When Malcolm Asher began volunteering in his local oncology/hematology outpatient clinic, he had no idea how profoundly this experience would impact the trajectory of his life and the lives of so many children around the globe. While volunteering, Malcolm saw how vulnerable and scared the children he interacted with were and wanted to alleviate even just a small piece of the pain they were experiencing.
Malcolm decided to set up art supplies as a way to bring a simple joy to the pediatric patients. He expected the children to make pictures for themselves or their parents but was surprised to see one of the children paint a picture for her friend in the clinic who wasn’t painting with them. This interaction allowed Malcolm to realize that sharing art fosters “a great sense of positivity and confidence” for all involved.
Malcolm began ArtPass as a way to facilitate the sharing of art between hospitalized children and address this gap present in art therapy. However, after starting his venture, Malcolm realized that there are so many other issues present surrounding pediatric hospitalization. Around the world many children fear hospitals and, primarily in developing countries, hospitals ignore the emotional well-being of pediatric patients. ArtPass is now a “youth-led international nonprofit that seeks to remold and reimagine how kids across the world experience and perceive the hospital, through the power of art.” ArtPass seeks to improve hospital experiences for children by increasing access to art supplies for pediatric patients in all 195 countries, by connecting young patients in the same hospital together through in-hospital (pen-pal style) art programs, and through education and advocacy efforts in developing nations. ArtPass currently has 75 chapters registered globally, has directly impacted over 9,000 children worldwide, and expects to have over 100 chapters registered by the end of the year.
Malcolm credits the child-life specialists at the hospitals he has worked with for “making everything possible” and helping him to navigate general hospital hierarchies and the administrative realities of working with hospitals. He also credits his grandma for inspiring him to be a changemaker. Growing up, through the creation of her own charitable organization, Malcolm’s grandmother “convinced him that change could be possible, regardless of the roadblocks that he may encounter.”
Thanks to his grandmother and his own experiences creating ArtPass, Malcolm firmly believes in the importance of working towards a world in which every individual can follow their dreams as a changemaker. He acknowledges that doing so can be “intimidating at times” but that it is also very attainable because “everyone has the potential to be a changemaker.”