Causes Week 2020: Teachers join hands to bring art to underprivileged and special needs children

Causes Week runs this year from Dec 20 to 25. It shines a light on various individuals and groups, and shows how they are making a difference through their chosen causes within the community.

Ms Nur Ilyana Mohamed Anwar (centre) roped in her pupils at CHIJ Our Lady of the Nativity to help pack the Hearts of Hope art kits that were distributed as part of Children's Day celebrations. PHOTO: TEMASEK

SINGAPORE - Earlier this year, four art teachers banded together to bring the joy of art to underprivileged children and to those with special needs.

That is how project Hearts of Hope was born at CHIJ Our Lady of the Nativity (OLN).

Led by Ms Nur Ilyana Mohamed Anwar, 38, who has been an art teacher for 15 years, the team put together more than 260 art kits and distributed them as part of Children's Day (Oct 1) celebrations.

The idea came to Ms Ilyana during the circuit breaker period. She saw a Facebook post about a grant offered for ground-up initiatives. Then she asked her fellow art teachers at CHIJ OLN if they were keen to do something for the community.

"I drew up the proposal, submitted it, and that got the ball rolling," she said.

Ms Ilyana wanted to create the kits to engage the children in meaningful creative activities and give them an opportunity to develop their self esteem.

The kits contain items such as watercolours and construction paper and are worth $40 to $50 each.

They were given to 105 pupils on the financial assistance scheme and to 110 students from Minds' Fernvale Gardens School. Fifty kits were given to the Infant Jesus Homes and Children's Centre.

Pupils from CHIJ OLN were also involved in the project. Some did step-by-step drawings that were compiled into a digital worksheet for the beneficiaries to follow and learn to draw different things, while others helped pack the kits.

The project will culminate in a virtual art exhibition that will be launched on Dec 31, for which beneficiaries and CHIJ OLN pupils have contributed 54 art pieces altogether.

The pieces will also be uploaded on Instagram.

"The idea behind the exhibition is to give them the opportunity to showcase their artwork and drive the idea that to create something is not beyond anyone but something everyone can do," said Ms Ilyana.

"This will give them a sense of pride and confidence, so they know their artwork is appreciated and valued by others," she added.

Ms Nur Ilyana Mohamed Anwar (background) worked with three other art teachers on the initiative. PHOTO: TEMASEK

The project received funding from the oscar @ sg fund, which helped cover the expenses from the art kits, said Ms Ilyana.

The oscar @ sg fund, anchored by a $10 million donation from Temasek, supports ground-up initiatives addressing significant or urgent community needs in Singapore amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Ilyana hopes to make the art exhibition a yearly affair.

"Another dream is to turn this virtual exhibition into a physical exhibition. If we can put the art work up for sale, we could donate the proceeds to other beneficiaries," she said.

Those interested in helping out in this project can message Instagram account @heartsofhopesg.

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