by Rachel Johnson
My name is Rachel Johnson and I am the newest contributor to the Wonderfully Made blog! Natalie Borton is one of my best friends from college, and she invited me to join the team as the WM Spotlight Contributor. I was so excited by her invitation to join a community of amazing women. Thank you for reading my piece!
As the Director of Project Development for the Touch A Life Foundation, I get to meet so many incredible women who are doing profound things all around the world. Meg Bourne is no exception. She hails from Joplin, Missouri, and has discovered an innovative way of combining her passions for art and therapy. Read on to learn more about Meg’s creative mind and her desire to serve others.
Q: Meg, thank you so much for being part of this blog series. Will you give our readers a brief overview of the non-profit organization you founded, Art Feeds?
Art Feeds exists to mobilize creative healing and encourage creative development in children. We are a Mobile Arts Center and community of individuals dedicated to the growth and healing of children through art. Art Feeds, based in Joplin, MO, creates programs for elementary-aged students who have undergone trauma. We work mainly in Joplin and Ghana, West Africa. Art Feeds strives to cultivate an environment where students are empowered to express themselves, which mobilizes creative healing.
Q: From Missouri to Ghana—how great! What caused you to include an international component to your work?
I have always had a heart for developing nations, culture, and travel. I did an internship at TOMS that made me very familiar with different needs in areas of Africa. Through friends I met Pam Cope, Co-Founder of Touch A Life Foundation. I was so inspired by their programs that I approached Pam with the idea of introducing our therapeutic art and creative education to the Touch A Life kids in Ghana. Since they have survived such a severe trauma of being rescued from slavery, I wanted to use Art Feeds programs to help.
Q: Speaking of international work, how did your trip to Ghana impact you?
One way I could describe the little ones in Ghana is hungry. Not in the way of food, but hungry for education, music, movement, books, and all forms of art. They are hungry to learn, read, think, grow, and better themselves. My first trip there was life-changing because not only did I want to satiate that appetite, I wanted to have that same type of hunger in my own world.
Q: What similarities did you notice between the children in your programs in Missouri and the children in the programs in Ghana?
The beautiful thing about being immersed in two very separate cultures is that similarities are presented instantly. Although they are on different continents, both sets of children giggle at the exact same things. Both freely express their love for you with hugs, letters, works of art, and more.
Q: What inspired you to use your passion for art to help others?
It was really just a matter of seeing a need and fulfilling that void with the talents I had. In 2009 I was volunteering in a behavioral disorder classroom where one little boy was falling behind on his work. As I started looking into the problem further, I found that he wasn’t being fed at home, which made him lethargic at school. Obviously this problem was solved in other ways but because art is something I’m passionate about, I began working with him in various mediums with my own supplies. The transformation he was astounding. He thrived in watercolors and as his work and talent progressed, his self-worth grew. It was then that I saw that art was feeding this student emotionally and developmentally, which was just as essential to him as the food he was missing.
Q: And thus Art Feeds was born. How has Art Feeds changed you?
Art Feeds is changing me every day. I never thought I would be running a non-profit organization but it’s just a testament to the concept of meeting a need with the tools that you have. Some days I think someone else should do my job but I think in a way, that was God’s plan. I think He knew that I was just naïve and crazy enough to take this on, and just stubborn enough to not let it fail.
Q: Rumor has it that Art Feeds was the recipient of a gift from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition! Give us the details about that.
I can’t believe I get to say this but THE RUMOR IS TRUE! The Extreme Makeover Team came to Joplin to build seven homes for seven very deserving families who lost everything after the tornado in May. Art Feeds works with the children in two of those families, helping the little ones cope with the trauma from the tornado. During their time in Joplin, Extreme Makeover came to film our programs. While we were working in our community, they asked us to come on set, where they completely surprised us with a Mobile Art Center! It is a 35-foot-long bus that they converted to be fully equipped for our programs. Now we have this incredible tool to go from schools where we conduct programs to camps and weekends art workshops where we host special programs. We are so blessed by Extreme Makeover, CVS, Charity Cars, and the amazing team of designers who made this perfect vessel. The show airs in early January.
Q: People will certainly be inspired by your story and want to know how they can help. What can they do to support Art Feeds?
I ecstatically welcome all new supporters! We are bursting with opportunities to volunteer and donate. You can find our instant updates on Facebook and Twitter. And you can always contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.