White Spaces recently sat down and spoke with ART for Opportunities (AFO) founder Lauren Ivery about her not for profit that was envisioned during a recent trip to the Thai-Burma border. Now a reality, AFO is raising much deserved funds for schools within the area with the aim of selling amazing and affordable art that’s making a difference.
White Spaces last heard from you on the Thai-Burma border, tell us about that trip?
Last time we spoke I was perspiring, due to insane humidity levels, in a poorly built ‘office’ on the Thai-Burma border. Now back in Australia, my comfort levels have improved dramatically, however the situation on the border has not.
Hundreds of thousands of migrants remain living along the Thai-Burma border; they are unconvinced that life for them in Burma will be any better, regardless of the current governments efforts to appear democratic and reformed. Donations continue to dwindle and schools are literally telling me they are desperate and worried about closures in the 2013/2014 school year.
Since returning to Australia you’ve established ART for Opportunities, tell us more about that?
This is a not for profit project which I established once home in Australia (with a little leg work in Thailand). Whilst on the border, a local Burmese friend suggested I make art with my students and sell them in Australia to raise money for their schools…ART for Opportunities was born.
As a primary school teacher, and not having experience in business, how have you found establishing a not for profit?
Establishing a not for profit project can really suck. Especially spending a twelve hour day in a street stall in Newtown only to make $3. Or maybe it sucked when all the printing had been done and then a week later I realised the logo wasn’t spelt correctly…yes definitely sucked then. Luckily, these were the low points (so far) and this morning I sent 12,000 baht to the Burmese Migrant Workers’ Education Committee to pay for 4 teacher salaries this month.
What do you hope to achieve through this project?
Our goal is to pay for three or four teacher’s wages per month and with our product being ridiculously cute and not bad art either, we hope to make it.
How can people find ART for Opportunities?
Currently we’re based in Wollongong and are selling the art prints at local markets and schools. But we have big and exciting plans to expand online and are open to suggestions by White Space’s readers.
If you are interested in buying affordable and adorable artwork, please contact ART for Opportunities via the facebook page.