Avy Loftus, a Montreal-based batik designer and art educator, was shocked when she found out in early 2000 that her 7-year old daughter was bullied at school. She knew that bullying was on the rise but she did not really know the impact it had on the victims, communities and societies.
"My daughter, who was in good health, began complaining of having stomachache and headache before going to school. When the pain became severe, I brought her to the hospital for physical check ups but the doctor didn't find anything physically wrong with her," said Loftus. "The problem was emotional."
The experience drove Loftus to know more about the cause of bullying and find ways how to stop it. She visited the schools in greater Montreal and discussed bullying with the principals, teachers and also the students.
Concerned with the level of violence at schools and in the community, she decided to develop an art project to keep the students off the streets and think of positive and useful things, instead of bullying. She decided to use art as a vehicle to promote the message of non-violence through batik workshops. In 2007, she launched Peace, Love & Hope to engage children in creative activities rooted in expressing compassion and kindness through the creation of batik-based textiles.
"For peace and non-violence to prevail, we need to foster a culture of peace through our children. The project fosters love and understanding among all children regardless of cultural backgrounds," says Loftus. "But it gives them satisfaction and more motivation in their work. It creates awareness and friendship with one another as they work together.”
The children’s art pieces are then assembled into large-scale quilts, which Loftus tours and exhibits at museums, cultural centres, schools and international children’s festivals, raising awareness and visibility for the anti-bullying cause.
Peace, Love & Hope children’s artworks have been exhibited in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Ballina (Ireland), Chicago, Washington DC, Cincinnati, Bandung and Jakarta (Indonesia).
"I plan to exhibit them in more cities in Asia, Africa and Europe in the future," says Loftus. "My target is to reach at least 1,000,000 children all over the world. It is an ambitious project but I am determined to promote peace and non-violence among the children and to stop bullying in schools and communities."
Through batik art workshops, talks and public exhibitions of the children’s collective artworks, Avy Loftus inspires hope in children, parents and communities, and encourages them love one another, and participate actively in their communities through action, dialogue, and random acts of kindness.