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Caregiver's trip to Uganda connects prisoners and orphans

Author: Ben Salmon, 8/8/2019 1:30:00 PM

Tina Judkins admired the painting of two tiger cubs for months before the light bulb went off.

“It made me smile very time I walked by it,” she said. “Finally one day I was like, ‘Just buy it!’”
 
Tina is the training and support coordinator for the Laboratory at St. Charles, and the tiger cub painting hung in the hallway between the Bend hospital and the cancer center years ago. It was there as part of a display of pieces by Oregon inmates in a program called Visions of Hope. The Central Oregon-based program facilitates art programs for prisoners, then uses the money from sales of their art to support Otino Waa Children’s Village, an orphanage and school near Lira, Uganda.
 
Tina bought that tiger cubs painting, and later, she got involved with Visions of Hope. These days, she is the program’s art processor, which means she takes in the artwork, catalogs it, photographs it, gets it ready for framing and finds venues for Visions of Hope exhibits. The pieces hang with price tags, and 100% of sales go to Otino Waa, which houses about 300 orphans, educates other kids from the community and supports area widows, Judkins said.
 
“We have some fabulous artists in our prisons,” she said. Prisoners across Oregon also sponsor Otino Waa children.
 
The organization has made many trips to Uganda, but in April, Tina went for the first time. There, she and others from Visions of Hope showed the kids videos from inmates and gave them T-shirts with artwork on them. They also brought clothing and food, did repair work and replaced some broken appliances. Tina -- who has worked in health care for decades -- went out into the surrounding villages and cleaned and bandaged wounds using materials donated by St. Charles. She also got to meet the orphan girl that she and her husband sponsor.
 
The trip was eye-opening and life-changing, she said, because it served as a stark reminder of the excess in the typical American household, and that having “stuff” doesn’t necessarily equal happiness.
 
Now back in Oregon, Tina reflected on what she loves about being involved in Visions of Hope.

“Some of our artists are (in prison for life). They’re not going anywhere. So doing this gives them a purpose. They get to step outside of their own selfish needs and freely give something that’s therapeutic for them,” she said. “Plus, it gives them a goal to be able to say, ‘Look what I can do for somebody else.’ From the other side of the world, it helps the widows and the orphans. And for me, I got to see God’s work in so many things.”