Children & Youth Project nurse gives gift of art
It’s 7:30 p.m. and nurse Minkah Baunjoko has seen the last patient of the day at the Children & Youth Project, a University of Louisville pediatric teaching practice. Besides administering routine immunizations and testing eyes and ears, one of his most important jobs is to ensure that each child’s visit is as enjoyable as possible. Before heading home, however, he has another project to attend to in the clinic.
The eggshell white walls of the C&Y halls often reminded Minkah of a military hospital where he used to work rather than an inviting place for children. “We needed more color!” Baunjoko said. Taking it into his own hands this past spring, he put down his charts and picked up a paintbrush for one final after-work push on a mural that is his gift to the department.
This is a project that began over a year ago when Baunjoko convinced C&Y management that a colorful mural would make the clinic more inviting to children. He volunteered to do the mural himself rather than have the department commission an artist for the job.
He saw it as an opportunity to give to the clinic and the kids who visit each week. Although he had no prior experience as a painter, he penciled his rough sketch on the wall last summer and continued adding to it over the next few months with any free time he could find.
Staff and returning patients alike took notice as the artwork continued to grow each week. “Everyone was asking if I was going to paint it,” Baunjoko said. By winter, the pencil drawing spanned the length of the wall.
The project went into overdrive this spring when the department purchased acrylic paint supplies for the mural. “I just dove back in,” Baunjoko said.
He began painting the drawing with time he made before and after his shifts. Other C&Y nurses sometimes covered Baunjoko’s appointments so he could block off sections of the hallway to continue his work.
Today, the colorful mural spans the length of the clinic’s hallway from floor to ceiling and represents weeks of Baunjoko’s donated time. At the center of the mural, children hold up the letters, “C&Y.” They’re surrounded by smiling trees, colorful flowers and bustling wildlife. Smaller details like a sleepy teddy bear and a family of squirrels hide in the painting and take several passes to notice.
“The painting is a bright spot in our space,” Medical Director Becky Carothers, M.D., said. “Minkah is a role model to our patients and families.”
New inspiration strikes him each time he walks past the wall during his shifts. Most recently, he added a family of moose for Dr. Judy Theriot to remind her of her travels to Montana. Continued suggestions make the mural a project for the entire C&Y staff.
Baunjoko is reminded that his time was well spent each time a patient’s face lights up in front of the mural. “We try to make this clinic a happy place for the kids,” he said. “That’s what this whole project came to represent for me.”