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East End kids learn about karma

Lucy and Molly Sheridan draw cards with Japanese

Lucy and Molly Sheridan draw cards with Japanese characters during Karma Kids art class. (March 29, 2011) Photo Credit: Erin Geismar

In thick, black brushstrokes, a group of East End children drew the Japanese characters for peace, love, karma, strength and happiness during an art program earlier this week.

They were initially a little confused about how to write the foreign letters, but not about why they were writing them.

“Those are all things that Japan needs,” said Zoia Foster, 8, of Water Mill.

In its second year, Karma Kids, a nonprofit organization that teaches humanitarianism through art, is focusing on raising money for Japan and teaching the 5- to 9-year-old participants about the earthquake, its aftermath and the devastation facing that country.

Sarah Stenn, a co-founder, said the idea for Karma Kids started when she and Samantha Christie spearheaded an art project in their children’s pre-kindergarten class to benefit Haiti's earthquake victims last year.

“And that was the genesis of Karma Kids,” Stenn said. “And the catalyst for us to try to get together every week and come up with projects that would help children around the world -- and help our kids understand that they are responsible and a part of a society and community that takes care of other kids.”

The children in Karma Kids learn about countries in need around the world, and specifically about how they can help other children there, said Christie. At the end of each session, the children’s work is sold and the money is donated to charity. The classes take place every Tuesday afternoon at the Ross School in East Hampton.

Christie said the students have designed hand-printed greeting cards, which were sold at an art fair and raised $3,600 for Wings Over Haiti, a school in Haiti founded by Jonathan Glynn of Sag Harbor.

After Christie and Stenn created the Karma Kids group, the first art sale, which included a variety of projects, made $1,500, which was donated to Save the Children; CARE, an organization that fights global poverty; and the Bridgehampton Day Care Center.

“They lovingly and willingly give of themselves and their creative abilities to help people around the world,” Stenn said. “I think it raises a consciousness in them that is lovely, really lovely.”

This year, the Karma Kids program has also taken on a creative director, Deborah Lukasik, who teaches the classes, and Stenn is hoping to expand the group's online presence by selling the children’s artwork on Etsy.com, an online marketplace for artists.

Six-year-old Paolo Christie-Schrank enjoys doing the artwork, but his favorite thing about Karma Kids is helping people.

“Sometimes grown-ups help grown-ups, sometimes grown-ups help kids,” he said. “This is kids helping kids.”

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