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Monday, 04 December 2006

World Art for A.L.S. Awareness

Written by Arya Kazemi
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ButterflyGetting the opportunity to use one’s vocation or avocation to further a worthy cause is something that nearly all of us seem to aspire to, but don’t always fully pursue or know how to go about. Since everyone who visits this innovative site (and I emphasize ‘in’) lists travel either as his or her business or hobby: the project I’m about to mention may be your perfect chance.

artI was lucky enough to actually have the opportunity come to me quite serendipitously. A couple of years ago, I was researching a trip through the various islands of the Indian Ocean and found the tiny nation of Comoros to be a remarkably hard location to get information about through the internet, so I started a thread on a very popular travel forum asking for any and all input regarding tourism on that island.


ButterflyThough the thread itself turned out to be something of a disappointment (only a handful of fairly vague responses), a private message related to it would turn out to be the elusive chance that I had always hoped for in terms of passing on goodwill.






Mr. Fred Siwak of Ipswich, Massachusetts dropped me a brief note regarding his personal project and goal: having his artwork photographed in every country of the globe. At first I thought it was a commendable effort, but of course which artist would not like to have his creations reach such a wide audience? After a bit of further research I found out just how remarkable both Fred and his project were— in 1998, Mr. Siwak was diagnosed with the degenerative muscle condition amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (A.L.S.), commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.


A.L.S. affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, leading to muscle weakness and atrophy. Confined to a wheelchair, Fred is almost completely paralyzed and uses a BiPAP — a machine that pumps air into his lungs — because he has only 20 percent of normal breathing strength.






According to Fred, various factors went into his decision to undertake this very ambitious project called World Art for A.L.S. Awareness. The increased isolation and the realization that his mobility and muscle control were about to be reduced quickly and dramatically heightened his desire to raise awareness regarding A.L.S, and most importantly- the need to make “a connection with the world,” fully knowing the lowered life expectancy caused by the Syndrome.

artMr. Siwak has created more than 60 images on his computer by moving the mouse wedged between his hands and using lateral pressure in order to control the mouse. His work highly emphasizes nature and consists mostly of birds, flowers, butterflies and other such natural wonders.

Through sheer determination (even though he must use a mouth stick to type Mr. Siwak still seeks out participants for his project on a daily basis through various online sites) Fred has managed to knock off all but a baker’s dozen countries from the list of 194 nations recognized by the World Art project.Butterfly



Those countries are:



Antigua and Barbuda



Central African Republic


Congo (Republic of the Congo: Brazzaville)

Equatorial Guinea



Micronesia, Federated States of









I regret that I have not been able to help Mr. Siwak with a photo from the Comoros (my trip to that section of the world has been delayed various times), but ever since finding out about his project- I’ve made sure to carry along his artwork on all my journeys. Fred has assigned me two different butterfly paintings and I tend to think that he is insightful enough to know the esoteric significance of this vivacious creature (especially as it pertains to the human soul or ‘psyche’ as the ancient Greeks put it).


Though the project does not have a preferred method for the artwork to be shown (it can even be handheld by the photographer), I prefer using eye-catching people to hold it up for the camera.



One very peculiar experience I had was in Cuba, where I was approached along Havana’s famed boardwalk (Malecon) by one of the ever-present harlots scouring the tourist areas for a single male customer-- fully knowing the harsh economic realities that had forced this young lady into such a profession, I figured that a small handout in exchange for utilizing her as a model for the project would be a fair tradeoff.cuba



Though adding the few remaining uncovered nations to his list is Fred’s priority at this time, he is always looking for additions to his project and of course does not mind having various images from one country or specific locale. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


©Arya Kazemi

Arya’s personal website is

Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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