Visual Art students from The University of Western Australia have raised more than $7500 to improve eye health among villagers.
Since September 2015, students who attend UWA’s Bali Art Studio have sold their artwork, collected community donations, and organised raffles, raising enough money for three eye clinics to be held in Indonesian villages.
The fundraising effort was initially entirely student-led, started by a group of students headed by Bachelor of Science student Cathy Maslen and Marine Biology graduate Kymberli Lim, who both attended the Bali Art Studio in July 2015.
“When we were in Bali, we had the opportunity to hear John Fawcett (from the John Fawcett Foundation) speak, and two of our groups even watched a full day of eye surgery, including seeing eye patches being taken off patients when their vision had been restored,” Cathy said.
“In Indonesia, poor vision contributes to the poverty cycle as vision-impaired people not only can’t contribute to the family income but may also need a family member to care for them.”
Appalled by the circumstances facing vision-impaired Indonesians, Cathy and Kymberli set about raising money to support the John Fawcett Foundation eye clinics.
“My brother was blind but because he lived in Australia, he could live a full, productive and active life,” Cathy explained. “He was able to live independently and be fully self-sufficient – he worked, he was a musician and he played sport. These life experiences are just not available to vision-impaired Indonesian people.”
The initial student art exhibition managed to raise enough money to fund one mobile eye clinic. As a result, UWA’s Paul Trinidad, Discipline Chair of Visual Arts and co-ordinator of the Bali Art Studio, decided to integrate certain components of the art exhibition concept into the coursework. Paul and Cathy have subsequently organised three further art exhibitions using work produced in the study program, which along with other fundraising efforts, have raised enough money to support three eye clinics.
“For $65, you can fund a cataract replacement operation so a person can see again, earn again, and live a different life, at no cost to the patient,” Cathy said.
“When a whole village is screened, 10-20 people will have cataract replacement operations, eye infections will be treated and some people will be given glasses – which leads to better educational outcomes and day-to-day functioning. In addition, the clinic will visit a primary school to screen and educate the children.
“In the long term, our goal is to continue to raise enough funds to run two village eye clinics each year, coinciding with UWA’s Bali Art Studio visits in February and July.”
Paul Trinidad said the experience was unique because it was an immersive cultural experience as well as a visual art experience.
“During this unit, students spend two weeks in Bali – living in a heritage hotel, meeting the local community, visiting the Royal Palace and taking part in a traditional cleansing ceremony,’ Mr Trinidad said.
“At UWA, we are teaching students to be socially engaged with their art. It’s not studio-based – it’s community based.
“We want to do away with the idea of artists in the studio or in the garage. I think supporting and engaging with people is the future and in choosing to raise money for the John Fawcett Foundation, our students have really put this idea into practice.”
The next student art exhibition fundraiser will be held in August following the July 2017 Bali Art Studio.
Verity Chia (Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education) (+61 8) 6488 1346