The co-founder of a non-profit organization that sells artwork submitted by Ukrainian children in bomb shelters and refugee camps says the project is helping ‘to change this world for the better’ .
Aliaksandra Lamachenka, originally from Belarus but moved to west London in 2018, is one of the three minds behind Leleka, an organization that enables Ukrainian children to safely sell their artwork to people around the whole world.
The platform currently supports a community of around 2,500 children, most of whom stay in Ukraine and have submitted over 10,000 drawings.
“These are paintings you would expect to see at MoMA or Tate Modern – they are so creative,” Ms Lamachenka, 30, told the PA news agency.
“There are so many kids who have so much talent.
“And oh my god, they’re so young, but it’s something that can definitely help us change this world for the better.”
Ms Lamachenka is working with a team of 34 volunteers from around the world to sell the submitted artwork for £7 a print.
After taxes and transfer fees have been deducted, all remaining money is securely transferred directly to the family bank account of the child who provided the drawing or painting.
The art is often a photo sent to Leleka from a bomb shelter or refugee camp which a group of volunteers will then edit to clarify and upload to the website.
“(They are) able to sell their artwork to people around the world and feel useful, helpful and in control again,” Ms. Lamachenka said.
“Many of them stay in Ukraine and their parents have lost their jobs (or their) parents are also volunteers or fighting for their country… Many families have (had to) flee to other countries and they have lost everything.
“So it’s very important for us to give that feeling to the children, so that they can help their families and help their country.”
Drawings made by children range from depictions of animals, sunny skies, oceans and cities to favorite fictional characters such as Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker.
They can also attach thank you messages and details about their work.
Since its launch in the last week of June, £3,000 worth of artwork by Ukrainian children has been purchased through Leleka.
Ms Lamachenka said the work had a positive psychological effect on those involved.
“We have a great example of one of the young artists on the platform – he’s seven years old,” she explained.
“He was saying, ‘If someone buys my art, I’ll donate that money to the Ukrainian Armed Forces,’ and at this point someone so young doesn’t even believe anyone could be interested in him in his work.
“And when he heard that people were starting to buy his art, he spent the whole afternoon after that sketching and creating new art.
“And I find that incredible. We were able to distract this child from the horrors of war around him and allow him and other children to start creating something of a distraction.
While praising the tremendous teamwork, Ms Lamachenka acknowledged the feelings of shame she felt throughout the process.
“I’m like feeling overwhelming shame for the fact that they’re going through what they’re going through,” she said.
“And let the world make it live for them.
“It’s shame, it’s anger, but it’s also (an) overwhelming sense of support and selflessness.”
But Ms Lamachenka acknowledges that the platform’s work is “a release from anxiety and stress” and has set her goals for the future of the nonprofit.
“Our (current) ambition is to help children earn at least £100 each in sales,” she said.
“It is important for us to prioritize the children most traumatized by the horrors of war, but ultimately we would really like to extend it to Ukrainian children who live in other countries and to children around the world.
“Because bad things don’t just happen in Ukraine, so if at some point we could empower children around the world, that would be amazing.”
She also said she was “very proud” of what Leleka has accomplished in such a short time.
“If we plant the seeds now and see the results 20 years from now, I’ll feel like this life was for a reason and we didn’t waste it,” she added.
To learn more about Leleka, visit: leleka.me/