Umbuntu- by Laurie Amerson

“Ubuntu means a person is a person through other persons, that we belong in the bundle of life.  And I want you to be all you can be because that’s the only way I can be all I can be.  I need you.  I need you to be you so that I can be me.”    - Archbishop Desmond Tutu


Art is a true expression of each person’s uniqueness.  For 2 years I have watched the children of Summit Charter School give the gift of art to the children in Ho, Ghana, and then the children of EP Primary & Prince of Peace return the gift of art to the children in Cashiers, North Carolina.  Each project, each picture, each hand made book represents the heart and the hands that it was made by.  Each different.  Each special.  Each needed to make our one world special.

I have now seen the magic come full circle.  The topic of the environment was introduced to the children in the P4 class at EP Primary through a beautiful book, All The Earth,  All The Sky.  The kids were mesmerized by the story and the beautiful artwork in the book.   From there, the prints that were made in the U.S. were passed out and suddenly, the room was filled with color and texture and excitement.  Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, the supplies and instruction for the recreation of the project was passed out…..paper, Styrofoam board, pencils and markers of every color exploded out of Amy’s bag and were spread around the class. As the children began to work on their own masterpieces, the room grew quiet with the sense of focus and concentration becoming thick in the already thick, hot air.  As I walked from desk to desk over the course of the next hour, I saw what was once white paper became an expression of the little heart and hands that created it.  I also saw these same little hearts and faces lighten and brighten and open in a new way.  The children of Ghana took such pleasure in creating a picture for their “friends” in America.  And it was a true gift of friendship given with such love and pride.

We went from that class to the P6 class where the photo book exchange had already been introduced.  The books that were made in Cashiers were such a hit and had obviously been thumbed through and thumbed through for many days.  The photos of the native trees and leaves and waterfalls and mountains and SNOW! were practically memorized by the eager children of Ho.  The class was divided into groups and they were asked to make a list of local “attractions” to be photographed and compiled into books for the return trip to America.  Even though kids in the states are often asked to work in groups on projects, the children in Ghana rarely have the opportunity to “work” together in this capacity.  They put their heads together, literally, and made their lists.  Each group was given a disposable camera and took to the streets.  This was also very special because it became a field trip of sorts for them…. another opportunity often taken for granted in the U.S., but an obvious honor for the children at EP Primary.  After what seemed like an eternity for the adults, the kids all returned the cameras full of photos to be developed.  When we went back 2 days later with the pictures, the children once again divided into their groups and made their picture books with descriptions of what they had photographed.  After quite some time, the finished products were bound with string and proudly handed to us.  Again, it was quite obvious to me that the love and power of friendship was drenching the papers that they created.

It is though this project that we can begin to understand how important it is to encourage all children to be unique as individuals, but never to feel like they must stand alone.  To have the opportunity to realize that while cultures can be unique and different, it’s even more obvious how a greater understanding of our similarity to each other is important for global respect.  Together, we can support the best in each of us, so that all of us can be better because of it.

And we all need more of that.