Pollyanne Paints for Water

Written by
Hayley Bartsch
Published on
October 28, 2022 at 3:32:00 PM PDT October 28, 2022 at 3:32:00 PM PDTth, October 28, 2022 at 3:32:00 PM PDT

Pollyanne is well-acquainted with the harrows of water scarcity. Now in her golden years, she remembers her own personal experience growing up on the Prairies in the 1940s. Even though her family had a well on their property, water always seemed to be an issue. Sometimes the well would run dry or the water become contaminated, causing enormous difficulty for them.

“Good water is a miracle!” Pollyanne exclaims. “It helps people and communities thrive.”

It’s this personal connection to water that motivates Pollyanne to help others get access to the life-giving resource. "Food will come after the water,” she says, knowingly. “Hard to grow food without water!”

A number of years ago, two men with Food for the Hungry (FH) visited her Alliance church to share about their many years experience living and working in Africa. They shared about the continent and the people, their culture, gifts, and needs, including access to water and food security. 

Pollyanne resonated with what she heard and began monthly supporting their work. "Giving isn't something difficult,” she says. “It's so rewarding.”

As the years went by, Pollyanne eventually moved into a retirement home. But it didn’t suit her—she needed a purpose. For so many years, she had been a single mother struggling to get by. They had survived on welfare until Pollyanne gathered her courage, went back to school, and became a nurse! With her new profession, she was able to support her family on her own.

So, settling into a sedentary life just wasn’t for her. “I started [painting] because I was bored silly,” Pollyanne says frankly. When one of the women living in her retirement home asked if anyone wanted to learn to paint, Pollyanne’s hand shot up. At age 75, Pollyanne picked up a paintbrush and dared to try something beyond stick people.

It turned out to be a rocky start.

Pollyanne’s first instructor passed away just a few months after she started lessons. A second instructor took up the mantle, but sadly, she also died just one month later. When the third painting teacher offered to tutor Pollyanne, she firmly replied, “Absolutely not! It’s too risky.”

Instead, she shut herself into her home and started a series of what she called “Grandma’s closet paintings” for her grandchildren. As she painted, Pollyanne’s desire to “do something for the Lord'' grew. She had previously donated a water well through a US organization, but she wanted to give through a Canadian organization and Food for the Hungry came back to mind.

So she started selling her paintings to raise funds to donate a $2,500 Water Well to an FH partner community struggling to access water. At first, people bought her paintings for $25, then $50, then $150! Fundraising through painting is what Pollyane jokingly calls her insurance policy—“I can’t go blind or die until I finish this well!”

And she fully plans to continue painting to fund another well.

“Mine is a story of love,” Pollyanne shares. “Life has been hard, but God is so good and I can’t grumble. Doing something for others is the most joyful thing you can do. I couldn't live if I didn’t give.”

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