Remolding and Reimagining How Kids Across the World Perceive and Experience the Hospital

Photo of Malcolm Asher
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Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."

It started at my local children’s hospital. On my first day, I was asked to help in the overrun Hematology-Oncology outpatient playroom where I found about 10 kids who were clearly going through a very uncomfortable and vulnerable time. I saw these kids hooked up to blood transfusion machines and with needle ports sticking out of their bellies, and I wanted nothing more than to alleviate some of that pain. But what could I, a brand new volunteer with no health care experience, possibly do for them? Somehow, my mind went to drawing -- something that always sent me to another world when I was a kid. My artwork always helped me zone out, express myself, and feel better if I was confused or down. I didn’t know then what I know now: art has incredible healing qualities which we are only beginning to fully understand.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Every single year, 5.4 million kids die from easily treatable diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhea, but the hospital remains, on average, one of kids four biggest fears. Because of the isolation kids endure in hospitals in developed countries and because of the horrible conditions and quality of life in hospitals in developing countries, a huge stigma surrounds hospitalization and many kids are afraid to seek out medical attention.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

ArtPass is the only nonprofit solely focused on changing how kids perceive and experience the hospital. Through the power of art, we hope to eradicate the stigma surrounding hospitalization, encourage more kids to seek out medical attention, and improve the quality of life, as a whole, in the hospital. We offer two solutions: one domestic and one international. Domestically, we sponsor unique in-hospital art programs called PassALONG and PassPALS that help hospitalized youth not only create art but share their art with other kids in the hospital. Sharing art has been largely overlooked in art therapy and can greatly reduce that isolation kids endure in the hospital while fostering positivity, confidence, and courage. Internationally our #Artfor195 campaign is seeking to make art supplies accessible to kids in all hospitals across the world and to educate and encourage kids to seek out medical attention when they feel symptoms of common yet lethal diseases. By bringing thousands of art supplies to children's hospitals and advocating at schools and in communities in developing areas of the world, we are remolding how kids view the hospital so it doesn't have to be such a scary place.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

There was a girl in Cape Coast, Ghana, about 12 years old, who fell very ill and became partially paralyzed. It was obvious how drained and uncomfortable she felt. The only entertaining outlet some of these hospitalized kids had was to simply walk around the small hospital room but she couldn't even do that. I worked in her ward of the hospital for about a week and was heartbroken every time she would put her arm over her eyes and cry alone. Finally, I was able to present to her an ArtPass "PassPACK" of art supplies and her entire face lit up. I saw her grin for the next two hours and over the next two days I was in that unit, she was enthralled in her artwork. It was obvious that her feelings of sadness and loneliness were partially alleviated because of our pack of art supplies. I believe that those supplies will alter how she perceives the hospital for the rest of her life.

5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

There are many organizations that use art therapy to heal, and there are many organizations that provide medical supplies and equipment to hospitals in need. ArtPass is reinventing how we think about these two areas of support and we are addressing the larger unaddressed need. While part of healing is medical treatment, another part of healing is emotional and mental health. If kids are so scared of the hospital, they can't receive medical treatment before it might be too late. And if kids inside the hospital are left with nothing productive to do, their mental health will be extremely poor.

6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

To date, we have registered 63 chapters across every continent and our programs and initiatives have reached almost 7,000 hospitalized kids. We are quickly working towards our goal of reaching 20,000 kids by the end of the year. In addition, our Global Ambassadors are also now going into schools in their local communities to share the work ArtPass is doing and educate these students (ages 4-18) around the importance of seeking out medical attention when symptoms for preventable disease arise. Every day, kids and adults from some of the most rural regions of the world message me on Facebook to express how large of an impact ArtPass is or could making in their local communities. We have even received a request from our Ghana branch to start an official ArtPass office so they can go directly to the Ghanian government to seek out more support and a wider presence for ArtPass in Ghana.

7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

The next step is to continue to scale. From all of the messages we've received and from we know first-hand, there are MILLIONS of more kids who can benefit from our programs and initiatives. We plan to reach more kids by continuing to grow our Global Ambassador network to start more chapters (with the goal of registering branches on every continent in the world), partnering with many more nonprofit organizations and companies and building relationships with more hospitals. Additionally, we want to bring awareness to many other people around the issues that we're working with through continuing our education and advocacy efforts.

8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?

The largest thing we need is funding. We've calculated that it costs us about $1 to support one hospitalized kid. While this cost is low, millions of kids are hospitalized every year and we're seeing that demand for our programs and initiatives are far greater than we can handle. We're currently in the sweet spot where we've established the need and have shown tangible results, but our organization is still malleable. The support provided by T-Mobile and Ashoka would be immeasurable. From the business expertise from both companies, to the opportunities to learn from other professionals and young changemakers, to the chance to receive seed funding and other prizes, the Changemaker Lab would bring ArtPass to an entirely new level.

9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100
  • Donations between $100-$1k

10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.

Something I believe strongly in is the power of youth. Young people are so frequently disregarded but offer so many fresh, new perspectives and offer a drive and passion is that incredibly strong. This is why we value our ArtPass Global Ambassador network so greatly. It's young people who have propelled our growth, and it's those young people who help inspire me every day by showing new ways we can share our story, fundraise, and advocate. It's also why our Executive Team is comprised 100% of other teens. I look forward to meeting more young people along my journey, through our through our Global Ambassador network and other ventures.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media
  • Search engine
  • Recommended by others
  • In-person event
  • Email
  • Word of mouth

Evaluation results

17 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 76.5%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 17.6%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 5.9%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 58.8%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 35.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 5.9%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 64.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 17.6%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 17.6%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 13.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 88.2%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 11.8%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Nike

Hi Malcolm! I really enjoyed reading about your project and seeing the large impact you have already made. ArtPass personally strikes a personal chord with me. I am half Ghanaian and am also a Hem/Onc patient. My project works with a hematologic disease called sickle cell. (Maybe you've heard of it while at the Hematology/Oncology department?) It involves raising more awareness for sickle cell while also supporting pediatric patients with workshops/coping kits. I would love to hear your advice on how you grew your project, how you get the funding/supplies for your packs, and if you ever run into challenges with HIPAA/ confidentiality- especially with ArtPass volunteers at the hospital. Hoping to keep in touch and/or collaborating. Congrats on all you have done and that to come! :)

Photo of Malcolm Asher

Hi Nike! I would be more than happy to connect and I have really loved learning about your project. Please don't hesitate to reach out at I really look forward to hearing from you (and congratulations to you as well:)

Photo of Nike

I'll definitely send you an email!

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