“The first time a child sits in your lap and looks up at you, you’re dead,” says artist Mark Krieger, who met the children in small impoverished village of Honduras known as Flor Azul. For the past eight years, he has traveled to the country with Hope for Honduran Children Foundation and brought back sketches, in hopes of helping viewers understand and relate their lives.
“The moment you land you know you’re a different world,” said Krieger. He illustrates the internal struggle he felt. “My hope for my drawings is that these young faces can speak to us about what may well be the central fast confronting the 21st century; address the imbalance between the unsustainable abundance of our lives and the burdensome poverty of theirs.”
Twenty eight of them are on display at Intown Club. The opening reception held on Jan 13, 2012 drew in more than 70 guests who marveled at the larger than life faces, chuckled at the stories and found themselves relating to children far away.
He feels a calling to this project: “If I drew enough of these kids and drew them good enough, I can make a difference,” he said. Krieger realized the impact of the large sketches while negotiating funds for a specific project. Laying them out on the table he sensed the dynamics shift; “It was like having the children in the room with us,” he said. Krieger makes an effort to capture the pride in their appearance, the neatly braided hair, the little trinkets of jewelry, laundered clothing.
“These are universal,” said Ingrid Angel of the portraits, “You will find a child who looks like this anywhere in the world: Palestine, Mexico, and even here in Cleveland.”
Accompanying each portrait is an eloquently written caption that brings life to each—from the tale of two sisters abandoning an abusive household who walked more than a 100 miles to find refuge with the Foundation run village; to the seventeen-year-old boy burdened by the second unexpected pregnancy of his younger sister. Some sketches are void of any background, while others capture the environment, and the hidden lives of many children with every stroke.
“I don’t like using photographs,” said Krieger, and the two hours or more he spends with the children brings unusual meaning to their lives.
Karen Donovan Godt, founder of Hope for Honduran Children Foundation said his sketches are a sense of pride for the children the respect and time he gives them validates them for the wonderful people they are, letting them forget the hardships they endured before arriving to Flor Azul. Eighty percent of Hondurans live in conditions of extreme poverty, and children are often neglected, abandoned, or orphaned.
History of foundation
The foundation was formed seven years ago when on a trip she and friends discovered 25 abandoned children struggling to survive; “We decided we could not walk away from that.” In partnership with of Sociedad Amigos De Los Niños based in Tegucigalpa, the foundation’s mission is to serve the abandoned children through healthcare, education, but often more importantly, shelter and food.
The foundation also provides an opportunity to travel to the village and experience Honduras first hand. “We want to immerse people in the culture and get to know each other,” said John Godt. Every six weeks, the foundation arranges a one-week tour to Honduras, taking care of lodging, transportation, and air fare.
Krieger is retired from a 32-year career as an art teacher, and wants to increase the portfolio of portraits to 100 – 150 to exhibit. When asked of the impact these portraits have made on his students, Krieger said many simply cannot relate, “Our kids are very busy,” he said. He is amazed by the spunky, intelligence, and gratitude of the Honduran children, “They look you in the eye.”
He joked he often had to remind himself after returning to the U.S. not to look teenagers in the eyes and smile, “They would roll their eyes, or suddenly get very uncomfortable.”
He said people often feel the call to help as much as they can while there, “But you always leave richer, you can never repay them for what they give you in return.”
Portraits are priced between $350 to $950. To learn more contact Krieger at: [email protected]
To learn more about the Hope for Honduran Children Foundation visit: [email protected] and www.hopeforhonduranchildren.org/index.php