BY DEBORAH WHEELER | FOR THE WALTON SUN | PHOTOGRAPHY BY JACK GARDNER
When the Wall of Courage Art Installation debuts this week in Seaside, four women can be thanked for bringing it to 30A. The art is the work of Heather Haynes. The exhibit’s host is Anne Hunter of Anne Hunter Gallery and Seaside Institute, and the beneficiary is Shay Bell’s NDOTO Inc. However, viewers can also thank Dr. Hillary Glenn for refusing to take “no” for an answer.
The origins of this art installation were when Haynes traveled to Uganda on a volunteer mission for malaria prevention in 2008. Her husband wrote a song about the trip and called it “Worlds Collide.”
In 2009, Worlds Collide became the name of Haynes’ first art show based on her trip to Africa, in which she featured orphans and their stories. Haynes began traveling to Africa every year, painting her experiences, and titled each series Worlds Collide until it transformed into a Wall of Courage. As the trips continued, so did the charity work and collaborations with those living in Tanzania and the Congo.
Bell lived in Santa Rosa Beach and worked for the St. Joe Company for more than 10 years. In January 2011, she visited the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania for the first time as a volunteer English teacher.
“I always had an affinity for Africa,” she said. “And when I went there to teach English, it was a profound life-changing experience. It was a God journey. I went home, resigned my position and sold all my belongings. I went from serving the over privileged to serving the under privileged.”
Bell said she did not believe in God before that first trip, even though she was raised Catholic.
“The things I experienced on that first trip brought me back to God. It was a transformative experience,” she said.
“I have learned to get over fears,” Bell said, who has been infected with malaria and typhoid fever. “I am the mama train here where a common cold can be fatal.”
After moving to Moshi, Bell founded One NDOTO Inc. (one dream), a non-profit organization to help locals and invest in sustainable projects. Bell met Haynes through Facebook and the Hard Life Art Club founded by street kids. The two women decided to join forces in 2013 and Bell visited the Congo with Haynes last year.
“The Congo is incredibly poor,” said Bell. “There are wars and women tell stories we cannot fathom.”
NDOTO and Worlds Collide Africa support projects in the Congo included a home for orphans, a women’s training center, an agriculture project and the building of a school in the city of Goma. The Worlds Collide Africa House is a social enterprise guest house in Moshi that is run by Bell and members of the Pamoja team. Bell lives at the house.
Their club is the Pamoja Tunaweza Boys & Girls Club, which means “together we can.” Its mission is to empower vulnerable and at-risk youth to reach their full potential as productive, self sustaining and responsible members of the community. The club is a collaboration between the original Hard Life Art Club, Pamoja Tunaweza Women’s Center, Worlds Collide, and One NDOTO Inc.
“I want to get more kids off the street and help them learn a skill,” said Bell. “Fifty percent of the population here are under age 26.”
She returns to the United States once a year to fundraise.
A NURSE WITH A PURPOSE
Glenn is a family nurse practitioner at Emerald Coast Urgent Care in Miramar Beach. She met Bell when Bell lived on the Gulf Coast. When Bell invited Glenn to visit her in Tanzania, she did.
Glenn returned from that visit on a mission to bring the Wall of Courage art exhibit to South Walton.
Once they came together, Hunter understood.
“We all live such privileged lives here,” said Hunter. “It’s my responsibility to open people’s eyes to what is going on. When you see the scenes of African children, it’s very moving. This is the first time I have understood it.”
Over three years Haynes worked to create Wall of Courage, a monolithic art installation, the culmination of a 20-plus year creative journey, using her artistic ability to try to bring positive change for vulnerable people.
The exhibit opened April 27 at the Seaside Assembly Hall and is available for viewing from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
The opening reception is scheduled from 5 to 9 p.m. April 29. The public is invited to view the Wall of Courage, make a donation, and bring old cell phones to donate. Donations go to One NDOTO Inc. There will also be a silent auction.
“This is the first art installation I have ever been involved in,” said Hunter. “Shay and Heather have dedicated their lives to helping women and orphans.”
The artwork is available for purchase at Anne Hunter Galleries in Seaside until May 1.