MOCHATERNS, PERSPECTIVES

Mochatern Monday 12.05.16: So why the Mocha Club?

 

I’ve asked this question to a number of my colleagues here at Mocha since beginning my internship three months ago. What brought you to this organization? Why this nonprofit, rather than another? Why work at a nonprofit at all? I’ve phrased the question in different ways each time, but really there’s one thing I want to know: tell me, how passionate are you about what you do? How invested are you in Mocha’s vision? screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-1-38-10-pm

If you’re anything like me, you tend to approach nonprofits with a critical eye. There are many pitfalls that go along with aid work in developing countries, particularly when that work is cross-cultural in nature. (I’ll point you, not for the first time, to books like When Helping Hurts and documentaries such as Poverty, Inc because they’ve been so helpful to me in understanding such challenges.) Doing work that is truly good, helpful, and sustainable is never easy. So when I think about the initiatives I want to support, both financially and with my time, I tend to start with a bit of cynicism, and I ask a lot of questions.

An internship is, by nature, rather like just skimming the surface of an organization. So during my time here at the Mocha Club, I’ve tried to ask questions, to dive deeper. I keep asking: why are you here? Why work at a place like the Mocha Club? 

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-1-39-21-pmAnd you know what? My coworkers really believe in the work that the Mocha Club is doing. They keep looking back at me with excited eyes and telling me about what they love most. One talks about Mocha Club’s work with our artist partners, and how beautiful it is to work hand-in-hand and face-to-face with artists to unite their musical pursuits with the opportunity to support a good cause. Some talk about how the transparency of the organization makes it easy to see where your donations go; others speak on how much they believe in the value of the pastor training, orphan care, and the other projects that Mocha Club supports in Africa. I’ve had many conversations about the challenges of working cross-culturally—with, not for, the poor—and more than one coworker has voiced the importance of listening and of humility.

Forgive me if this all sounds like a pitch. Because here’s the thing: my internship with this lovely group of people is about to conclude—in fact, this is my last post on this blog. And this is what I’d love to leave you with. Believe in the good heart, the effectiveness, and the humility of the work that Mocha Club is doing in Africa. Believe in the people that send you emails, invite you to support new initiatives, and answer the phone when you call the office. When you join the Club, you’re joining a pretty special thing.

Uncategorized

Mochatern Monday 11.21.16 : Through the Back Door

Much of what I have learned recently came through reading books: a history book, how-to books on qualitative research, that one economics book, books on how the spiritual intersects with caring for others. And then there are all the words I’ve gratefully received from the people around me that work in the nongovernmental (NGO) sector. However, just because I’ve learned a lot doesn’t mean my application is on point.

In my first blog here, I wrote about learning that we ought to work “with” and not “for” the poor. In the world of education, it is easy to say, “Got it! I passed that test. I know that information. Let’s move on.” But good learning is so much more than that. These foundational pieces are meant to be built upon, not disappear. They are so important that we might have to check every once in a while and make sure the foundation isn’t cracking.

I considered sharing a poem I wrote recently called “Envision a Heard World.” In it, I basically critique the position that advocates for material things to be sent to those who need them, instead of also acknowledging their nonmaterial needs. I say that dignity never arrives in a box. So far so good. At the end of the poem, I wrote: “Please do not be deaf, too. / Hear our voices, / Close your eyes of self-determined vision / And hear our need to be heard.”

When I wrote this and read through it again the first few times, I saw nothing wrong with it. This time, though, I realized that I used my voice to cloud the voices of those who want to speak for themselves. Not good. In fact, that goes against everything I want to do and achieve. There is a time to advocate or speak on behalf of someone when you are acting as a mediator, but this is not an appropriate way of doing that.

One of the important things I learned in creative writing classes in college is that form needs to match function. If you are trying to say something, use a format that works with the point you are trying to make. I broke this rule when I used quotations in this poem, inserting my own power over the voices of those I did not even speak to. Those words were never said outside of my head. If I appeal to my audience in my own voice on behalf of others, perhaps that could be done in a way that does not trample on their own words.

So this is my confession. I am still learning and always will be. But I hope the cracks in my foundation are being filled with good cement so that I can build and advocate in a way that reflects the people I’m trying to love. This is also my warning, a little piece of advice to myself and others: don’t let words like this slip in through the back door of your mind and out of your mouth or onto a page. Yes, speak for yourself. And speak with others and sometimes about their stories when appropriate. But do not speak for them. They are capable of that. And if they need a megaphone, maybe your role is just to hand it to them without saying a word.

 

Uncategorized

Mochatern Monday 11.14.16 : Good Work

There are a lot of people rejoicing today and a lot of people in pain. Two presidential candidates were up for election; the result was, for many, an unexpected one. Many rejoice, many are in tears, and perhaps all are overwhelmingly disillusioned by a campaign season that was paved with hatred and discord. So while America can’t seem to agree on much, perhaps we can all agree on the importance of this question: is there a way for us to be less divided?img_6056

There are many things we may never agree on—and really, what a blessing to have the freedom to disagree. But I’m glad to be sitting at a desk at the Mocha Club office this morning, because it’s reminding me that there are so, so many things we can agree on. Orphan care is important; education is vital. Extending a hand to friends, both near and far, is beautiful. The way Mocha Club enables us to hear the stories and know the hearts of people in countries very far away: that’s special. There is work to be done, and we have the power to join in that work, with our attention, our volunteering, and our monthly donations, even the smallest of them.

Many of our friends in African countries do not have the luxury of peace amid changes in political power. For some of them, one-party governments often resemble dictatorships, elections come with rumors of rigging, and changes in power are accompanied by violence. No matter your views on last week’s results, let’s rejoice in a transfer of power that is peaceful, and let’s focus our energies on the good work still left for us to do.

 

INSPIRATION, MOCHATERNS, PERSPECTIVES, Uncategorized

I Want You . . . To Care About Economics

Economics is not my thing, not my strong point, quite frankly not my delight. Among all the subjects I studied in school, that one fit least well into the mold of my particular brain. I struggled to grasp the concepts presented during the last semester of my senior year of high school. I never took an Econ class in college, but I cracked open a book the other day and all things economics tumbled out: statistics and terms that I don’t use on a regular basis in my own financial context. Although I struggled to make sense of what the author conveyed at times,, I ultimately came away from the book as a grateful reader. Hang with me through the next few paragraphs and I’ll explain why.

Dambisa Moya wrote this book, titled Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa, because she tired of seeing her native continent inundated in money that brought harm rather than betterment. (To clarify, the aid she mentions has little to do with international nongovernmental organizational (INGO) work. She refers to governments (generally Western) dumping funds on African governments.) Even if you’re not a “numbers person” this statistic might shock you: “Since the 1940s, approximately US$1 trillion of aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. This is nearly US$1,000 for every man, woman and child on the planet today” (pg 35). That’s 1,000,000,000,000 dollars. Twelve zeros. Wow.

Moya explains the situation by giving a brief history of aid and then explaining why aid has not achieved the goals it set out to accomplish. In a section titled “The vicious cycle of aid,” she enlightens the reader about how this happens:

Foreign aid props up corrupt governments – providing them with freely usable cash. These corrupt governments interfere with the rule of law, the establishment of transparent civil institutions and the protection of civil liberties, making both domestic and foreign investment in poor countries unattractive. Greater opacity and fewer investments reduce economic growth, which leads to fewer job opportunities and increasing poverty levels. In response to growing poverty, donors give more aid, which continues the downward spiral of poverty (pg 49).

Whew! If you’re anything like me, this sounds a little overwhelming. Thankfully, Moya doesn’t stop here. She gives more details about this corruption and its relationship to aid. Then she turns to providing alternatives for African countries: issuing bonds, finding investors, obtaining a credit rating, borrowing from institutions other than the World Bank in part to build credibility, and trading with other countries inside and outside the African continent. Moya spends a good amount of pages on current Chinese investment in Africa (which I found to be very interesting).

Ultimately, her recommendation is to cut out aid incrementally over a five year period until a country no longer receives any. She says that the general population of Africa won’t suffer as much as the reader might think because so much of the aid money is going to a small number of powerful people in African government positions anyway. If donor countries cut aid, African governments will be forced to stand on their own two feet and find ways to replace that money through the suggestions listed above.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, you’re reading this on Mocha Club’s blog, so chances are that you care about Africa and its people. If you truly care about something, you generally invest time, money, or some other element of life into it. I’m not about to suggest that we all need to be economic scholars in order to care about Africa. But what I am suggesting is that education is important. If you care about something and want to see change, educate yourself about that issue. Start by reading one news article per day or following organizations you care about on social media.

Even though I’m not a huge economics fan, this discipline is integral to international development, so it’s worth my time to invest in learning a little bit about it. Take the plunge, friends: Pick up that book, scroll through that article, ask a friend about their life experience. You never know; economics might just be your thing.

HIV/AIDS + Healthcare

You’ve got questions, THEY’VE got answers!

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Peter Odero, founder of HEKO shares with us some insight from an interview he had with a couple on social health disparities on stigma and discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS. 

Q: Why do people not like going for HIV/AIDS Testing?

A: “Many people do not like going for HIV/AIDS Testing for fear of disclosure if tested positive.  Stigma and discrimination is still a major factor among families and communities. People tested positive are still a subject of isolation even at such a time like this when a lot of information is available in the public domain because of the negative attitude people received about HIV/AIDS. Some facilities employ unqualified staff who have poor approach to clients. There is also fear of not getting proper attention among family members and even during counseling sessions.”

 

Q: Why do people default on ARVs?

A: There are many factors that cause people to default on ARVs: 

  • False Prophesies: There are a number of healing churches which pose to have a healing strategy for people living with HIV/AIDS.  People who are desperate are easily swayed and believe in such and deliberately decide to drop their adherence to ARV drugs.
  • Traditional Healers: Some people who are HIV positive easily believe in traditional healers and choose to default and go for traditional option.  This is also common practice among slum dwellers.
  • Stigma, Discrimination or Denial: This is a common occurrence practiced among pregnant mothers who turn HIV positive after volunteer on HIV pregnancy test.  Their spouses or immediate family members discriminate against them and many times are subjected to fear and become discouraged from taking their ARVs.  At this stage, there are some who face hostility and resistance after disclosure of status.
  • Fatigue from Medicine: Majority of people on ARVs suffer from the burden of being under so many drugs prescribed due to opportunistic infections. Taking such drugs alongside ARVs causes fatigue and discomfort which result into default on ARVs.
  • Food and Nutrition: Dietary issue in nutritious meals go with ARVs given the fact that some of these drugs have clear warnings “do not take without food”.  There is fear of taking ARVs in an empty stomach.  This means that most people living below poverty level are at risk of defaulting.

 

Q: With all the facilities and information on the ground, why are some people not accessing these facilities?

A: “With all the facilities and information available on HIV/AIDS, people are still not freely accessing these facilities because majority are still having a feeling of fear, despair, and isolation when an HIV test result is positive. Stigma and discrimination is still causing a lot of challenges to the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS in the society.  Some facilities are also not equipped with the right personnel to effectively handle cases where one is tested positive. Information of HIV tests are supposed to be personal and confidential to help restore confidence on the affected individual.

There are many cases where families or individuals have not yet received the correct information about HIV/AIDS.  There are also many negative beliefs and assumptions about HIV/AIDS that has led to non-compliance attitude among community members.”
QIn your own opinion, what is the quality of life for people on ARVs?

A: “Many people on ARVs have accepted their new status and are living positive with HIV/AIDS despite challenges around them. Majority no longer suffer from fear and discrimination that characterize people tested HIV positive. They participate fully with the rest of their family members in the day-to-day socio-economic activities for their well-being to have sustainable resources to make them stay in treatment for a lifetime as they cope with local social disparities.

In my opinion, and in the eyes of majority, there is a sharp contrast between people on ARVs and the other people living with HIV/AIDS who are not yet on ARVs.”

 

Q:What would you like to be done differently from what is being done now?

A: “There is a need for a more collaborative approach to help deal with HIV/AIDS pandemic in our society.

More intensive door to door approach on families and individuals would make more appeal in terms of education and general management and control of the spread of HIV/AIDS.

There is a need to invest more on poverty reduction to create an enabling environment for self-reliance among families and individuals infected and affected by the impact of HIV/AIDS.”

Without help from the Mocha Club, these people would not get the help they need to live a full and happy life with HIV/AIDS! Join the Mocha Club today!

INSPIRATION, MOCHATERNS

Better when we’re together.

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82 degrees. It’s fall in Nashville, and the leaves are letting go and falling to be crunched under our boots, but the temperature doesn’t know it yet. We’re fine with that, though, because today we’re putting on a house show, and we’ll trade cold fingers and toes for a light breeze.

We arrive at 4:30; doors won’t open until 6:30. We spread twinkle lights around the back porch, spread a rug, and call it a stage. The sound guys arrive at 5, with a minivan full of equipment. We set up borrowed tables, spread someone else’s tablecloths, put out the snacks we bought at Kroger last night, hoping-praying we’d be reimbursed soon. We spread blankets gathered from three different houses as the bands run through soundcheck. Friends and friends of friends begin to come in the back gate just as they’re finishing, and we turn on the collaborative Spotify playlist.

This is what being a college student in Nashville looks like: concerts in the backyards of our houses, nights where everything we need is borrowed. Everything pauses when the band starts to play. For a few hours we sit and listen, marveling at the talent of the friends who perform and the good hearts of the ones who welcome us in. And then the concert is over, we pack up all the things, and a few of us head to Cookout for milkshakes and french fries. Homework is ignored, but so much good work is done.

Nights like this remind me of something that I hope I’ll remember long after I graduate: sometimes, it only works if we all work together. And isn’t that half the fun? Isn’t it even better if the ground is covered in blankets you don’t own and the seven strands of string lights come from four different people? When the after-concert Cookout party consists of the bands, the photographer, the hosts, the ones who donated time and apple cider and the rug for the stage, and the friends who just came to support?

When we look at our lives, aren’t the sweetest moments the ones we worked for together?

Speaking of Nashville nights…Come to The Well at Green Hills on Friday, November 11 at 7pm to enjoy a night of stories and songs in support of Mocha Club, much like the night I just wrote about, and hear the artist pictured above + some more great songwriters & storytellers! 

https://www.facebook.com/chrisrenzemamusic/

http://www.randwalter.com

https://www.facebook.com/marsongs/?fref=ts

AFRICA NEWS, Education, FROM THE FIELD

Hannington’s Story

I was born on 11th November in Githogoro, Kenya, as the third child in a family of five. My parents were both laborers in the coffee estates that surrounded the region.

When I was eight, my mom died from an unknown disease. Due to the family’s economic status, it was not possible to get appropriate medical attention; hence, the diagnosis of the illness that took her life remained unknown. I was class one (grade one), my two elder brothers, Nicholas and Phanuel were in classes three and four, respectively, while the two younger siblings, Freedom and Philip, were in baby class (pre-school) at the time. It was apparent that my parents valued education and took initiative to ensure all of us attended school.

Following mom’s burial, things took a negative twist. Dad bore thehannington sole responsibility of fending for all five of us, which was hardly sufficient to place a single meal on the table. Our family was living on rented premises which made things far more difficult. Basic items such as clothing became a luxury alongside anything else. A day with one meal was considered an extremely good one.

Because of the intensified hardships, my eldest brother, Nicholas, dropped out of school to assist Dad in hustling. The combined effort did not yield sufficient income, so eventually the remaining four of us dropped out of school as well, each turning to the endless search for a meal. There were disappointing times when he came back home empty handed. This got us even more desperate.

Not long after, Dad came home with some news of a high school that was being started in the neighboring Huruma village. Many who had been out of school for years and could not afford the secondary education were interested when it was confirmed that the school was offering free education. This was music to our ears! The only requirement was for students to bring to school a bundle of firewood for cooking of our lunch. I was in high school at New Dawn Educational Centre with no fees required, no school uniform necessary and as if that was not enough, there was free porridge (uji) and the popular beans/corn meal (githeri) provided for lunch. Who would ever resist that? A miracle of miracles!

Hannington

My experience at New Dawn transformed me totally. I came in hopeless, but I was filled with hope. We found a mom in Mama Irene Tongoi, the school director. She was so assuring that a lot of good would come out of our lives. Mama Irene ensured that we received a holistic education; intellectually as per the curriculum, socially by meaningful and impactful interaction amongst ourselves and the community around, as well as spiritually through the word of God.  We had regular devotions and sessions of what was known as ‘vision conferences’. These spiritual forums provided opportunity to be affirmed and assured of God’s love and purpose for our lives. Our confidence was boosted and the sense of hopelessness gradually faded away. Where else would students be treated to good meals and even offered food to carry home for the next meal for the family? We were loved.

To my greatest amazement, upon completion of high school, I topped my class with a grade “B-” and qualified to join public university. And Mama Irene contacted me with grand news: a donor had showed up and was willing to pay the university fees for anyone qualified to join university from our class! God again provided the resources in my time of need.I was enrolled in a five-year degree course at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Geomatic Engineering and Geospatial Information Systems (GIS). All this was accomplished with the help of the scholarship.

I appreciate God’s work through the ministry of New Dawn and all the well-wishers who contributed towards the transformed life that has become mine. You did it not only for me but for the many others that have walked along the same path.

“Give me bread today and tomorrow I will ever be at your door knocking, but give me education, the key to life, and you will have transformed the world.”

INSPIRATION, MOCHATERNS

“They Do This,” But We Don’t Have to Do That

The People of the Other Village

hate the people of this village

and would nail our hats

to our heads for refusing in their presence to remove them

or staple our hands to our foreheads

for refusing to salute them

if we did not hurt them first: mail them packages of rats,

mix their flour at night with broken glass.

We do this, they do that.

They peel the larynx from one of our brothers’ throats.

We devein one of their sisters.

The quicksand pits they built were good.

Our amputation teams were better.

We trained some birds to steal their wheat.

They sent to us exploding ambassadors of peace.

They do this, we do that.

We canceled our sheep imports.

They no longer bought our blankets.

We mocked their greatest poet

and when that had no effect

we parodied the way they dance

which did cause pain, so they, in turn, said our God

was leprous, hairless.

We do this, they do that.

Ten thousand (10,000) years, ten thousand

(10,000) brutal, beautiful years.

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Part of me doesn’t even want to write anything about this poem by Thomas Lux because I want it to settle on the reader and get minds whirring on their own. But I will share a few thoughts since this is, after all, a blog and not a “share a poem” newsfeed.

I came across this poem in college and it moved me deeply. It cuts through so many excuses humans make for how we treat each other. This poem was written as a war protest poem and could easily lead to a discussion about that topic, but instead I want to look at how the poem calls out a mentality that many of us have but choose to stifle or ignore. How easy it is for us to live our days trading tit for tat with our enemies. How easy it is to say, “They started it.” How easy it is to retaliate because we do not want to look weak. Extending grace and forgiveness is an act of moral strength, not weakness. “They do this,” but we don’t have to do that.

Consider the many facets of your life. Where do you contribute to brutality? Most likely you aren’t putting shards of glass in your enemies’ flour bags, but where are your words stinging someone’s heart? Where are you putting yourself and your selfish reactions first? I ask this not to guilt trip anyone. There is always grace! I ask this because politicians can do great good, but they cannot create world peace through charters and laws (though we need them). We, the masses, have a role in creating peace, too.

There are at least two kinds of steps that we need to take to bring more healing into this world. First, take steps of reconciliation to close the gap between you and the person you hate or dislike. Second, take steps to close the gap between you and someone with a different type of need. Helping another person is not a matter of the “haves” and “have nots,” though it is tempting to think of the situation in this framework if you view yourself as the one with more power. (Yes, one group might have more of one monetary or spiritual asset, but the point is that we all lack in some capacity.) Instead, see yourself as an equal partner. You might have a little bit of money and someone else might have a way of life marked by joy. Give and receive. Make the next year or ten thousand more beautiful than brutal. “They do this,” but we don’t have to do that.

 

*Poem found at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/48485

**Thoughts in this post influenced by When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert and this Mocha Club video.

FROM THE FIELD, HIV/AIDS + Healthcare, Uncategorized

The results are in…

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In a place where there is a high percentage of individuals & families suffering from HIV/Aids, the real suffering occurs when the community turns its back on those in need instead of stepping in to support their own.  In the Kibera slum in Kenya, Peter and his staff at HEKO are striving to reverse this problem.  In a place where the church should be stepping up to lead & “care for the poor” in this situation, this place that should be one of rescue & restoration is actually virtually useless and detrimental.

Peter and his team conducted a study with the local church to find some answers; these were the results:

  • The majority of church members have felt the extent of the HIV and AIDS epidemic.
  • Gossip is the main source of how they know who has the HIV and AIDS.
  • There is significant loss of membership and tithe/offering returns.
  • Level of stigma is unbelievably high.
  • Level of awareness on transmission is very low.
  • Limited church initiated programmes on care and support.
  • Use of condoms are highly condemned and this position is non-negotiable.
  • Screening and testing for HIV is highly opposed.
  • Churches have not developed any activities or associated plans for the People Living with HIV/AIDS or family households affected by the HIV pandemic.
  • Church leaders and many parents are not prepared to tackle the issues, except the youths who feel free to share sexual experiences and discuss challenges with each other.
  • Lack of human material and capital resources including training, capacity building, material acquisition, curriculum development particularly on the sex education for youth, visionary leadership and resources acquisition to care and support OVCs and PLWHAs.

So, there is a vacancy in the space of help & support and Peter and his staff at HEKO are stepping right in.  Here are the services they offer:

·       Health and Nutrition Education: General well-being of the person and the value of good balanced diet to PLWHA on ARVs-ART.
·       Food Relief and Social Support: For the support of PLWHA, OVCs and Home Based Care givers for improved livelihood.
·       Sports and Recreation: To help improve good body health and social relationships among different target groups irrespective of status, age, tribe, culture and religious affiliations.
·       Economic Empowerment: To PLWHA, OVCs, Care Givers linked to opportunities for income generating activities.
·       Counselling: To PLWHA, OVCs, family household, drug addicts and other risky behaviors and negative lifestyle.
·       Life Skills: Psychosocial skills required in all aspects of young peoples lives that is critical to controlling HIV/AIDS among the youths as well as other aspects of education that highlighted participatory methodologies of the empowerment in all the activities and processes of decision making that concern the youth.
·       Discordant Couples: Special counselling service to couples where only one partner is infected or living HIV positive.
·       Alcohol and Drug Abuse: Small changes can make a big difference in reducing harmful effects and chances of having alcohol-drug related problems among the youth. Drug and substance abuse is linked to the rising crime rate, HIV/AIDS prevalence, schools unrest, family dysfunction, poverty and other malaise in the community. The youths are deliberately and tactfully recruited into the drug culture through personal factor, uncontrolled media influences and other related social exposure.

HEKO’s presence in the community is vital to closing the door on stigmatization, opening the door to community building, and ultimately ending the HIV/Aids pandemic. When you support Mocha Club and it’s healthcare initiatives, you are part of this eradication. Thank you.

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AFRICA NEWS, MOCHATERNS

Mochatern Monday 10.17.16 : Happy in the Midst of Horrible

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2016 has been a year of discouragement in so many ways. Between the refugee crisis, the primacy of terrorism in world affairs, and, here in America, a presidential race that is perhaps the most hate-filled and controversial that this country has ever seen, the news cycle is often filled with fear and confusion. News from Africa, especially, is often dominated by images of war, devastation, even hopelessness.

So today when I opened my computer and found some happy news, I immediately wanted to share it. The image above was painted by Leslie Lumeh, a Liberian artist. When the Ebola crisis hit West Africa two years ago, Lumeh was one of the artists called upon to help formulate posters to educate the public on how to protect themselves and prevent the spread of the disease. His posters went to multiple countries in West Africa, saving countless lives in the process. In addition, even after the crisis subsided, he continued to document life in Liberia, with colorful, winsome paintings like the one above.

Though Ebola-stricken Liberia was in many ways a fear-filled place, Lumeh’s art doesn’t just show that horror—it is also filled with hope. “I paint scenes and subjects that people can relate to,” he says. “You see it, you understand it, you know it, you feel it.”

Click here to read on, and to see more of Lumeh’s work: http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/20/africa/african-artist-who-helped-in-fight-against-ebola/index.html