Young Ugandan HIV/AIDS Activist and Artist on Campus June 23

Back in 2006, Santa Fe College Health Science Professors Carol Thomas and Kerry Chancey volunteered to perform HIV/AIDS education with young people in Kampala, Uganda — ground zero for the worldwide AIDS epidemic.

During their work that summer, they befriended Gordon Turibamwe, a 17-year-old HIV positive orphan who was helping to raise his four siblings and supporting his family by creating African handicrafts, paintings and drawings. 

“We met in the HIV/AIDS peer support group in the clinic where we were volunteering,” recalls Thomas. “Right away, we could tell he had great leadership skills and was a talented artist with a lot of potential.” 

Thomas and Chancey rallied their friends and the SF family to make donations in exchange for Turibamwe’s artwork and three of his friends’. The money was used to pay the students’ school fees so that they could complete their education.

That original small group of artists developed their enterprise into a business in 2007, the Gordon Creative Arts Project, which today employs more than 25 youth and teens in the creation of paintings, graphics, and African handicrafts. Since most of the youth are orphans, their profits are used to support themselves, pay their school fees, and purchase more art supplies.

Thomas and Chancey connected Turibamwe with SF students, who created the African Global Relief student organization to help support his efforts in Kampala as well as the work at the clinic (all those bracelets they made and sold!). Our students regularly email Turibamwe and some have even traveled to Uganda to meet him in person. In the photo above, Devin Cole, an SF radiography student, hand delivers a homemade card for Turimbabwe made by SF health science students.

Turibamwe completed a degree in graphics and web design from Macmane School of Computing and returned to Aptech Computer to get training in multimedia and design. He is currently employed at Straight Talk, a public service newspaper for youth distributed throughout Uganda. In addition, he hopes to expand his business internationally.

Presentations

Next week, Turibamwe will make his way to Santa Fe College’s Northwest campus. During his visit to Gainesville, June 22-27, Health Sciences and Global Society are hosting presentations by Turibamwe that are open to students, faculty and staff, and to the general public:

  • Wednesday, June 23, noon to 2 p.m. in WA-104, the topic is “How HIV/AIDS Affects a Community.”
  • Wednesday, June 23, 7 to 8 p.m. in WA-104, the topic is “The Art of Social Change: Gordon Creative Arts Project and My World Project” – You can see artwork from the Ugandan youth at this presentation.

Turibamwe is in Philadelphia June 17-21 at the My World Project, accompanied by Thomas. My World is a unique collaboration of youth, activists and organizations working in the HIV/ADIS community. It features discussion, interaction and artmaking with youth who have been infected and affected by HIV/AIDs. My World is an exploration from within the life of someone living with the disease to the world that surrounds us all.

“I feel so great and honored to be here and about the skills I am learning and will be able to take back home,” Turibamwe said. “I think it will be a great experience.”

The artwork produced during the collaboration will fuel a series of art exhibits and videos shown in summer 2011 in the U.S. and abroad to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. During the exhibition, services will be provided that invite dialogue and promote education. Viewers will be offered free and anonymous HIV counseling and testing.

To arrange an interview with Gordon Turibamwe, a class visit, or for more information about this unique collaboration, please email Carol Thomas on her cell at 352-871-5294.

Gordon Creative Arts website

CONTACT:

  • Professor Carol Thomas, carol.thomas@sfcollege.edu or 352-871-5294 (cell) to interview, or to arrange an interview with Gordon Turimbabwe
  • Professor Kerry Chancey, 352-395-7396 (office) or cell is 352-214-4900 or kerry.chancey@sfcollege.edu
  • SF radiography student Devin Cole, who has traveled to Uganda and is pictured above, is avaiable for interviewing; please contact Julie to arrange (below)
  • Julie Garrett, media relations coordinator, for help facilitating your story, 352-870-2924 (cell) or julie.garrett@sfcollege.edu or 352-395-5430 (office)