In 2007, Frank Smith, a retired secondary school visual arts teacher and artist in Toronto, Canada, travelled to Tanzania as part of a Rotary International group, helping to repopulate a local hospital with medical equipment donated in Canada. At the same time Frank couldn’t help but notice the problems being faced by local children of school age who in many cases were being cared for by relatives, having lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS. He was particularly moved because these children were often unable to attend school due to poverty.
Frank returned to Tanzania in early 2008 with a vision and with Rotarian Lynn Bird. Their aim was to get local children to create art that would describe their dreams for the future. Frank went back to Canada and set up ABCDreams Canada, registered there as a charity. Thirty children took part in the initial project in the Kilema and Marangu West area at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. In every case the children wanted to finish school to become doctors, teachers, nurses, bus drivers, store owners and farmers. They all had dreams of helping themselves, their families and the community.
In 2009, Ken Wall introduced the ABCDreams vision and concept to friends and colleagues in Australia, and through the Rotary Club of Templestowe, Melbourne, Australia, ABCD: Art Building Children’s Dreams (Australia) was born. ABCD Australia is now an international project of the Rotary Club of Mount Martha, Mornington. ABCD Australia has launched projects in Fiji, Malawi, South Africa and Sri Lanka, extending their support far and wide.
Following the inspiration of Frank Smith and Ken Wall, John de Ronde created ABCD: Art Building Children’s Dreams (UK) as a small charity registered for tax purposes with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), reg. no. XT38573. His aim was to raise funds for the community of Lyamungo Sinde, about 30 kilometers from Marangu West to help the orphans and otherwise vulnerable children stay in school. Traditionally, children’s parents who were unable to meet the demand for school fees saw their children sent home until they could pay.
His vision in the village is to set up a fund for the orphans, to help children from the very poorest families go to school by paying supplementary school fees, supplying books and uniforms and even food if necessary through a subsidised school lunch programme. He would also like to provide a post-primary training facility for them so they might learn a trade.
Our aim is to replicate the ABCD projects as far and as wide as possible, so that more and more children around the world can afford the education that could provide the key to their future – and the future of their families and communities.