Uncategorized November 03, 2016 at 01:56 pm

Meet Kunle Adewale, Finalist of the Commonwealth Youth Workers Award

Mark Babatunde November 03, 2016 at 01:56 pm

November 03, 2016 at 01:56 pm | Uncategorized

Last month, the Commonwealth Secretariat announced the list of 20 finalists for this year’s Commonwealth Youth Worker Awards. The awards recognize leading youth workers from around the world who use sports and creative art disciplines to support the development of underprivileged adolescents. The 20 nominees have been selected from 14 different countries, including Australia, Belize, Fiji, Guyana, Jamaica, India, Malta, New Zealand, Pakistan, Tonga, and the United Kingdom. Africa is represented by Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria.

One finalist, Kunle Adewale, is a Nigerian artist and the CEO of Tender Arts Nigeria, a non-profit organization that focuses on art therapy, art education, arts in medicine, arts in health care, talent development, and civic engagement. Adewale is an art graduate of the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University, with a specialization in painting and art history.

The 35-year-old founded Tender Arts Nigeria in 2013 and during the last three years, the organization has made a positive impact on the lives of more than 5,000 beneficiaries, most of them children and young adults suffering from a range of health challenges. His pioneering work with Arts in Medicine Africa and the First Art Therapy Center in West Africa has helped children living with sickle cell anemia to cope with the pain, depression, and anxiety often associated with the condition.

In an interview with Face2Face Africa (F2FA), Adewale explained that he founded the art therapy center out of his need to do something different with his talent, “What would I do differently as an artist? Considering the growing population of visuals in Nigeria, what can I do differently that would stand me out?

“This question birthed in me the inspiration and drive to engage vulnerable populations in Nigeria; those living with disabilities and chronic illness.”

Adewale funds the activities of Tender Arts Nigeria through donations from corporate and individual partners, including friends and acquaintances and support from sister NGOs. The organization has also enjoyed support from the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Consulate in Lagos.

The art therapy program is designed to empower participants with skills, strengthen their personal and social identities, and give children a sense of fulfilment and hope for the future. More than 200 persons living with chronic illness have so far benefited from the art therapy program in Nigeria.

In June 2016, as part of activities commemorating World Sickle Cell Day, Adewale held an art exhibition titled “Healing heARTS” to showcase his work with persons living with sickle cell anemia. Earlier in March, Adewale presented an art exhibition for persons living with down syndrome to commemorate World Down Syndrome Day, an event which took place at the United Nations Information Center in Lagos.

Adewale’s passion for children and young people has allowed him to collaborate with local authorities to facilitate an arts workshop for a special correctional center for girls in Lagos. The program helps provide useful skills and support for about 80 girls at the center. His work as the international program director of the International Coalition for the Eradication of Hunger and Abuse Healing Through Art initiative has also helped more than 10,000 survivors of the Boko Haram insurgency, who are sheltered in IDP camps across northeast Nigeria.

Adewale’s work with children has earned him both local and international recognition. In 2014, he was nominated for the Global Teacher Prize organized by Varkeys Foundation in the United Kingdom. He is an international advocate for persons living with sickle cell disease and a member of Art Therapy Without Borders Incorporated. He is also a Young African Ambassador for the Arts Council of New Orleans.

Looking toward the future, Adewale told F2FA that his dream is to open an art therapy outlet in every healthcare center in Nigeria, before expanding his services to other parts of Africa.

“In the next five years, I see Tender Arts Nigeria as a leading youth-led art non-profit and social enterprise in Nigeria.”

The winner of the 2016 Commonwealth awards will be announced on November 10th in the middle of Commonwealth Youth Work Week, and Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland is expected to present the awards. The theme for Youth Work Week 2016 is “Empowering Young People Through Sport and Arts.” Last year, Uganda’s Victor Ochen, who is the founder of the African Youth Initiative Network, was named the youth worker of the year.

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