Last March Janet Littlejohn had a terrible nightmare. Waking with a start, her mind tormented by dreadful images of Saddam Hussein and biochemical weapons, Littlejohn decided she needed to do something to help further world peace.
"I began to think about how children are natural peacemakers," said Littlejohn in a recent interview, "and how there ought to be a way to bridge the gap between different cultures by using children's artwork." Eventually Littlejohn's thinking resulted in "Kids' Art for Peace Sake," a grass-roots program wherein American children send their artwork to children in Iraq and the Middle East."I contacted the United Nations, and they gave me the name of Raymond Janson, who works in the Middle East office of UNICEF," said Littlejohn. Janson has been very supportive, agreeing to display the children's artwork in Baghdad day-care centers and schools.
So far, however, Littlejohn has collected few pieces of art. "I need more than what I've received," she said. "I need boxes full of artwork so we can have an impact on the Baghdad office and the people there. Once we have enough for Baghdad, we'll ship artwork to other countries."
Last May Littlejohn distributed mailings about KAPS to dozens of schools. Disappointed in the results, she's hoping a followup mailer will encourage others to join the cause.
"The instructions are very easy to follow," she said. "At first a teacher or parent discusses `What is peace?' and `How can young people's art contribute to peace in the world?' " Then the children are encouraged to create artwork that depicts their individual idea of world peace.
"Children are affected by the negative messages they get from the media," said Littlejohn. "This is something that can counterbal-ance this influence and allow them to feel empowered as opposed to feeling a sense of `there's nothing I can do. I'm just a child.' Children can do something and in a very powerful way."
For more information on KAPS or to find out how to send in children's art, call Littlejohn at 801-485-5501 or mail inquiry to Kids'Art for Peace Sake, P.O. Box 521297, Salt Lake City, UT.