Nourishing the Culturally Starved Child


You can feel a disconnect, a lack of complete understanding when talking to someone who has not experienced the benefits of having creative expression in his or her life. Many others in the world have various interests and some economic means that may cause them to be more inclined to participate in one activity versus another, which might suggest that creativity is found in some aspect of their lives. Sadly, the freedom to experience that feeling of being absolutely immersed in something artistic is not available to everyone.

Enter drawchange.

In our homeless shelter programs, we have the privilege of introducing different projects and various materials to children in need and watching their eyes grow wide with anticipation. The children devour the opportunity to explore through art, hungry to ignite their imaginations through the assignments they are given. For many of these young ones, this is the first time they have used certain implements or been handed a window of time to relay every feeling stirring inside them upon paper.

The craving for creation can be compared to one’s relationship with food, an appetizing idea further digested by English author Philip Pullman. He interprets the lack of art for some children as “cultural starvation”—when people, having been deprived of creativity as children, are finally introduced to some form of artistic expression as adults, they feel a sense of lacking; they become aware that the emotion they are experiencing had not existed up until that moment. As Pullman suggests, I’d imagine this moment of stunning clarity would compare similarly to the way a starving person feels when finally offered food. Said person might have been able to ignore the stomach pains or even forget the hunger through some kind of resigned determination, but as soon as something edible is presented, all other thoughts are banished save for the disbelief in being so long denied sustenance.

Drawchange seeks to satisfy that hunger by giving the children a creative escape to a world of their very own. Here, they can be anywhere they want to be, achieve any goal they set their mind to, and go on to lead fulfilling, successful lives. The idea is that by visualizing their dreams through art, they can create a reality for themselves that inspires hope and strength to be resilient to any obstacle that comes their way. 

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