Eileen O’Neall: Bringing hope abroad through the arts – APU Articles
A trip changed the life course of Eilen O’Neall (’12). During his freshman year at Azusa Pacific University, O’Neall made a Student Action Center (CSA) trip to the Himalayas. O’Neall, who majored in music education and performance, was about to give music lessons at a home of Mother Theresa in Kolkata when she saw a blind boy begging for change. “He was singing and he had such a beautiful voice,” O’Neall recalled. “It was the first time I saw the effects of human trafficking. It was an eye-opening experience.
Many children like this in the region and around the world are intentionally abused by adults because they are likely to earn more from begging if they are disabled. “I learned that his eyes had been damaged on purpose. It didn’t sit well with me and I knew I had to react,” O’Neall said. After returning to California, she began researching the problem and what was being done to combat it. “I asked myself, what can I do as a music teacher? How can I help solve this problem? »
O’Neall returned to South Asia after completing her undergraduate studies at APU. “The reality of the vulnerable children I had encountered in the Himalayas never left me,” she said. O’Neall decided to found a non-profit organization, International Creative Hope, with a small group of artists, all connected from APU. They have run music and dance camps in South and Southeast Asian countries with high rates of human trafficking. The camp had an impact on the lives of these children. “Girls who had been rescued from abuse and trafficking learned to express themselves through dance, reclaiming their bodies for something beautiful. It gave them so much confidence. Counselors said it was amazing to see how much of a contrast there was between the girls after camp.
Although the group was limited by their school schedules, including O’Neall who was pursuing his master’s degree at Cal State Long Beach, they traveled the world again the following year to continue camp. After completing her master’s degree, O’Neall moved to South Asia and working with Creative Hope International became a full-time job. Since then the association has grown with a team of local staff in the Himalayas and a long-standing partner in Southeast Asia. They have helped over 1,000 people since 2014 by teaching singing, musical instruments, folk music and dance. “We believe that love and creativity change oppressive minds and systems. When people create, they can embody justice, beauty and hope,” O’Neall said. “Music and the arts offer a powerful avenue for healing, restoration and empowerment.We give students channels of connection where they can realize their potential and have a better future.
Much of the impact O’Neall has through her nonprofit organization is a result of the musical education she received at APU. From serving in the college choir and orchestra to participating in CSA mission trips, O’Neall said she was equipped for her current work throughout her time at APU. . “I absolutely loved my ethnomusicology class. It’s particularly useful for my teaching today because it explores music in different cultures. Classical Western music is not as appropriate in South Asian music classrooms,” she said. “Music education classes made us do a lot of observational and participatory learning, which was really useful.” While his music lessons were essential to his current teaching, one of O’Neall’s greatest learning moments came in his Christian Life Faith and Ministry class with Michael Bruner, PhD. “I realized that being what God called me to be is like Christ.”
Faith plays a major role in O’Neall’s life and work. “I believe that God loves everyone, especially these vulnerable children. My faith keeps me going and facing challenges with confidence,” she said. “My work is 100% based on his loyalty and his promises.” O’Neall said she has seen many examples of God moving in the Himalayas, including stories of her students letting go of negative and oppressive labels. “I get a glimpse of the story God is weaving, and I love to see how God’s love changes people’s hearts and lives.”
Posted: November 2, 2022