The historic walls of the nation’s oldest all girls’ academic institution, the Antigua Girls’ High School (AGHS), now feature a poignant, colourful and creative health mural, which brings attention to the issue of childhood obesity.
The project dubbed “#ArtStudentsAgainstObesity”, was made possible through a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, The Rotary Club of Antigua, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), The Antigua Girls High School and Her Excellency Karen-Mae Hill, High Commissioner. The unveiling ceremony took place on Friday in the presence of the student body, teachers, parents, members of the Rotary Club of Antigua, officials from the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, Ministry of Education and the media.
In her remarks, Chief Nutrition Officer at the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, Ms. Samantha Moitt, explained that the Ministry is very pleased that the concept has come to fruition after almost two years of discussions. She noted that the Ministry continues to work tirelessly to tackle the risk factors associated with childhood obesity, by making the school environment better.
“This mural is a great step in addressing childhood obesity in Antigua and Barbuda. We want our young people to become aware of the types of food that they are eating and the impact it can have on all children and youth in our country. We must have a nutrition policy that spells out what schools should do, such as regulating the sale of unhealthy foods”, she stated. She also congratulated the art students and their teachers for bringing creative art to a topic of major importance.
AGHS’s Visual Arts Teacher and Project Coordinator, Ms. Sharon Joseph, in giving the overview of the project, explained that it was indeed a learning experience which also created an atmosphere for the students to bond. She expressed the hope that the gesture will assist officials in raising awareness about the importance of practicing a healthy lifestyle. She extended gratitude to the Rotary Club of Antigua for coming on board to support the initiative and to Ms. Valarie Williams, NCD Coordinator in the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, who initiated this project
Art student, Ms. Justice Hughes, said that the students were excited to bring the concept to life and thanked all the parties involved for their support and encouragement. She added that it is a creation that will stand the test of time and will remind persons that obesity and diabetes are dire consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle.
President of the Club of Antigua, Mr. Kevin Silston, explained that the concept was a project which was initially supported by the Club’s Immediate Past President, Dr. Vanetta Rodgers; however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic the project had to be postponed. He added that as part of this Rotary Year, emphasis has been placed on the issue of Childhood Obesity and the health mural is an ideal mechanism to raise public awareness.
“The Rotary Club of Antigua’s theme for this Rotary Year is opening opportunities through Youth Development and Healthy Lifestyle Choices. With this as a backdrop, I am happy to see the completion of this mural which brings awareness to childhood obesity. One of our major projects for this year, is to raise awareness about Chronic Kidney Disease. All of this fit in with our focus for Rotary and what has happened here is meaningful in so many years. This is more than merely just a painting, it is a message to our entire society impressing upon them to make heathy lifestyle choices”, President Silston emphasized.
He too joined in offering congratulatory words to the art students and teachers who were involved in the project.
The ceremony also featured the presentation of certificates of appreciation to the students and teachers who participated in bringing the mural to reality.
There was an evident sense of fulfillment and pride as the covering dropped unveiling the artwork, a creation that will surely act as a reminder for the nation to make healthy choices.
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