Posted by Heather Dyer on Sep 19, 2013

Madison West Towne-Middleton and the Orphan Train Project’s Art Exhibits 

For the past fifteen years, the Orphan Train Project, facilitated by the Rotary Club of Madison West Towne-Middleton, has matched service clubs, schools, churches, businesses and other groups to needy orphanages around the world.

Recently, the Orphan Train Project reached out to those orphanages, asking them to submit children’s works of art for a series of art contests.  Sixteen orphanages agreed to participate, with drawings and paintings arriving from homes in Bulgaria, Peru, India, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Grenada and Uganda.  As expected, the work varied in style and complexity. The pieces numbered more than two hundred.  One of the most unique entries was submitted by a South African orphanage. It was a photograph of a child and his sand sculpture. His creation was a bust of the child’s friend who was murdered near their compound.  Quite obviously, a sand sculpture could not be sent by mail.

The first exhibit of the artwork was at the Middleton, Wisconsin Wine Walk, a downtown Middleton fund raiser for the merchants association and their designated charity. The second showing was at the Rotary District Conference, held at Madison’s Monona Terrace, earlier this summer.  At each exhibit, the people attending the event enthusiastically voted for their favorites, and medals were awarded the top five people’s choices.  The Orphan Train art committee selected ten entries for inclusion in a set of greeting cards. The card sets are being sold to support the work of Rotary.  Pieces selected for the card set also received medals. In addition, a few “Rising Star” certificates were given to several children. Currently, St. Jerome School in Columbus is hosting the exhibit.  St. Jerome is a long-time “conductor” organization, a term used by the Orphan Train Project to identify a group that has created an ongoing relationship with an orphanage.  Clubs wishing to host the artwork, or become a conductor on the Orphan Train Project, are encouraged to contact the Rotary Club of Madison West Towne-Middleton.  Upon receiving the medals and certificates, reports and photographs of the winners with their awards are coming in from overseas. Medalists from one Bulgarian orphanage, for instance, were recently honored at a presentation by the Mayor of Bregovo, Bulgaria, who saluted their achievements. In attendance were the Orphan Train Project’s Bulgarian Intermediary (herself a member of the Lady Lions), a representative of the local Rotary Club, a member of the press and others. Both boys are graduating from high school next spring and were promised support in finding jobs in the community.

In this country, our children’s achievements are constantly applauded and awarded.  For those living in orphanages, we suspect that doesn’t happen quite as often!   Now, that recognition has come their way from Rotarians and others who marveled at their artistic abilities.

By Ed Fink