From left: Jolly Ferwerda, Sara Stone, Dirkje de Jong, Lenny Euson, JTL Foundation president Maya Pandt and Jurgen Timothy Leon working on the mural on Sandy Road.
ST. EUSTATIUS--The first and only foundation in the Caribbean Netherlands supporting autistic children has found an inventive way to connect them with the community in St. Eustatius. Inspired to beautify the community while raising awareness of the various forms of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) during the sixth annual volunteer event Statia DOET, Jurgen Timothy Leon (JTL) Autism Foundation started painting a colourful mural on Sandy Road on May 28.
Foundation members were joined by a group of volunteers and together they cleaned, sketched and used their creative abilities to bring the mural to life.
“JTL Autism Foundation was inspired to beautify the community art wall to connect people with special needs to the existing ‘togetherness’-themed mural,” said foundation president Maya Pandt. “The mural is an extension of our mission to bring community awareness, acceptance and resources to the youth and parents living with the daily challenges [of autism – Ed.].”
The mural’s colours and phrases are associated with autism and other spectrum-related disorders. The images demonstrate the diversity and extraordinary intelligence of children on the spectrum.
“The mural highlights the humanism of those who are different, and the extraordinary characteristics embodied within each individual,” Pandt said.
The mural does not stand by itself, but is part of a larger series of artistic interpretations symbolising togetherness. “We all have a common desire as humans to be accepted and loved,” said Sara Stone.
The foundation’s goal is to help parents and families of autistic children better understand ASD and it is undertaking a second project – a sensory room which it hopes to complete later this month.
The mural was painted with support from the Labour Office and the Oranje Fund, which team up every year to provide funds to various organisations for small projects.
Statia DOET and the Oranje Fund emphasise the importance of communities actively engaging citizens to make a difference. Their mission is to improve the general perception of volunteering and community service through fun activities, said Pandt.