Home » Education, Foreign Policy, Human Rights, International Organizations

African AIDS Orphans and the power of art

From the Georgetown website:

Two Georgetown leaders are teaching visual arts for two weeks every year to AIDS-orphaned high school students in Kibera – one of Africa’s largest slums.

The Art Immersion program stems from a trip Charles DeSantis, associate vice president and chief benefits officer and associate dean Margaret Halpin took with Georgetown’s 2007 Kenya Immersion Group in and around the poorest areas of Nairobi.

Amazing and Hard

“It was the most amazing and hardest journey I have ever taken,” DeSantis says of the trip, sponsored in part by Georgetown’s Office of Mission and Ministry. “The object of this trip is to educate you about Kenya with the hope that you will use your experience and knowledge to make an impact.”

Charles DeSantis started the Art Immersion program with Margaret Halpin after the two traveled to Africa with Georgetown’s 2007 Kenya Immersion Group.

That day came when the group visited a Catholic high school for AIDS orphans and HIV/AIDS-affected students, St. Aloysius Gonzaga. DeSantis and Halpin, who have backgrounds in art education, quickly learned the school had no art curriculum.

A year later, they came back with a visual arts program for the students, who used pencils, charcoal, pastels and watercolors to produce their art.

Full of Life

“These beautiful people are so hopeful and full of life,” DeSantis wrote in his new book about teaching in the one-million-strong, sewage-strewn slum.

Proceeds of the book, Smart, Beautiful and Important: Teaching art to AIDS-affected orphans in Africa’s largest slum (New Academia, 2010), go back to the art program, which has been kept alive since 2008 through DeSantis’ personal fundraising.

The book is composed of blogs DeSantis kept from 2008 to 2010 detailing the Georgetown leaders’ time teaching in Kibera.

“Today was hard,” DeSantis wrote on July 30, 2009, the last day of classes at the school that year. “You see the commitment, the desire and the progress made in such a short amount of time and you just want to continue.”

Hope for Expansion

“Our dream would be to expand it and have it funded all year round,” DeSantis says of the program.

And after the fourth year of Art Immersion in 2011, he hopes to help create an art institute for Kibera students in between high school and college.

“In their commitment to develop an art program for the students of St. Aloysius Gonzaga High School in the slum of Kibera, Charles and Margaret truly reflect what it means to be a ‘man and woman for others,’” says Philip Boroughs, S.J., vice president for mission and ministry at Georgetown. “Their creativity and generosity has elicited an equally creative and generous response from the students at St. Al’s, who joyously await their return each summer.”

Many, many congrats to my dear friend Charles DeSantis for his outstanding work! I look forward to reading Smart, Beautiful and Important: Teaching art to AIDS-affected orphans in Africa’s largest slum.

Share/Bookmark this!

Leave a reply

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally recognized avatar, please register at Gravatar.


Connect: LinkedIn profile Connect: Twitter profile
Connect: LinkedIn profile

Welcome! Who am I?



Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.