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Creating change through art

Rebecca Feeley Tuesday 10 March 2015

Rebecca Feeley knows first hand how art can change lives – because it has helped change hers.  

In July, she will travel to India to meet young people from around the world as a part of the World Merit Fellowship Programme, which aims to empower young people to tackle global issues like gender equality and climate change - and Rebecca is hoping to make a change through art. In January 2016, she will also visit Washington to mark the end of her year as an ambassador with the organisation.  

Rebecca is one of the 23 World Merit participants, chosen from around the world to follow the intensive year-long leadership and social justice awareness programme. 

A young carer from the ages of 14 to 18, Rebecca has signed up for Liverpool Hope’s Service and Leadership Award and she is a leader with Big Love Sista, which aims to empower communities through creative activities. Rebecca also volunteers at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital where she helps with arts and crafts – and she does all this whilst studying for a degree in Fine Art. After studying years one and two full time, Rebecca opted to study part time in order to dedicate time to her World Merit Fellowship Programme and other volunteering commitments.

As a part of her social action for World Merit, Rebecca led her own community arts project, bringing together 40 people from diverse backgrounds - young people, unemployed people, people from the local boxing gym, homeless people and people with dependency issues – to take part in art sessions. Rebecca provided the materials, led the sessions and curated the final exhibition in Knowsley, before auctioning the art work to raise money for the community.

Rebecca, who specialises in painting, said: “The first thing that people will say is that they can’t draw – but it is not about ability. I suggested to one person, why not paint words? It doesn’t matter – the point is that it is an outlet. It is incredibly rewarding to see people using art as a way to express emotions that they may have kept inside for a long time.”  

Rebecca says that she is inspired by Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, whom she met at World Merit Day in Liverpool in July 2014.

Rebecca has now been challenged by World Merit to find ways to discuss gender equality in her own community. Right now she is in the middle of researching with her World Merit group, who she meets regularly via WebEx and Skype. In the first week of January, she was also named World Merit’s Agent of the Week.

“With the focus for that month being ‘Arts and Creativity’, I started off a new social action called ‘Share World Happiness’ which involved creating something for three people and then challenging them to do the same,” says Rebecca. “The idea is to create an immense ripple effect of people being creative and sharing happiness, globally.”

Rebecca is hoping to study for an MA, with the ultimate aim of becoming a professional artist and Art Therapist.  She is also documenting her year as a World Merit ambassador through a series of drawings and paintings.  

Rebecca says: “We need to be more aware of what is going on in the world and what the real issues are. I want to make my name as an artist whose work has a social purpose. I want to make people think. I want to look back on my life and know that I have made a difference and had a real impact on someone else’s life, just like my friends, tutors, supporters and the World Merit community have had on mine."

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