ARTISTS CREATIVELY COMBAT CHAGAS DISEASE
By David Webb
The antenna of a triatomine bug and the bristle of an artist’s brush are almost the same in length and breadth. But while the triatomine brings the potential of lifelong infection of Chagas disease, some artists have decided to use their brushes to paint the picture of hope against infection.
Brenda Phillips, an artist residing in Meriden, New Hampshire, is on a national crusade to use her artwork to fight Chagas infection in the Andean villages of Bolivia. Beginning in 2005, Brenda created a series of paintings called “Dream Houses,” which were sold in the Upper Valley of New Hampshire to help the native Bolivian villagers build simple new houses that are free of Chagas disease.
Most houses in Bolivia are constructed with thatched roofs and adobe walls, ideal breeding materials for the triatomine bug. Often called “kissing bugs”, these parasites often bite people as they sleep. The kissing bugs spread the agents causing Chagas. Complications of chronic Chagas disease include abnormal heart rhythms, a dilated heart that doesn’t pump blood effectively, and complications in the esophagus and colon that make eating and digesting food difficult. The disease is found throughout Latin America. An estimated 25 percent of the Bolivian population is infected with this life-threatening disease. In some Andean villages, the number increases to 80 percent. There are no vaccines that prevent Chagas disease. The only prevention is avoiding the bite of the triatomine bug.
Following a visit to Bolivia, Phillips had an intuition. She thought, “What if I sell paintings for $500 and bought houses in Bolivia?” Bishop Jane Middleton of Central Pennsylvania Annual Conference learned of Phillips efforts while she still served in the New York Annual Conference. She has led teams from both annual conferences to Bolivia to construct safe houses, which are constructed with stucco walls and metal roofs that are resistant to infestation by the triatomine bug. The cost of materials to build a safe house is $500.
Phillips has encouraged other artists to join her efforts. The funds raised from the sale of each picture are directed to Advance Project #15084A
, which is dedicated to providing safe shelter in Bolivia. Phillips has personally raised $10,000 so far. Combined with the efforts of Bishop Middleton and others, over 120 safe houses have so far been built. Still, the need is great.
You can help make a difference! You can purchase some art from Phillips or one of her colleagues. The art is available at www.boliviadreamhouse.com
. You can make a gift of any size to Advance Project #15084A.
This can be done online at www.advancinghope.org
, through your local United Methodist congregation (just indicate the project number on the check), or by calling 888-252-6174
. As with all gifts to mission through The Advance, 100 percent of your gift goes to the designated project.
Photos Above: Paintings by Brenda Phillips
Photo Right: Brenda Phillips
Courtesy: Bolivia Dream House