Art auction raises money for Bangladesh

By Gus Bode

For Kids’ Sake raised thousands of dollars for Bangladeshi children Friday with its annual art auction, hosted by several downtown businesses.

“There’s so much bad news all the time, so much craziness. This is the good news,” said Joy Koenig, general manager of the Town Square Market, one venue that  hosted art in the auction.

The 12th-annual silent auction, which began Nov. 15 and featured art at 11 local businesses mostly around the Town Square, raised about $5,000, said Sheema Ruperto, director of For Kids’ Sake. The art was provided by artists and schoolchildren in the region, as well as children from Bangladesh. In addition to the art, businesses offered live music and free food.

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The organization, headquartered in Carbondale with branches around the world, raises money to support six orphanages and schools in Bangladesh.

Ruperto said conditions in Bangladesh may not be well-known to most Americans, and she hopes For Kids’ Sake’s efforts can serve to educate people about these problems.

Bangladesh suffers from severe overpopulation, with more than 160 million people, a third of whom live below the poverty line, living in an area slightly smaller than Iowa, she said. It is also subject to destructive weather and flooding, she said.

Koenig said she’s been involved with For Kids’ Sake for 12 years and has traveled to Bangladesh, where she was surprised to find the Bangladeshis were surprisingly positive despite their living conditions.

“To see people who are so happy with so little in the way of material things really adjusted my perspective,” she said.

Kyger Guyton, 15, of Anna, who had some photographs of his family farm for sale in the auction, said he went to Bangladesh in 2009 with his mother. While he’d been told about what the country was like, he said he was still shocked by the conditions.

“Each orphan only has one box, one box with all their belongings, and that’s it,” he said.

However, he too said the children were surprisingly happy and fun, and he spent an entire day playing soccer with them.

Andrea LeBeau, of Carbondale, said she hopes events like the art auction don’t only help those in Bangladesh but also helps to build a sense of community and togetherness in Carbondale as people wander from business to business meeting each other and enjoying the evening.

“This is what our society lacks lately,” she said.

LeBeau said she was selling an oil painting in the auction and bid on a drawing of a tree from Bangladesh.

“There’s a simplicity and talent that comes through, and it’s just beautiful,” she said.

Kim Veras, of Carbondale, said she bid on a watercolor piece by a local artist and last year bought a photograph at the auction. She said the event helps build community bonds and makes people think outside of themselves.

“I’ve seen people come away with quite a lot of inspiration,” Veras said.

Emily Lind, a freshman from Carbondale majoring in art, said she joined For Kids’ Sake after Ruperto made a presentation to her class her senior year of high school. She said she was impressed by the organization and its mission, and she wanted to find a way to help out. She became an intern, Lind said, and for the last few months has worked closely with Ruperto to prepare for the auction.

Lind said the experience with framing all the pieces was helpful as an art student, and she may go to Bangladesh at some point with SIU’s study-abroad program.

Koenig said those she spoke with at the event showed a lot of interest in the group’s mission. She said the event started humbly 12 years ago and it was limited to Longbranch Coffeehouse, didn’t have as much art and raised much less money. Since then, though, it has steadily grown.

“Little by little, the word’s getting out,” Koenig said.

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