Fremont teen Avni Barman has a simple mission: to put smiles on sick children’s faces.
Compassionate and ambitious, the 16-year-old student at San Jose’s Harker School spends her free time teaching art at Bay Area hospitals to give children an artistic escape. “I realized while working with younger children that art can be a very positive diversion for them, besides being therapeutic,” Avni told Patch.
But Avni’s work doesn’t stop at volunteering. She’s launched a fundraising campaign via Piggybackr, an online platform to help children raise money safely and effectively, to further her efforts. Through Putting Smiles on Children’s Faces, Avni hopes to turn her volunteer efforts into a formal program for other like-minded teens to follow, as well as expand her efforts to pediatric cancer patients and children in shelters.
We caught up with Avni to learn about her inspiring work, her art and her future plans.
How long have you been creating art?
My mother tells me I have been doodling since I was 3 years old. I started drawing anything that caught my imagination on my easel very early on and art continued to absorb me as a one of my favorite classes in elementary school.
What inspired you to take on this project?
As I advanced to higher classes in elementary and middle school, I realized that art to me became much more than a hobby. I started dabbling in art for hours sometimes, as a break from tedious study sessions or to refresh my mind. Art became my passion and an outlet. I won some awards in the Bay Area as well which further fueled my passion and creativity.
During this time, I had the opportunity to lead several service projects leveraging my art skills to make tray cards for patients at Oakland Children’s Hospital, the elderly in senior homes as well as for fundraising efforts. I realized while working with younger children that art can be a very positive diversion for them besides being therapeutic. From this came the desire to help sick patients and the inspiration to leverage my art skills for distracting sick/needy patients on their path to recovery.
What's your goal with this project?
I started small by approaching Bay Area hospitals … I created age-appropriate, easy-to-teach art projects for small children to teenagers. My goal was to distract them from their illnesses, help reduce the stress of the hospital experience, nurture their artistic side, and perhaps in this process alleviate some pain toward a faster recovery. Kaiser gave me an opportunity this summer to do some very rewarding work. I also had an opportunity to work at J.W. House in Santa Clara and an autism center in Dublin. … I realized I would need to fundraise to take this effort to the next level. I am now about to begin volunteering at Jeena, where I hope to leverage art projects for children with developmental disorders.
My near term goal is now to offer art to needy children in shelters. Art made available to children in shelters can offer them the opportunity to explore their creative side and express their emotions in hardships. Secondly, I am also actively exploring the opportunity to work with pediatric cancer patients as well.
My long term goal is to outreach to like-minded art students who may like to participate in this project and follow the same path of teaching art to the sick in the Bay Area. As a means to this goal, I would like to continue to fundraise and mentor these participants with the hope to grow the success of this program.
What are your plans after high school? Will you be studying art, or something in the medical field?
I am still undecided in my college focus, though fields of math/science leveraging art as a complementary skill seem compelling.
------Sign up for the free Fremont Patch newsletter | Like Fremont Patch on Facebook | Follow @FremontPatch on Twitter | Blog for Fremont Patch