I am excited to announce The Shine On Project! The goal of this project is to send as many solar powered lights as possible to the Nakivale Refugee Settlement in Uganda. I visited this area over the summer with the American Refugee Committee (ARC). Read about my travels here.
This three month project is about creating an intersection between the various groups and friends I have worked with to do something constructive that will help others!
The idea was first started before I even left for Uganda with ARC. I knew I wanted to do a photography show when I returned as a way to raise funds for the refugees I met. The good folks at Tradition Companies said they would help sponsor a show...
Well - when I got back I was motivated -- but also very busy. The summer flew by and suddenly it was September, school was starting and I hadn't planned my art show!
At that same time the program I direct, Art of Edina, was starting back up for the season. (It usually takes a little nap over the summer.) I was in talks with a large local mall named Southdale Center to create a new installation. Every few months we install community art in their main atrium.
One day I had an idea. Why not do a two-part Art of Edina Installation at Southdale Center that focuses on the joy and beauty we had seen with ARC in Uganda... I was so pleasantly surprised when Southdale responded with encouragement to my idea!
I also reached out to the American Refugee Committee and met with them several times. What did the people of the Nakivale Refugee Settlement need the most? There are over 100,000 refugees that live there. What could we do to help? They mentioned the basics: water, food, light. That's when a "lightbulb" went off (sorry for the bad dad joke!) I have a friend named Kevin Kuster who works very hard on his non-profit Watts of Love. They provide solar power to people in need around the world...
What if we could bring the Watts of Love solar lights to the refugees in Uganda? We learned that these solar powered lights could make a really big difference. Safety from fires and burns caused by kerosene, the ability to learn and work in the dark, the freedom of being able to walk at night -- and the potential to save money that would've been designated towards fuel..
ARC has an office in the refugee settlement. They contacted a refugee on their staff there and the idea was met with excitement and encouragement. They could definitely put those lights to good use! We had a plan!
Part One of the installation would be the art show I had dreamed of! We would make large prints (some three feet high) of our photos from our travels to Uganda. I traveled with the American Refugee Committee and a handful of talented Minnesotans. You can read about them here.
In September I reached out to my fellow travelers and collected their beautiful photos. At the beginning of October the photos were installed in the main atrium at Southdale!
Part Two of the installation is in process! The entire 4th and 5th grade classes at Our Lady of Grace Catholic School (OLG) in Edina are making colorful paper lanterns to decorate the main Southdale Center atrium. We hope to leave the photos up and have the lanterns hang in the center. Amy Sack is the art teacher at OLG an is overseeing the art project. I had a sneak peek and the lanterns are beautiful! We will have about 150 lanterns installed in the middle of November.
Here's the best part: My friends at Tradition Companies - the guys who sponsor Art of Edina - have agreed to buy one Watts of Love headlamp in honor of each OLG child that created a lantern!!
The headlamps will be sent in the care of American Refugee Committee to the refugee settlement in Uganda! That means we already have over 150 solar powered headlamps going to Uganda!
And that is just the start.... One day at lunch with my friend Karla Hult - we discussed the idea of "going bigger." What if we asked the parents of the OLG students, friends, colleagues and - anyone else willing to listen - to buy a headlamp too? With Karla's encouragement - The Shine On Project was born!!
I am committing myself to working hard and strategically to see just how many lights we can send! I have recruited a group of friends to help me grow - to act as ambassadors and also encourage others to buy a light. I have an idea for a fun run, maybe an art sale.. I plan to do all I can!
If you are reading this & you've gotten this far -- please consider buying a light too!