ,we are changing lives and the future of wildlife on our planet - one child at a time.
As the years progressed, we have grown and prospered far more than we would have predicted ,and each year brings us closer to fulfilling our goals.
We hope this "safari" will conclude only when animal poaching ends, with all wildlife prospering in their native habitats, and with the ongoing resurgence of artistic expression and creativity in Africa.
Rwanda is an incredible country, in 1994 over 1.3 million people were murdered by their friends family and neighbors.
Called the Rwandan genocide, it was a horrific part of Rwanda's history. Today, however, it is one of the cleanest, friendliest, best run countries in Africa.
No visit to Rwanda is complete without a visit to the Diane Fosse research center
For more information about our Rwanda trip, go to our "Journal" on the www.aelondonstudio web site
It really was the experience of a lifetime for us
Rwanda has an efficient government, and conservation is a top priority for the government
Former ,or probable, Poachers are given jobs as porters assisting the tourists along the trek to visit the gorillas. Gorilla tourism brings into Rwanda over $250 million a year.
The gorilla families are adopted by the people of Rwanda as members of their extended family
It was an incredible opportunity to learn about the day-to-day life and spirit of gorillas
The schools they are very primitive and they really appreciated the gift of our drawing kits
Spending time with the gorillas was a magical experience you can learn more about on the AE London website
We journeyed with six of our close friends and really enjoyed learning about Rwanda and its people
Rwandan kids are incredibly cute and teaching materials are still in short supply
We plan on visiting again in the future and establishing programs with the two schools we visited
We certainly enjoyed our visit with the gorilla doctors in learning more about their incredible operation in Rwanda
Looking into those eyes just melted our hearts
We made some great friends and Rwanda and look forward to working with people there to help educate their children
After eight days in Rwanda it was off to Tanzania to see the great migration of wildebeest and zebra
The wildlife in Tanzania is incredible and the people are very conservation aware
Although we didn't get to visit our friend Amy Dickman in Ruaha, we did get a chance to learn more about Tanzanian conservation issues
Two years ago ,we helped raise funds for Amy's programs. she has won numerous international awards for her groundbreaking conservation programs. We helped fund a vehicle and a solar power system for her program.
Amy's initial program involved getting the local Maasai warriors to adopt a lion and protect it rather than killing it- to become a warrior!
We also helped her with a program which brings a trailer for charging cell phones to small villages. These villagers have phones but no electricity to charge them. While their phones are charging, they watch conservation videos on a mobile TV.
The Ruaha Lion projects we help support will help ensure that there are lions in the Serengeti for years to come
Our next stop was Zimbabwe, via Johannesburg
We flew from Dar es Salaam, back to Johannesburg to pick up suitcases full of art brushes, art supplies, posters and wristbands we needed for our trip up to Zimbabwe
Each year we visit the painted dog conservation Bush camp where our programs help support their work
Over 1400 children and adults attend the Bush camp each year. Over there four day stay they learn about environmental and wildlife conservation through game drives, activities and art lessons we helped develop
This is Belinda, a young woman we met while visiting the painted dog conservation camp
Belinda learned about conservation by attending this camp when she was 12 years old and decided to dedicate her life to serving wildlife. She was the first women on the anti-poaching and the recipient of our first Ranger scholarship.
Belinda lives in this small concrete room with two other anti-poaching policewomen
she's been a member of the anti-poaching police sponsored by painted dog conservation for two years.Her hope is to become a full-fledged ranger and our hope is to help her make that dream come true.
This year we are starting a scholarship fund to send to young women to Ranger school each year.
Women in conservation police work are rare, despite the fact that there are many young women who would give their lives to protect their wildlife.
One of the kids activities is to go on their first game drive where they often see their first rhino and learn about how incredible their own wildlife is
This class was unique as the students spoke very little English and some were hearing-impaired
We enlisted the help of their teacher to help with our conservation art program. On the right in white was a" signer" that helped us
.We were amazed to find that this teacher didn't realize that there weren't wild elephants, lions or cheetahs in America.
Working as a team , we meet the challenge of teaching art and conservation to children for the first time
The children love working on their posters and making the conservation messages on it their own
Another 25 kids who now know better ,the value of their wildlife
This is Wilton, one of the PDC educational directors who helps us administrate and develop our programs there
PDC, Has made a huge commitment to the local people of Zimbabwe. This is a small modern village there built for their staff making it possible for them to accomplish so much in such a difficult environment economically and logistically.
PDC in the park also has initiated a canine anti-poaching unit to track poachers Hwange Park
Thanks to the efforts of PDC Hundreds of animals are saved each year. We are so happy to be able to support their educational efforts with our programs
PDC has also developed a program to sell snare wire sculptures and other items allowing local folks to support their families without poaching animals.
Their arts center manufacturers items to sell tourists and zoos worldwide and ,not only brings in money for conservation, but offers employment in a country where the unemployment rate is close to 90%. This is crucial to preserving wildlife in the area.
While in Western Zimbabwe we got to visit schools near the border of Hwange National Park
Educating these children is crucial since they must learn to live side-by-side with wildlife from the park. Elephants, lions and other wildlife often cause havoc in their villages and tolerance and understanding are key to successful coexistence.
Working with these kids in the library of the school, we got to see how limited their educational resources are.
The school had 400 students and one laptop computer. Next year when we come, will bring two more computers to help educate these children to the value of their own wildlife and expose them to the world.
In these villages it's crucial to enlist these children as Animal Protectors!
These are the future Citizens that will decide the fate of the wildlife in their area. If they appreciate the importance of these animals to their heritage and their future, they will conserve and protect their wildlife for generations to come.
Each school has their own Animal Protector program which involves meetings and activities with a conservation stewardship message
Each class has its own "flavor", its own mix of talent, drive and spirit.
The important messages we bring will continue to resonate with the teachers and staff at the schools we work with.
We try to learn about one or two children at each school that display extraordinary art talent.
We work with the teachers and staff at these schools to support and mentor the individual children that seem to have a natural artistic talent.
We can tell by the rapt attention that these children are really motivated and excited to be exposed to art and creativity
Jabulani School was started several years ago with a woman teaching three kids in a tent!
Today that school has grown to over 600 children and thanks to organizations like Children in the Wilderness offers children lunches as well as educational facilities
Six years ago ,when we started working here, there were two mud schoolrooms and most classes were taught underneath trees
Despite cattle and sometimes elephants walking by, the teachers sitting next to the trunk of these trees held the rapt attention of their students. Education is the most valuable commodity in Zimbabwe.
Lunch is still cooked over open , wood fires
Children in the Wilderness realized that many of these children had not eaten and could not learn they were hungry
Many of these children have their first ,and only ,meal of the day at school
After construction of our new building three years ago, we realized we needed somewhere for the kids to study when the building was closed
With temperatures often reaching 113° during the day, it was also important that the students had somewhere out of the elements to study and learn.
In 2016, the Leiden foundation donated enough money to build an outdoor gallery
This outdoor classroom area enables students to attend class when it is very hot and also gives them a safe place to meet, draw or hold craft workshops.
The quality of the students' artwork has improved dramatically
Installing artwork outside in the outdoor gallery inspires kids whenever they are working, even after hours
This is Ishmael, a physically challenged artist who does incredible things with pieces and parts of aluminum cans and refuse
One of the most popular programs at the art center brings local artists in to teach the children different art forms and crafts and allows them to express their own creativity
Ishmael taught the children how to make mobile's out of tin cans and wire that could be used for snaring animals instead of artwork.
Artists like David Bjurgstrom and Sarah Janice Garcia help the kids see that art can take many forms
Whenever our goals is to involve other artists in helping these children to appreciate the value of art and their wildlife. Facilitating their involvement, we get to introduce other artists to the rewards of changing the lives of these children
Making a presentation to Shuvanay ,with Children in the Wilderness
"Shu" Has been a huge help to us in operating the wildlife Center. Not only does she assist us during work hours, but she also volunteers to help after hours.
With us, this is Tich,(Our new director), Sue Goatley,( with Children in the Wilderness, and an indispensable member of our team
Sue helped us find Tich, a talented local artist, when we realized we needed a director to organize and conduct outreach programs at the wildlife Center.
Now the exterior of the wildlife center is decorated with inspirational art as well as the interior- thanks to our donations from artists here in the United States
It's really a joy to teach in the new Leiden outdoor Gallery- especially when it's above 110° inside
Teaching classes and helping the staff at the arts Center gives us such a great feeling of fulfillment and accomplishment
Thanks to our supporters, hundreds of kids each year have an opportunity to be exposed to art, creativity and the importance of saving their wildlife.
David's art focuses on light and shading.
David has been recognized among the best and most innovative of drawing artists using pencil in the United States
David has always felt a connection to wildlife
He brought several of his paintings to decorate the wildlife Center and inspire the kids creatively.
This was just the opportunity that David and his partner Bill were looking for.
They both feel that is each artist responsibility to do something to protect the planet's future.
Thanks to the Lieden Outdoor gallery, there was lots of room for children to spread out and practice their creativity
David developed his own teaching aids to help the children understand shading.
Tich,the new art director helped with translation and explanations for the kids
Bill, an education administrator, and David's partner enjoyed helping the children as well
The children were learning about the importance of their wildlife while learning how to draw their wildlife
There is really no substitute for this type of teaching
These children are learning skills and concepts that they would have never been exposed to otherwise
David helped make a presentation to Blessing our latest scholarship recipient
Some of these children will incorporate these techniques into their own artwork
Using art to connect creativity and conservation
David taught several classes and influenced the lives of over 50 children
David also brought artwork by one of our best friends and collaborators,Sarah Janice Garcia
Sarah's work features striking color and is a delight to the eye. Sarah has been a wonderful,and very helpful ,addition to the ARTS FOR ANIMALS team
This is David,some of the teachers, Shu , with Children in the Wilderness, and Tich, the art center's director.
You can tell from the smiles on David, Bill and the kids that this was a joyful learning event
We hope to use Art work to raise money for scholarships
Giraffe's are predicted to be "endangered" in the next 10 years
The Ranger college has programs teaching environmental Education, Ranger Basics, Weapon use and Wildlife Park administration.
We met Sarah and her Husband at the Bayou Arts Festival and instantly connected
Sarah has a unique and colorful style for her wildlife art. We loved the way she also connects her creativity with Conservation with each art piece helping wildlife efforts.
The species of each art piece benefits from the sale of that art piece
A smart and wonderful idea! Mo and Sarah have helped us tremendously with our social media.
Working with the Southern Africa Ranger College is a new opportunity
, Our relationship with the Ranger college enables Arts for Animals students to become Certified Park Rangers or Administrators
Sarah's artwork was featured at the Bayou City Art Fest just down from us.
One of Sarah's most popular pieces
Sarah recently sent this beautiful piece to Tom Leiden
Tom is head of the Leiden Foundation which supports Arts for Animals and The Giraffe Conservation Foundation
Sarah and Mo 's wonderful and productive visit
A weekend visit to our home in Mandeville helped us define how we can work together to help wildlife!
David's art also featured African Animals
We are so happy to have David involved in ARTS FOR ANIMALS. He brings another artistic dimension to African kids learning about art .
The new canopy will be a great place for meetings, classrooms and large art projects
Thanks to the Leiden Foundation,the art center now has an outdoor classroom, project area and spot for kids to meet and draw when the building is closed.
The wildlife Center reaches hundreds of kids every year
Elsmore and Mercy are two local children from the orphanage that we support with scholarships
One of our friends and donors, Markeeta Brown is helping these children finish school. Mercy is a seamstress and Elsmore is going on to college.
While we are teaching the children we are also teaching the teachers
With Anne's background, she is able to mentor the teachers to help the students understand the basics of drawing as well as important conservation messages.
We taught art to several classes of children at the art center and awarded two scholarships
About 100 kids took the pledge to become "Animal Protectors" as well
The wildlife Center "swears in" several hundred kids each year
The smiling faces of one of our classes
Our two scholarship recipients this year and the Zimbabwe teacher
"Blessing" is our first girl recipient and a talented artist. "Pride" is already helping mentor youngsters in drawing
After working at the wildlife Center we moved northwest 4 hours, through Hwange Park
For the past several years we have been working with two schools right on the edge of the largest park in Zimbabwe. It's really critical at these kids understand the value of living with the wildlife in the area.
In between schools ,we sometimes pass large ,Beautiful Lions in the park
"Mayo",The headmaster at Ngamo school with "Methuli",a student he took under his wing.
Methuli says," at this age, I am preparing to make a difference in my community, lovely country, Africa has a whole, and the entire world.I want to be a conservationist who makes a change".
One of the Rangers showed us this lion bone found in the park
This is a a lion leg bone which was found in the Bush with the snare wire still around it. Imagine an animal caught in the middle of nowhere by a wire wrapped around its leg. Not a very humane way to die.
These schools are in the same area where Cecil the lion was killed.
We're teaching these children the value of lions like Cecil so that they can learn how to coexist with these beautiful animals.
The community representative ,Mxolisi Sibanda or " MX" helped us translate
Children in the wilderness maintains community representatives to act as a liaison between their camps in the local villages .M X Has been a huge help to us over the years in working with these children
Working with their eco-rangers, we helped them draw pictures of wildlife on their walls
These children volunteer to be eco-Rangers and meet each week to discuss environmental issues, plan local environmental action and learn about wildlife and the environment.
Many of the eco-rangers also do different crafts to raise money for projects
The eco-Rangers loved their posters and their new wall art
It's always fun to see the artwork the kids produce
The villages these children serve are very primitive, few have electricity availabe very primitive-
One of the challenges of providing computers to these schools is providing electricity for the computers operate. We have found that small solar systems that generate just enough power for two or three computers is the best way to go.
It's always a treat to run into cheetahs or other wildlife between schools
We give children the opportunity to see the entire lifecycle of their wildlife
Getting to see the lifecycle of their wildlife, and its place in nature gives children a better idea of the importance of each species.
When we can, we take local kids on game drives to draw endangered animals
It's always amazing to us that many of these children have never seen their wildlife in nearby parks. Often their only contact with wildlife is when they cause a ruckus in the village and then they are only seen as dangerous pests.
These two lion cubs playing could be wonderful inspiration for a child support
Of course we have to watch for traffic crossing the road in front of us
We finally made it one of our main destinations- the painted dog conservation camp
These sixth-graders come from all over Zimbabwe to learn about wildlife and wildlife conservation
They stay for four days, going on game drives, learning about wildlife, and having fun!
Opportunities like this are very ,very rare in Zimbabwe
Last year we worked with Peter Bliston , the director, to raise money during an art sale in Houston
Cecil the lion was very real to these children, and no one was saddened more by his death
My piece, "OLD SOUL", represents a great opportunity to show the children how art can be used to motivate and inform people.
Our drawing poster, activity poster and animal protector program are perfect for the Bush camp
The art elements we bring to the table are a huge help in getting the kids excited about conservation and art
The kids proudly display their posters
We hope these posters will also be displayed at their homes. The posters are printed on water resistant paper since the walls they will be on are made of mud usually.
Dominic And his class of kids
Dominic is a former school headmaster and one of the most dynamic of the staff at painted dog. He just won an international award for conservation awareness education.
Yes, these kids are jumping for joy- this is an entirely new experience for them
Imagine going to school in a mud hut in a village with no electricity. Suddenly you are brought to a place where you can see animals for the first time, learn to draw, and play with friends.
ARTS FOR ANIMALS is helping to change these kids lives
We never know which kid has the natural talent and drive to become an artist, Park Ranger, or conservationist, but we know that all them will find a new respect for wildlife.
We finished up our trip in a small village nearby at a school called Mbele
What a wonderful school! the buildings were all built by the villagers, and even though it had no electricity, the kids were making the best of everything they had.
The kids at the school were hard-working
They started a new art class and we were invited to teach the first class
This is the first time they saw real art and got a feel for what art was all about
It was so focused and interested in every aspect of drawing wildlife
The art kits we brought them the first exposure they had to a real drawing pencil
We often wonder with lies in store for the future of these children
They were a little nervous about the kazoos at first
After a few minutes the entire school was looking in the windows and wondering what all the music was about
It was hard getting them to put the kazoos down to take this photograph
So the art club became the music club for a while
The kazoos are always a hit
There are few things funnier than hearing the Zimbabwe national anthem played by 20 kids on kazoo
The kids at the school were so industrious
Even though school had been over two hours before, all the kids working hard to landscape the school grounds with broken bricks and plants they had dug up in the woods.
Outside the girls were breaking bricks to use in landscaping
It's always fun to get the kids to act like wildlife. Here they're all lions!
The boys had their own brick pile to break up
After the bricks were broken up, they were hauled over and spread in the yard
The dirt areas between the classroom pathways were being converted into rock gardens
Every child ,no matter how small ,was lending a hand
The teachers here were so dedicated and full of life and fun
Next to the school was a huge garden that the kids each spent time in
Someone help them drill a well so they had the most important component for a garden- water. so the kids cleared the land, broke up the hard clay and mixed in manure, and created a commercial garden. Amazing!
These little girls just wanted a picture with Anne
The smiles of these children repay us tenfold
These kids were so industrious and so happy!
It's quite an awesome feeling to know you are helping to change these children's lives
Sometimes you wonder if you're really making a difference
If we save only one of these elephants and help only one of these children- all our efforts will be worth it!
You can "sniff out" lots more of our adventures on www.aelondonstudio.com (on our "Journal")
We left Africa with a great sense of accomplishment and peace ,looking forward to next year's challenges already!