Activism: In Watercolor

April 21, 2009

Ashley Cecil calls herself a “painting activist.”

She is one of the most creative social advocates I have stumbled upon.

Her approach is simple.

  1. Love art. Study art formally and work with it professionally.
  2. Travel to different locations in pursuit of “events of cultural interest.”
  3. Capture them, not with a camera, but with watercolors, oil paints, pastels..
  4. Sell the artwork.
  5. Donate a portion of the proceeds to the nonprofit corresponding to the piece.

The result is, as she says, a “marriage of painting and social activism.”

I find the concept almost as beautiful as the art.

Print of an Ashley Cecil original.

Print of an Ashley Cecil original.

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A nonprofit whose efforts I’ve followed for some time now is COAR (Community Outreach & Advocacy for Refugees), an organization that seeks to assist refugees resettling in the U.S. in becoming self-reliant and comfortable in their new lives and relies largely on volunteers to do so.  COAR started out as a student organization and has ballooned to a dedicated nonprofit.  They work for “awareness and advocacy” of the refugee situation, sponsoring tutoring for refugee students, helping refugees make higher education a reality, and other youth leadership programs.

While, as I said, I was already familiar with this organization and its goals, its new Volunteer Anchor Program just caught my eye and struck me as a highly unique volunteer opportunity.  Volunteer anchors are paired together and work with a recently resettled family of refugees and essentially help them adjust.  This may include anything from helping with homework, job applications, and basic English skills to getting groceries and giving directions.   While these tasks may seem mundane to us, they can be daunting to someone unfamiliar with them.  The stability that would come with refugees’ self-sufficiency and ability to communicate would surely make a significant difference for someone whose life had previously been turned upside-down.

Spring 2009 applications to be an anchor are due February 13 and can be completed online after creating a COAR account.  While I know this is right around the corner, the application is not very extensive and, while it does request references, does not require any supplementary letters of recommendation, transcripts, etc.  If you cannot make this application deadline, it is my understanding that another round of applications will be accepted soon.

After being accepted, volunteer anchors will attend an orientation and be placed with a family soon after.  Volunteer anchors should be familiar with their schedule before coming to orientation as they will need to be prepared to sign up for a time slot to meet the family with whom they will be working.  At this initial meeting, a translator will be present in addition to COAR/resettlement agency representatives who will help make the introduction smooth.

Contact Wendy Zupac at wzupac@coarweb.org with any questions about the program.

Email admin@coarweb.org with any technical problems using the COAR site.