When children are ill, it’s always heartbreaking, and for a child to have to spend time in a hospital is terrifying. Children’s wards can be dreary and grim, with grey walls and peeling paint, devoid of inspiration or creativity to inspire health and happiness. At the children’s ward of Fatmawati Hospital in Jakarta, this was exactly the case before mural artist Clarissa Parish and the ladies of ANZA (Australia New Zealand Association) stepped in with their paintbrushes to turn things around.
The whole project started through ANZA, originally as an idea by Daleen Fourie, an ANZA lady who often volunteered at the hospital and had a vision to decorate the walls and bring some entertainment to the children there. The plan was to paint the walls with colourful and inspiring images, changing the curtains to fit the paintings, as well as add TVs and DVD players. They are also adding over-bed tables so the children who are able to sit up can play puzzles, draw or do other activities.
“We tried to get the children to engage their fantasies so they can get healthier easier,” says Vivi Sønderskov Møller, the coordinator of the Rainbow Project. Vivi is in Jakarta on a one-year stint, returning this June, taking a break from her normal job of a Judge in the city court of Denmark. As a busy Judge, Vivi felt compelled to get involved in social work while in Indonesia, therefore when the opportunity to run this project came about, she snapped it up.
The brain behind the creativity of this project is Clarissa Parish, a mural artist who has worked professionally for twenty years in Europe and America. Clarissa has been in Jakarta for six months with her husband and daughter and came into the picture by accident at an ANZA coffee morning. The photographer who was originally asked to do the project came up to Clarissa upon finding out she was an artist and asked for her help. Clarissa had only been in the country for a week and hadn’t done any major work since having her baby, so was extremely keen to jump in. When she heard that they were unsure of how to paint and what medium to use, she stepped in and said, “Guys, you’re going to have to paint on canvas and stick it on the walls – there’s no other way.”
So the concept started to come together and a big space to paint with ready students was needed. In the end, the murals were painted on canvas in the art studios of Institut Kesenian Jakarta (IKJ), an art institute in Cikini. Clarissa designed the murals and helped paint initially, handing over the project to the students of IKJ to complete. Clarissa helped to hang the canvases in the hospitals, as she had a lot of prior experience in doing so in London, which the students are now able to do on their own. “Without Clarissa we could not have done it to this scale, and that quickly. I’m not sure how we would’ve done it without her, to be honest!” says Vivi.
The project was started on January 6th, and the last mural was glued on February 11th. Fatmawati Hospital now has 26 murals in total over 13 rooms. Each mural is between five and six metres long, and nearly two metres tall. The painting all took place in one room to inspire a general look to follow through over the different themes; oceans, Indonesian kites and the jungle. The idea wasn’t to make anything too girly or boyish, and also not too childish either, so that everybody – family members and siblings – could enjoy their new beautiful surroundings. Special brackets are being made for the plasma screens to be hung on before installing the televisions and DVDs, all to be completed by the end of April. An official opening will take place in May where sponsors, ANZA, students involved and the Dean of IKJ will attend.
The whole project was done by volunteers, from Clarissa and Vivi to the art students and the ladies who organized things at ANZA. The students of IKJ were extremely excited to be a part of such a special and heart-warming project. Although ANZA started the project, some larger organizations have been involved, helping through monetary donations, for instance the Priscilla Hall Memorial Foundation, Risco Energy, and some private individuals who sponsored different rooms.
The murals have been very well received by the children at the hospital, with little heads peeping through the glass windows as the murals were being hung. The wards painted were the burns unit, the isolation ward and the general ward, as well as the treatment room. The original idea was to just paint the treatment room, however the idea grew and so did the project, with possible future plans of painting other children’s wards at other hospitals.
“There are more hospitals!” Clarissa answered when asked if she would paint more children’s wards. “These children may be spending months in hospital, and it’s extremely boring for them. I think it’s almost been proved that giving a child an environment that’s a little bit friendlier, a little bit more stimulating, will enable the child to recover as their minds are more occupied. Hospitals can be soul-destroying for children,” continued Clarissa.
To find out more about ANZA, as well as how you could help, please visit www.anzajakarta.net