On Saturday, December 12, 2009, "Welcome to Gulu", an
art exhibit presented and curated by local artist and
restaurateur, Tony Romano on behalf of the U.N.O.D.C.
(United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), U.N. Good
Will Ambassador, Ross Bleckner was unveiled at Governor
John P. deJongh Jr.'s Catherineberg mansion.
The unprecedented V.I. event which was hosted by Gov.
deJongh and his wife, First Lady Cecile deJongh came
about when Tony Romano, who attended the initial
"Welcome to Gulu" event at the United Nations in New
York on May 12, 2009 was asked by UN officials if he
thought the Virgin Islands would be interested in
hosting the same event on St.Thomas.
The evening of December 12, 2009 was the first time a
U.N. Flag has ever flown outside of an official United
Nations base station and also the Virgin Islands. The
fundraiser featured 150 paintings done by the Ugandan
Children as part of an art therapy program. The
inspiration for the art rehabilitation program was
described by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his
opening remarks at the New York event, "Two years ago,
my wife opened another exhibition sponsored by the
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime here at UN
Headquarters called “Human Trafficking: Images of
Vulnerability.” She decried the trade in people, and she
said, “Thanks to this exhibit, it is staring us in the
face.” Then she called for action. “Let us not just look
at these pictures and walk away,” she said. “Let us be
moved to act.”
There was a renowned artist in the audience that day who
took those words to heart. His name is Ross Bleckner,
and we see today the results of his passionate activism.
That "passionate activism" led
Mr. Bleckner to Uganda where he conducted a week long
art therapy program for kids who had never held a paint
brush before. These children were abducted from their
families and conscripted into the Lord’s Resistance
Army, a rebel army in northern Uganda, as child soldiers
or sex slaves and the resulting images are both haunting
and hopeful. That hopefulness shined through in St.
Thomas as visiting celebrities, local dignitaries and
philanthropists gathered together and raised a net
donation sum of more than $37,600.00. These funds go
directly to benefit the kids with on going education and
rehabilitation of these child soldiers and abducted