WHEN New Yorker John Lombardo discovered pupils at disadvantaged schools in Nelson Mandela Bay were hungry to learn about art, he decided to devote his time to them.
The executive director of New York-based Artworks for Youth even provides food, school shoes and uniforms to Sivuyiseni Intermediate and Joe Slovo Primary School pupils.
He is one of the inspirational people who have been selected as the top five finalists in this year's The Herald GM Citizen of the Year.
Sivuyiseni Intermediate School principal, Willreau Farao, said Lombardo's involvement not only benefited pupils but teachers too.
"Arts and culture is a new subject but we are seeing the importance of it now," he said.
Farao said Lombardo also provided food for his pupils and helped fix the school building.
Lombardo said most received their largest meal of the day during art classes. "While we know that art instruction does not provide solutions to the larger issues faced by the pupils, I strongly believe they can more easily face these burdens through art," Lombardo said.
Theresa Hardman, artEC Community Art Centre chairwoman, along with Colin and Jan Wells, nominated Lombardo for Citizen of the Year.
"He is from another country but he is doing so much good here," Colin Wells said.
Artworks for Youth has also benefited the community.
Hardman said: "He has involved many residents in the project, employing them as teachers, coordinators and workers. He also brings volunteers from the US to assist him." Lombardo's relationship with the Bay began in 2003.
"We had a site at a public school in New York City that already had a relationship with a NGO based here. As part of that programme, I visited Sivuyiseni Intermediate School in KwaMagxaki," he said.
"The pupils were far more appreciative than those in New York and we could work with more pupils here [with] the same budget. So a year later, we were working exclusively in the Bay."
Artworks for Youth started operating full-time in Nelson Mandela Bay in 2009 when Lombardo relocated to South Africa.
Lombardo goes back to New York every three months, for fundraising activities.
In May, Lombardo put up an exhibition of some of his pupils' work at artEC where the public were able to buy the work. He is also exhibiting the work in the US.