Art Installation to raise awareness for homeless children
Published: Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 15:10
Erika Mangual is bringing her love of children to campus by teaming up with the Homeless Children’s Education Fund (HCEF) to raise awareness about the issue of homeless children in Allegheny County.
“This is my passion,” said Mangual, a sophomore business management major, on Oct. 9 in Village Park. “I finally found something I want to do. Something that is meaningful to me.”
After volunteering with HCEF for more than a month, Mangual decided to bring “Stand Up for Homeless Children a Performance Art Installation” to Point Park on Thursday, Oct. 17.
Events such as this are also done at the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University. Volunteers will stand in silence for 15 minutes holding a drawing of a child’s face in front of their own to represent the 1,700 children identified as homeless in Allegheny County last year. The event will be from 5 to 5:15 p.m. in Village Park.
“[Volunteering] has been such a heartwarming and humbling experience because not only are you influencing the lives of these kids, but they’re influencing your life because you realize how much you take for granted,” said Mangual.
Volunteers are asked to arrive 15 minutes early to allow time to get into position.
“The point is to raise public awareness, but I think it’s the volunteers that are really touched the most,” said Susy Robison, director of outreach and volunteer services for the HCEF, on Oct. 9. “When they’re standing there in silence with the masks what they’re really doing is seeing the world through the eyes of one of the children.”
According to Robison, a child is considered homeless if they lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. The HCEF, a nonprofit organization founded in 1999, collaborates with over two-dozen shelters in Allegheny County to provide support and educational materials.
“Every time a child experiences a period of homelessness and moves, they are set back four to six months in their education,” Robinson said.
For the past three years in Pennsylvania, one week of October has been dedicated to Homeless Children’s Awareness. This year that week is Oct. 13 to 19. The HCEF has multiple events planned in addition to “Stand Up”, one of which is a 5K and 10K run/walk in North Park at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19.
“The issue goes beyond Allegheny County,” said Robinson. “A lot of children from outside of the city make their way here because they can’t blend in on the streets of a small town. People need to know how serious this is. An extension of the problem of homeless children is the very real possibility of child trafficking.”
Turnout for these art installations in the past varied from a few dozen to a few hundred, according to Robison. She has high hopes for Point Park’s first ever “Stand Up.”
“We’re getting the word out there and so far the response has been great,” Mangual said. “We can stop someone for literally 20 seconds and give them the overview and let them know that we’re not asking for much. It’s literally 15 minutes of their time to raise awareness about an important issue. That’s step one in reaching more kids.”