Life for a Child’s Art Competition: Art and Storytelling to Express Feelings
Life for a Child supports young people living with diabetes in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities. In addition to the story shared below, read more about their work supporting young people like Rwandan sisters Ineza and Rebeka at ToClimbAThousandHills.org.
Editor’s Note: Life for a Child is a global non-profit that partners with diabetes centers in under-resourced countries to provide young people with insulin, supplies, education and support, while also providing education and support for local health care professionals. Learn more about Beyond Type 1’s partnership with Life for a Child and the organization’s vision for the future. The following piece was written by Cecile Eigenmann, Life for a Child’s education manager.
In 2020, Life for a Child launched a Global Art competition for young people being treated for type 1 diabetes in our partner centres around the world. Despite the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic, we were amazed at the number of entries received—184 from South America, Asia and Africa.
I was blown away by the talent displayed in the artwork. As our team sorted through and catalogued the entries, it was enjoyable discussing, admiring and deliberating over the submitted work.
There were also some upsetting moments. As the education manager at Life for a Child I am keenly aware of the struggles many young people in under-resourced countries face. However, seeing the raw emotion displayed in some of the works was intense and often overwhelming.
Selected visual art works
There were wonderful, inspiring and thought-provoking entries in all age groups. One of my personal favourites in the visual artwork category is the entry by 19-year-old Juan Pablo Romero Mujic from Ecuador, who depicts insulin as his support.
As Juan explains, “the young man falling and being held by the ropes represents insulin as a kind of support… by providing assistance in the middle of the fall … without insulin those experiences or memories could be totally different, either by lack of control, hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia.”
I hope Juan will pursue his artistic talent and inspire more young people with diabetes.
Another favourite drawing of of mine was submitted by 21-year-old Gihan from Sri Lanka. This drawing is a masterpiece, combining artistic talent and a creative mind.
It illustrates a path to successful diabetes self-management including healthy eating. The hand to me signifies that everyone who lives with type 1 diabetes needs the support of ‘a helping hand’ to overcome the physical and mental challenges of living with diabetes.
I chose this drawing as the back cover of our newly developed healthy eating and carbohydrate counting book as it fits so well to the topic of carbohydrate counting. I’m hoping it will encourage children, young adults and their parents to read this book, learn to count carbohydrates and show them that they are not alone—that anything is possible if they cross that bridge.
I have so much admiration for this young man’s talent and wish him all the success in fulfilling his goal of becoming “a meaningful artistic architect of the world.”
We also received some inspirational, heart-warming stories, poems and quotes as submissions, four of which I have chosen to share below. These quotes, received from young people aged 8 to 24 years old living across the world, tell me that no matter where you live and how old you are, living with type 1 diabetes requires never-ending attention. But with a good support network and a positive attitude you can “conquer the world.”
Neha, aged 16, Pakistan (diagnosed aged 13)
Diabetes makes me stand out tall in the crowd and makes me unique amongst all.
Sometimes I feel down when experiencing high blood sugar level, but that’s not the end of the world. I’m living a stable life right now and ready to conquer the world!
All you need to believe is YOU.
Leandro, 8 years old– Bolivia
At first, the finger pricks hurt, they hurt like Thor was stabbing me with his hammer! They don’t hurt me anymore, now each time they pinch me it doesn’t hurt, it just feels like a tickle.
My mom says diabetes is not a disease it is a way of life and I will live a long time because I eat well and healthy.
Gabriela M. 14 yrs—Bolivia
We are special, for the care that we take with our food, but above all, we are “special people,” special because of the strength we have, for our willpower, for our courage to face each day the different situations that diabetes presents us with and still be able to smile and be able to say life I love you.
Abdul G 24 years—Ghana
I met a specialist who taught me how to live my life with diabetes. He advised me to take heart if I have diabetes doesn’t mean I am going to die. I can live my life the way I want it but to make sure I always inject my insulin as every type 1 diabetes mellitus (DM) depend on insulin….
Lucky I was introduced to an organisation who deals with diabetes and educate us too, they provide us with glucometers, insulin, syringes and more which made my life simple and very healthy than before. Having a glucometer helped control my sugar and my mums too.
A bit about art therapy and diabetes
The purpose of this competition was to encourage young people to express their emotions about diabetes through drawing, storytelling, poetry, or video. Art and storytelling can help children and young adults with diabetes express feelings related to their condition and support them with the management of day-to-day situations. There is some evidence that art therapy can help people move towards accepting and taking ownership of diabetes and ultimately improve diabetes self-management.
A 2013 study into art therapy for children with type 1 diabetes who had been struggling with self-management showed that those taking part in art therapy had some improvement in their HbA1c (average blood glucose level over the past three months) compared to those that didn’t.
I believe that through Life for a Child’s art competition we have been able to provide a platform to encourage children and young adults living with type 1 diabetes to reflect on their own journey from diagnosis to adjusting to life with diabetes. Expressing themselves through art has allowed the young artists to foster connection, hope, acceptance and in some cases manage grief. This wide range of emotion has shown through in the wonderful visual, written and video entries we received from all over the world.
Life for a Child believes that no child should die of diabetes. Find out how you can help support young people living with diabetes in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities on their website.