About Us

What is “When I Grow Up I Want To Be...”?   
It is an effort to bring valuable art education and experiences to disadvantaged children in Ethiopia. We hope to foster a cultural bridge between interested Americans and children through a program which shows their artistic talents, and expresses their humanity through photography, informational exhibits, presentations and traveling shows of their artworks.   We believe that art is a proven and powerful tool for raising consciousness and engaging discussion.
Our Beginnings
"When I Grow Up I Want To Be" conducted our first art workshops in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in the spring of 2004. We had the opportunity to work with the wonderful and talented children at Layla House, an American orphanage run by Adoption Advocates International. Happily, most of these children are now with their adoptive families in the US. The children were enthusiastic as they waited excitedly to create art with their new supplies. The resulting art works were full of life and promise, reflections of the children who created them. Clearly these orphans, had hopes and dreams just like children in more fortunate circumstances, hence the name “When I Grow Up I Want To Be...”

Thanks to generous donations from Rotary Clubs, Dick Blick Art Materials (www.dick blick.com), and many individuals we have been able to return to Ethiopia numerous times for a series of very exciting and successful workshops at over 8 separate orphanages, youth centers and organizations serving the underprivileged, including AHOPE, an orphanage for HIV+ children where the children receive anti-retroviral drug treatment. AHOPE was chosen recently as one of five of TIME Inc.s employee charities of the year. Enough supplies were left for multiple additional projects to be done in coordination with orphanage teachers and volunteers.

Select Exhibits of the Art Works:
...Daley Center, Chicago IL           ....Lake County College, Grays Lake IL

 ....The World Affairs Council of San Francisco
The World Affairs Council of San Francisco (2009)
The Rosa Parks Museum and Library, Montgomery AL
The College of Lake County, Grays Lake IL
Presbyterian Church, Vashon Island, WA
Milwaukee City Hall, Milwaukee WI
Marquette University, Milwaukee WI
University of Michigan New England Literature Program presentation and exhibit at Sebago Lake, ME
McHenry County College, Crystal Lake IL
Daley Center, Chicago IL
Fox River Country Day School, Elgin IL
Deerfield High School, Deerfield IL
New Trier High School, Winnetka IL
Why help children in Ethiopia?
Unicef tell us in a joint national survey that the number of orphans in Ethiopia is estimated to be 4.3 million orphans, or 13% of all children in Ethiopia. Holding hands they would stretch from Chicago to San Francisco.  Many of these children have lost their parents to AIDS.
If you are looking for a moral to this story, think of this...
We know the story of a boy who was walking a beach where starfish had washed ashore as far as the eye could see. He started to throw them back in the water one by one when an older man came along and laughed at the futility of his effort. “Why would you even bother- there are so many! You can't possibly make a difference.” As the boy threw another starfish back in the water he replied smiling- “It will make a difference to this one!”
 Like the boy with the starfish, we may only be able to positively influence the lives of a relative few.  Nonetheless,  by bringing art into the lives of even a small number of children who have lost so much, we can give them the chance to express themselves.  Sharing some of the work of these children with others aims to inspire people to reach out and make a difference to orphaned children of Ethiopia and elsewhere.  And to help even a valued few.

Generous Donation From Dick Blick Art Materials
We are very grateful for the generous donations of art supplies from Dick Blick Art Materials (www.dickblick.com). Dick Blick is an excellent supplier of quality art materials and that can be easily ordered through their website.

Introduction to the When I Grow Up I Want To Be Exhibit by award winning author Jane Kurtz...

In Ethiopia,

a land of ancient churches and castles,

of mountains and waterfalls,

of coffee beans roasting on the fire,

the sun rises over the city of Addis Ababa,

over the palaces of former kings,

over beautiful houses of stone and brick,

with electric lights and televisions

and water that runs out of the faucets,

and over small houses where the children

own almost nothing, sometimes only a pigeon.

Only a Pigeon (Simon & Schuster)
by Jane Kurtz and Christopher Kurtz

“Early in the 1990s, my brother and I sat down to write Only a Pigeon, a picture book story of Andualem, the boy who used to shine my brother’s shoes when Christopher was teaching in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Andualem represents the children we’d seen all the years of our childhood spent in Ethiopia, children in the poor neighborhoods of a large city where perhaps five million people struggle on in the face of 40-50% unemployment. In drafty houses, the children who have at least one living parent or grandparent curl on the floor to sleep, sharing a mat and blanket with two-three siblings. In the morning, they clutch a small handful of grain for breakfast. The lucky ones attend school for half a day with as many as 180 children in each classroom and no books. At recess, they play soccer with a ball made from scrounged plastic bags. The rest of the day, they shine shoes or sell gum or watch cars to pick up a few coins.

Addis Ababa, capital city of what some call the third poorest country in the world, is crowded with children. Some sell tissues for ten hours a day, eight cents a pack. Five-year-olds crouch forlornly against a wall; seven or eight-year-olds tote younger siblings on their backs and run alongside tourists, looking up with hopeful eyes. If AIDS has taken away every one of their relatives, they curl to sleep under a piece of tin leaning against a wall made of brown earth and straw. Since the city has no garbage pick-up
system, dusk coaxes hyenas out of the surrounding hills; their weird, dislocated laughter echoes in the children’s ears.

How is it that tenderness, playfulness blossom still? Even in the poorest neighborhoods, children roll a tire rim down the street or feed a baby pigeon by chewing up a bit of grain in their own mouths. Adults from many places all over the world—though sometimes overwhelmed —don’t give up. They build orphanages and schools. Programs that offer new work to prostitutes. The first free library for children. They bring bits of paper, glue, and paint and watch, amazed, as children use their eyes and fingers to show what they have seen and what they long to see. Hope rises every morning with the smell of eucalyptus wood fires, soaking everything, impossible to completely stamp out.”

Award-winning author Jane Kurtz spent most of her childhood in Ethiopia, where many of her picture books and novels for young readers are set. She now writes books, speaks nationally and internationally, and supports Yohannes Gebregeorgis's efforts to publish children's books and plant some of the very first free libraries for children in Ethiopia. You can read more about her books and projects at:

www.janekurtz.com and www.ethiopiareads.org

Charlotte Blome is an artist and professional garden designer. Charlotte and Erik Blome are parents of two boys, one of whom was adopted from Ethiopia in 2004.
Erik Blome is an established and nationally known artist and sculptor with a studio in Bay Area.  Erik is an experienced teacher at the college level and has also taught art to people of all ages including many workshops at schools across Illinois.
Priscilla Harper is a professional photographer specializing in nature photography. She also has done extensive work assisting underprivileged children and mothers in shelters in Milwaukee.


Dr. Ann Shafer Art Department chair at the American University in Cairo

Harold and Jill Abilock are Japanese-English translators. They serve on the boards of several cross-cultural non-profit organizations, including the Japan America .  Society and Friends of Indian Music and Dance. Jill also helps organize major fundraising efforts, such as the as Tour de Cure bike ride for diabetes and the Champ Ride for HIV+/AIDS victim support.

Drew Davis is a painter and sculptor. He and his wife Lizzie are parents of new twins. Drew has traveled to South Africa, and his wife Lizzie volunteered with orphans in Mozambique.
Stephanie McDonald  is a local Chicago entrepeneur and small business owner.  
John Cannon is a talented piano player, and vocalist living in the Chicago area and a retired human resources employee of Peoples Gas Company. He is a great supporter of art and artists.