Rwandan artist Emmanuel Nkuranga lost his mother when he was just 13 years old. Ever since then, the 24-year-old painter has felt a strong connection to kids forced to go through life without a parent.
In his home country, living without a mother or a father is not a rare occurance. Approximately 400,000 children were orphaned after the 1994 genocide, and since then many more have lost their parents to HIV.
This is my calling. I love to give back in this way and I feel happy to be in their lives.
Emmanuel and his family were not in Rwanda when the genocide took place. However, when they returned home from Uganda a few years later, they witnessed the pain of war in the eyes of the children left behind. As Emmanuel grew older, he reached out to these kids with the one thing that helped him after losing his mother. "Art was healing for me," Emmanuel tells TakePart.
In 2010, Emmanuel went to two orphanages and saw the need for something that could not only help them psychologically but also "give them a future income and a chance for a better life." Soon after, he started Art With a Mission—a project that brings youth together in an artistic environment.
In their art classes, the kids paint together, learn the value of art, and spend time with Emmanuel. The artist says, this is the best part of his day. "This is my calling. I love to give back in this way and I feel happy to be in their lives."
Emmanuel hopes to expand Art With a Mission and reach more children in years to come.