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‘Paperboys’ exhibit to debut at Arts for ACT Gallery on July 2

By Staff | Jun 24, 2009

A local non-profit Global Community Engagement (GCE) recently set out to encourage area high school students to explore their own privilege by working and playing with children who live and work on the streets of Santiago, Dominican Republic.

Their collaboration has resulted in “Paperboys,” an exhibition scheduled to debut at the Arts for ACT Gallery, located at 2265 First Street in Fort Myers, on Thursday, July 2 from 7 to 9 pm.

“Paperboys” photography and handmade paper portrays the harsh reality of underprivileged children in the Dominican Republic.

A group of Naples and Fort Myers High school students, along with photographer Chip Hoffman and Global Community Engagement, spent their spring break vacation in a world of culture shock rather than focusing on their tans. The idea was to engage the students and help them discover a reality unlike their own. The focus of their project was “visualizing the world through the eyes of a child living on the streets.”

The students worked with Dominican and Haitian children, many of whom live and work on the streets, creating art work that reflects the children’s lives. Working with digital cameras, the children guided the students through the streets of Santiago, visiting places that no tourist would ever see.

During this time, they also created handmade paper from all natural and recycled materials from the streets of Santiago.

With the students’ help, each child selected some of their photos and paper that will be displayed in the “Paperboys” exhibit, along with Hoffman’s work, in the Arts for ACT Gallery downtown Fort Myers.

“The medium of handmade paper has always fascinated me,” explained Hoffman. “I wanted to work with the fiber of trash, discarded paper and occasional small objects that are ever present in the world of the boys. The boys are not invisible. The children are not invisible. Their love is not invisible.”

Along with the children’s art, Hoffman – the Creative Director of GCE – will reveal the striking and distressing reality in which these boys are trapped in. Portions of the proceeds will go to support ACT (Abuse Counseling and Treatment) in the fight against domestic violence and sexual assault, and to Accin Callejera, the non-profit located in Santiago, Dominican Republic that helps provide these children with a hope for a normal future.

At the same time, Delicious Things Restaurant, located at 2262 First Street (directly across from the gallery) will also exhibit Hoffman’s marketplace photos from Santiago, Dominican Republic. These photographs will take you on a journey through the early morning happenings and street scenes of the local outdoor market.

GCE has spent the last nine years developing a relationship with the people and children of the Dominican Republic. They have succeeded in working alongside the largest non-profit in Santiago, Accin Callejera (“Street Action”) in efforts to alleviate a common thread of children working and living on the streets.

During this particular project, GCE worked mainly with boys. Most of the boys do not go to school nor have the option. Some have families, many do not and the street is their home. All of these boys are at risk of being sexually exploited, abused or becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol. GCE believes that “no child or adult should have to live in conditions where her or his life or health are endangered and without hope for the future.”

Part of GCE’s mission is to provide education and training through experiential learning to individuals in vulnerable situations in the developing world. The goal of this training and education is to provide greater access to employment and financial independence.

For additional information about “Paperboys,” visit www.globalcommunityengagement.org.