Pass It On

Pass It On

By: Brandy Campbell, with Ricot St. Paulin in Haiti   |   Posted: October 02, 2008

Compassion Graduate Shares His Love of Art with Other Children in Poverty
Jean teaches a group of students in his art class at the Compassion-assisted child development center he attended as a child.

Jean loves seeing the look on his students' faces when they paint their first painting. Before his class, his students had never made a blue sky from watercolors or sketched a dark cloud with a bit of charcoal.

In Port-au-Prince, where Jean and his students live, pencil and paper are luxuries art supplies are fantasies.

STRIVING FOR EXCELLENCE

It wasn't that long ago that Jean swept his first paintbrush across a clean, bright canvas. Just like his students, he grew up in a community steeped in poverty. There was never enough food, his clothes were always tattered, and his parents never had enough money to send him to school. 

Then when Jean was 8, he and his younger sister were enrolled at the Leogane Child Development Center (HA-152) in Port-au-Prince.

"Because of Compassion, my sister and I had something to eat, and we received uniforms, books and other school materials," Jean says.

Jean says his Compassion sponsor, Mark, represented more than an unseen benefactor from a faraway land. Through his letters, Mark encouraged Jean. For the first time, Jean believed poverty did not control his future.

"My sponsor used to write me letters on a regular basis," says Jean. "He always told me he was praying for me. He cared so much about my progress at school and his encouraging words motivated me to move forward and to always strive for excellence."

ENCOURAGED AND EMBOLDENED

Jean's commitment to excellence continued when he enrolled in art classes at the center. He had a natural talent, and his teacher took a special interest in his work, giving him extra assignments to do outside of class. Encouraged by the attention, Jean worked hard, pushing for excellence again.

"Compassion did so much for me," he says. "I would not have been able to study art because we did not have the means for those lessons. They taught me biblical principles as well as drawing and painting. Because of my teacher and my sponsor, I became bold in my work."

PASSING ON A GIFT

In high school, Jean began selling his paintings in local art galleries, earning a few dollars to help support his family. By the time he graduated, Jean was well known throughout his community. 

But to Jean, achieving fame was never a priority. Compassion had taught him that he could be anything, do anything. But every day he saw little boys in tattered clothes, whose only idea of art was a scrawled picture in a dusty yard. And Jean knew that he could share not just his love of art, but his hope with those children. 

Today, Jean teaches art classes at several Compassion-assisted child development centers in Port-au-Prince. He loves seeing that spark of creativity in the eyes of his students that same spark his own teacher imparted in him.

"I had the opportunity to be taught this skill and now I am able to do the same," says Jean. "My students are very talented and I want them to know how proud I am of their work. I want them to feel the way I felt when my sponsor and teacher would encourage me."

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