Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A new chapter in life

Like everyone else I am trying to settle back into a routine after the summer is over.  Painting, Framing, Photographing and Posting. As and artist, the painting is the easy part and I have to practically strap myself to my office chair to get the posting and uploading done.
 The light is beautiful here by this big window in my family room. 
 But sometimes I just have to go outside to paint.
I have finished and varnished this painting. I am just waiting for the frame I ordered to arrive. I have about 10 paintings that are in the final stages of completion. 

I tagged along on one of Ken's business trips to London last week. I loved it there and spent the days immersed in art museums. But, as usual, wherever I go, Ghana is never far from my mind. Even though I didn't find anyone to practice speaking Twi with I was able to talk on the phone with Karen Tooley of the Future leaders UK. She is a teacher in Birmingham, England and spends a month in Ghana each year. She was able to give me more insight into Billa and confirm what I already knew that he is an amazing honest, entrepreneurial man who is using all his energy to help others.

By the end of the summer we had staged 78 boxes of donations at the storage unit waiting to head to Ghana including; 8 sewing machines, 2 computers, chargers, adapters, text books, reading books,school supplies, shoes, clothes and more....

 My son Stephen (in the orange VTech t-shirt) joined us to bring another load of books and school supplies to the storage unit in Woodbridge, the last stop before we load everything on a shipping container going to Africa. Then he was off to start his second year at Virginia Tech. He really enjoyed meeting Daniel. Stephen went to Ghana to visit his sister Alexandra for spring break of his senior year at Oakton High School. When I asked him what the best part of his trip was, he said "Meeting Billa and hearing his story about starting a school for needy children under a mango tree". That was one of the things that inspired me to make my first trip to Africa. That, plus the fact that I missed my daughter and wanted to see her life in Africa.

Before I headed off to London, my friend
Jill Wagner and her children Emma and Ben came over to help me sort through all the bags of lost and found clothes I had picked up from various Fairfax County public schools. The bags of light weight clothes got a pink stripe of duck tape on the outside to indicate that they were going to Ghana. I also put a bright pink stripe on all of my boxes in to the shipping container so that everything going to the children's center could be easily spotted when the container is opened in Ghana.

The heavy clothes and winter coats got a blue stripe on the bag. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them until I met some women from Sudan while I was picking up donations at Wolftrap Elementary. Just last night those two women picked up 8 huge bags of really nice winter coats that will be going to refugee families arriving from Darfur who have no winter clothes for their children. These coats were really nice. Now a child has one less thing to worry about when arriving at a new school in a new county. He or she will be warm and look cool in a new North Face jacket or Abercrombie sweat shirt. I think it is an interesting circle because it was in a history class at Oakton high school where this all began. My daughter became fascinated by Africa, Darfur in particular and she knew that one day she would go there. I never would have dreamed that I too would go to Africa and make helping children there my life's mission. Life is funny. I think it is so beautiful how our children enrich our lives in ways we never expect. If we encourage them to find themselves and follow their own path in life they may end up showing us a new path to follow in our own lives when that chapter of motherhood is over. Thanks Alexandra!

My easels is calling my name so I am off to paint now.  :)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Lost and Found Lady

Just when I got all of the books out of the garage, (78 boxes are now at the storage unit waiting for the shipping day) I started to get calls from local elementary schools that they had bags of clothes and coats to donate from their Lost and Found. And when I say bags, I mean bags and bags and bags of great stuff. There were even brand new shoes! 

 I am taking out the lightweight jackets and clothes, washing them and then packing them to go to Africa. Luckily the ship has not sailed yet so I will be able to bring these to the container on loading day.

But what do I do with the heavy winter clothes? Yesterday, I got a call from a local children's charity and I was planning to give them the winter coats, hats and gloves until I found out that they just turn around and SELL them to a store which them SELLS them to the needy. Oh, no, you don't. These clothes were GIVEN to me for free and will be GIVEN to the needy for FREE.

But where do I find people who need winter clothes. Then Voila, just today, I just met two women from Darfur while they were picking up school supplies from the same school as I for a village school they are helping back in Darfur. We starting chatting, I had recently read the book What is the What  by Dave Eggers, a memoir about one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, and was able to speak with some knowledge about the hardships of refugees in South Sudan. These women know a great many refugee families who arrive in America with little more than the clothes on their backs and NEED winter clothes for their kids. BINGO! The winter clolthes have found a new home. The lightweight clothes go to needy kids in Africa and the heavy weight clothes go to Africans living in America, how apropos!

Time to start sorting and washing!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Generosity is Contagious

There was a lot of "Giving Back" and "Paying it Forward" in Northern Virginia last week.

On Wednesday night - Frank and Judy Kenefick bought a wheelchair on Craigslist for a man they had never met.  Kwadwo is the custodian at Wolf Trap Elementary School and has been looking for a wheelchair for his sister back in Ghana.

On Friday morning - I brought the wheelchair to Wolf Trap Elementary. Kwadwo has a contact who ships to Ghana monthly. So, his sister in Kumasi will get the wheelchair quicker than waiting for my shipment which is going through Accra. And, now, I have another contact for shipping donations to Africa. :) 

Diane Long, who works in the school's office, decided to send out a notice to other elementary schools in the area, letting them know that I was collecting their extra books and supplies to send to a school in need in Africa. Well, an hour later, I got a call from White Oaks Elementary School in Burke, Virginia. They had donations too! While I was driving to Burke to pick up their donations, Gail Magnani dropped off a wonderful selection of sewing needles and notions to be packed with the sewing machines.You rock Gail!

On Saturday morning, I ran out to meet a woman who had children's clothes to donate. I just had met her the day before and we struck up a random conversation about charities. The next thing I know she is offering to clean out her grandchildren's closets and she did!

On the way home I stopped at a garage sale and found a computer monitor and keyboard for sale so I quickly grabbed them. While I was numbering the boxes and putting bright pink duct tape on them so they could easily be spotted in the container,
Marge Buzzelli, pulls up with her grandchildren's old bicycles. We are going to give them to Daniel, my shipping contact, because he also sends bikes to Ghana.

A few minutes later, Daniel calls to say that he is at the storage unit and could I bring the boxes right away. Yikes, my husband Ken woke up covered in poison ivy and we were hoping to take him to the doctor for a quick steroid shot before packing the truck. Well, that had to wait. We quickly sprayed some calamine on Ken's wounds and filled our car and our neighbor Tom's truck with as many boxes as we could and headed off to Public Storage in Woodbrige, VA.

Tom and Ken filling the truck.

Tom and Ken unloading the truck.
We dropped off 59 boxes

but the garage is still pretty full of donations yet to be packed.
Luckily Daniel agreed to wait one more week so that I can get the rest of the boxes to him. Whew. It was a busy weekend.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Women in America are Helping Women in Africa

This is really becoming a community project. I love it when people stop by to help or bring donations.  
My neighbor Lynda MacGregor came over and helped pack boxes of books.
Gail Magnani inspects the sewing machines to see what types of needle they need.

Gail bought 10 brand new backpacks and lots of school supplies. She received this limited edition print as a thank you gift for her donation.

Jewelry and Fiber Artist Donna Barnako donated to purchase the power converters needed to get the machines working in Africa. Thanks Donna!

Every day I seem to get one Ghanaian experience. When the recycling truck arrived I could tell that one of the drives looked Ghanaian, and he was. He was excited to see my garage full of donations going to help the poor children in his county. We chatted a bit and I tried to impress him with my limited vocabulary in Twi. I must step up my lessons if I am going back this Fall.

So it was a good day on the America to Africa front.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Painting Gift for those who Give school supplies

I just went back to school shopping at 5Below and got some great deals for the shipment going to the kids in Africa this weekend. For those of you who have asked me how you can help, stop by 5 Below and pick up a few back packs, pairs of shoes, white board markers or writing booklets. Feel free to drop them off anytime. I am usually home everyday painting or working on the computer.  I will give each person who buys school supplies this limited edition print as a gift.

 Babies, oil painting by Adrienne kralick

Backpacks for the children at Future Leaders in Ghana.
This is what I bought today at 5Below.  The quality is really amazing for $5. I also bought pencil sharpeners, writing booklets and white board markers.

Last year, I sent handwriting booklets and they were very helpful. Those have already been used up and they need more.  I bought a bunch of these today at 5Below for just $2.50 each. I could use tons more.
 The first time I went to Ghana, the children stood in line, waiting to hand me their own tattered little packet of paper, so that I could give them "homework". I flipped through to find a page or part of a page free so that I could make dots in the shape of letters so that they could practice their letters. I couldn't believe it. They did not even have their own notebook or handwriting booklet.

These shoes were also $5. I bought these for my little friend Mary. I am hoping to get more for the other children.

The deadline to get this shipment off is this coming Saturday August 9th. Call me if you have anything to donate or need a pick up. Thank you!!! Adrienne 571-437-5060

Friday, August 1, 2014

Well Off Women of Africa

Colorful oil painting for sale of African women in Accra, Ghana.
Original Oil Painting, "Well Off"
To purchase this painting or print on my secure on line store.

I was told by a friend in Africa, that some of the most financially "well off" families in Ghana are those supported by the women who own and operate the little stalls in the Medina market in Accra. "Well off" is a relative term, but in this case, it means that they are able to put food on the table, clothe their children and pay for them to go to school. It is my dream that all the world's children can be that "well off". That is why I am donating proceeds from the sale of this painting, and the others on my  site and store to the children's charity, Future Leaders Underprivileged Children's Center, which provides free education for the needy children living in one of the poorest slums near Accra.

African oil painting displayed on the wall of Adrienne Kralick's dining room.
African oil painting displayed on the wall of Adrienne Kralick's traditional home.

I have included these picture to show how the painting looks on the wall of my house. I was pleasantly surprised to see how great these vibrant colorful paintings complement my  traditional colonial style home and European influenced home furnishings.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Teach them to Fish, or Sew!

Good things are happening for the sewing center in Ghana.  Billa Mahmud started this center after parents in the community saw how education was helping open doors for their children and asked him to teach them too. He came up with the bright idea of starting vocational centers where adults could learn a trade for free. All he asked is that they Pay it Forward, by teaching others in turn.

Sewing center that is making a difference in the lives of needy woman and children.
This is the sewing center at Future Leaders UCC in front of the children's center. The women sit outside on wooden benches, in front of a shipping container they lock up at night. I was so surprised to see them using the old fashioned petal push black Singer sewing machine. I thought there had to be newer sewing machines that were just gathering dust in peoples closets back home in America. We have so much more than we need and they need so much. Let's share!

They make aprons and bags using colorful traditional African fabrics. The quality is amazing.

Teaching a workshop on the techniques and life of Monet while traveling from Paris to Normandy.
I wear my African apron every day when I paint. I even brought it with me to France last year when I taught an Impressionism workshop. Here I am wearing wearing my African apron as I paint in Monet's garden in Giverny France.

Adrienne Kralick is collecting sewing machines to send to Ghana to help woman learn a trade.
I gave a talk at the Vale Club, a local women's club near my home in Oakton, and mentioned that I was looking for sewing machines to send in my next shipment to Africa. Well, the generous women there helped me collect 6 sewing machines. Ann Marquis has been a real angel. She bought several machines at The Closet in Herndon, Virginia where she volunteers weekly. She has a huge and altruistic heart. 

This apron was made at a center is empowering women and girls by teaching them the skill of sewing.
So, I gave her a beautiful African created by the women at the sewing center to remind her that each machine she bought is creating a job for a woman and helping a family.  (That is my sweet little dog, Leonardo DaPuppy)

My good friend from college, Rhonda Amosoro brought over 2 machines plus donated money to pay to ship them. I paid between $15 and $25 a box to put them on the shipping container last year. I have not asked for monetary donations because I never feel comfortable doing that. (But, I would be happy to accept any if so inclined.: )

Nothing is as easy as it seems. We realized that the machines would not work in Ghana without a power converter. So, I mentioned that on Facebook. Social media worked! Donna Barnako, a jewler and fiber artist I used to represent when I had my gallery, offered to send me a check to pay for the converters from her vacation in Maine. People can be so generous! I told her that I wanted to put her picture on my blog but she told me just to post some pictures the kids.

So here is Donna's picture and pictures of cute kids.

 So, here here are some cute kids. I took this photo of some little ones playing in the dirt of the vocational center while their mothers worked.

 I saw this picture of Micheal on the Future Leaders Facebook page and they don't get any cuter than this.

This is a beautiful web that is growing. Akua Inspirations is a business that was started by a young woman in Canada who volunteered at Future Leaders last summer. I ordered the aprons from her. I hope to buy a whole pile of aprons and bags next time I go to Ghana.