A message of hope through art

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 August, 2008, 12:00am

The news that his father contracted HIV through selling blood four years ago dealt a devastating blow to A Wen's (not his real name) family.

The 22-year-old Henan native was one of five mainland students who visited Hong Kong last Tuesday.

The students were here to share how Aids affected their families and how they battled the obstacles and discrimination.

Together with volunteers from local universities and children from single-parent families, the mainland students created paper artworks at the Standard Chartered Bank Building in Central.

They explained the meaning behind their artworks and explained how art can be used as therapy to help those suffering from trauma.

The art workshop was organised by the Chi Heng Foundation and sponsored by Standard Chartered.

Holding an artwork depicting a soccer player running towards a tree, A Fan (not his real name), a 22-year-old Anhui native whose father is HIV-positive, said he wanted to convey a message of hope.

'An athletic boy playing soccer symbolises health and the tree symbolises hope,' said the journalism student who is attending university in Hefei .

A Wen's artwork reflected his love of the national mascot.

'I created a paper panda. I have always wanted to see them in person,' said the civil engineering student, who recently worked as a volunteer in Sichuan .

A Wen said his father's illness put a financial strain on his family.

' My father sold his blood to feed the family. Although his illness is under control now, we have a lot of medical expenses to pay.'

Thanks to the Chi Heng Foundation, which is currently subsidising the education of 7,000 Aids-affected students in seven provinces on the mainland, A Wen can afford to go to university.

However, Chi Heng founder To Chung said the students currently receiving help were just the tip of the iceberg.

'Official statistics reveal there are 500,000 Aids-affected children on the mainland, with 7,600 of them being orphans who have lost their parents to the disease.

'Given local officials' unwillingness to let their HIV-positive residents go public, some villages we visited refused our help, which means many cases of Aids go unreported.'

Mr To said the charity subsidises education but also encourages students to contribute to society. The art therapy scheme is part of this initiative.

'The five mainland students who visited Hong Kong are all volunteers with us. They visited families who have suffered a similar fate to share their experience with them.'