Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Sustainability works with Teaching Teachers

Teaching Teachers
by Suzzanne Pautler

Necessary Arts realizes that we cannot fly in to Nairobi, teach for a few days, and then leave, if we want the Reach the Unreachable Program to become sustainable.  The question has been bouncing around our heads for some time about how to create that sustainability during our absence.  AMREF shared a great deal with us about how they have organized educational programs around the country, even reaching some fairly remote villages.  They have found that the mobile phone is the tool to achieve success.  Additionally, AMREF introduced us to the Dagoretti Project, a school that reaches out to street kids to help them move through various stages towards rehabilitation.  The school does focus on traditional academics, but is more invested in the visual and performing arts, as the students respond so well to this non-traditional academic environment. The teachers there are eager to exchange information with other teachers, and therefore invited us to lead a teacher training program on site.  

Today was Necessary Arts first attempt to do professional development here in Kenya.  Four teachers and eight student teachers met with us for discussion and collaboration.  We began the workshop with the visualization of a classroom that is so effective that each student learner is being challenged.  From there, we asked the teachers to list with a partner nine teaching strategies that were used in that classroom to make that lesson so effective.  The dialogue immediately switched to Swahili and they were off!  The teachers were so passionate about their responses that when we asked two groups to merge and choose their combined top five strategies, some fairly heated discussions took place.  The conversations took much longer than I anticipated, but since the teachers were so engaged, I did not want to interrupt.  Eventually we shared with them an article from an educational researcher's perspective about the five most effective classroom strategies, which moved our conversation forward in comparison and contrast.  

The most important strategy, according to the article, is that the teacher articulates a clear plan and objective for the lesson.  We introduced the teachers to the Understanding by Design protocol, focusing mostly on stage one, where the teacher must define the enduring understandings and essential questions.  We shared some examples specific to the visual and performing arts to clarify our point.  Teachers seemed to grasp that the "big ideas" are important when organizing a lesson.  At this point, we decided to go outside to the garden to work with the children. Each of the twelve teachers would work with four students.  We gave each group one of our red cards featuring words such as freedom, global citizenship, and equality.  After some discussion with the students, the teachers led them through a drama exercise in using one's face and one's body to express the word.  The group created a tableau, or a statue, to define the word.  The students and teachers were engaged in the activity and put great thought and effort into their work.

The teachers returned to our workspace to continue the dialogue about what enduring understanding and essential questions could be written to support such a learning activity. "Does justice exist?" was the first big question that arose.  Once again, the teachers engaged in thoughtful dialogue about the concept at hand, which eventually transitioned into feedback about the workshop.  Ultimately, they can hardly wait for us to return to continue the conversations!  One gentleman explained that the teaching staff is like a machine.  They work together and make progress.  Necessary Arts is the oil that comes in to keep them working their best.  I thought it was a beautiful analogy to express the exact sentiment we tried to share with them.

The teaching staff at this school are doing an amazing job. We have witnessed the success during each visit.  However, sharing professional conversations and encouraging one another by pushing our thinking can only result in a positive outcome.  The teachers are eager for us to share more learning activities.  When I shared that our drama and theatre arts expert would lead our next workshop, the music teacher raised his hand and responded, "Please don't forget about the music department!" We were so impressed by the seriousness to which they approached this professional development opportunity, that we will not forget the teachers at Dagoretti.  They, along with all the students we have worked with during this visit to Kenya, are tucked into a special little pocket in our hearts.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Exceeding Expectations with Kajiado Girls

Our Girls!
by Suzzanne Pautler

Driving out of Nairobi, toward the cattle grazing in the grassy plains, one instantly takes a deep breath and begins to relax.  However, that peaceful, serene feeling disappeared during our last visit to the Educational and Rehabilitation Center, as we walked into the activity hall and were surrounded by more than 100 students, all hoping to participate in the workshop.  Although chaotic, our previous visit truly was just as exhilarating as it was exhausting.  Today was a different story. The sun had not yet come up and a chill hung in the air.  The majority of students were away, spending the school holiday with their families. However, 12 girls remained.  They were ready to work, and so was the Necessary Arts team!  

The Maasai girls love to perform in the theatre arts and eagerly participated in our games and activities.  We shared with each girl a script about a fisherman along with a brightly colored highlighter.  Suddenly, younger children entered the activity hall, each eagerly wanting paper and a highlighter, too.  The bottom line is that we must replenish our stock of highlighters prior to our next visit!  The girls highlighted their lines in the script and began to practice reading them aloud.  The word "enchanted" proved difficult to pronounce, and the word "tenacity" had no meaning to them.  I explained that we shared new words with them in order to improve their language and literacy.  "Oh, teacher..." is all I got in response, though I imagine a little roll of the eyes, too.  

After we did a group choral reading of the script, each girl nodded in agreement that the story had a good message.  We should not be greedy or needy.  We should be happy with what we have. I was impressed by their reading, listening, and comprehension skills.  

A short snack time ensued and then we moved into an art activity.  The girls needed to draw a character sketch including physical details, clothing, or personal attributes learned through the script.  Our little friends couldn't stand the fact that they didn't have paper or crayons, and so they joined in by drawing the fish for us.  Before we knew it our two and a half hours were up!  Unfortunately, we did not have time for any follow-up or reflection, nor did the girls have a chance to practice personal scripts they had written during our last visit.  Next time we will have to schedule a longer visit with our girls!

Warm hands and more...
by Amanda Milkeraitis

I didn’t really know what to expect today as the Necessary Arts team set off for Kajiado, as day 1 and day 2 were such different experiences. After an early morning start and hopping onto the bus before daylight we set of for our 90 minute drive to reach the young ladies who were waiting for us. Yet again we were welcomed with smiles and handshakes. Lucky my hands are always warm so I could warm up their cold little fingers as it was a chilly morning. It was lovely to also be hugged by girls who I’d never met before, but they are veterans of the Necessary Arts program and knew they’d be met with love and acceptance from our team. Even more than the last two days, these young ladies wanted to approach us individually and introduce themselves and ask our names. Not just shake our hand with a hello and move on.

We worked on a physical warm-up activity to get all of us warmed up and then moved into some individual and team actions and objects. There were a lot of laughs and it served as a great ice-breaker for us who are new to the team.

There were certainly some stand-out performers right from the get-go who were ready to volunteer and perform for us and their peers with confidence and no fear of judgement.  For me this highlights the importance of the Arts in terms of helping all students find a voice and a presence that can serve them in school and in life.

We talked them through a short play and assigned roles. Students were paired up to practice their lines together before our read through. Whilst there were some words that were new and difficult for them, there was no hesitation from the girls in trying to pronounce them – and they all understood the story of the Fisherman and the Princess Fish, with the moral of the story being that happiness outweighs material wealth.

A break for a snack then turned into a Swahili lesson for me. I’ve now got a page of words and phrases that the ladies were so keen to teach me. I loved being the student and them teaching me, and they also were keen to demonstrate their own language skills.

Our time ended way too early with this group of talented teens. We had just made a start on them using their imaginations to make illustrations of their characters when it was time to leave. Many questions of when we’ll be back showed just how much they value the Necessary Arts team – the activities, the learning experience and the care that is show to them is obviously something they continue to look forward to.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

NAS returns to JEHO

Big Hearts, Big Love
by Suzzanne Pautler

Pastor Joseph greeted us with open arms this morning as he brought us into the Pipeline community.  Nearly 40 children joined us in today's four hour workshop. The Necessary Arts team was immediately welcomed as sisters into the Jeho family.  A number of prayers of thanksgiving were verbalized, expressing gratitude that Necessary Arts has returned to the orphanage for the fourth time.

Each time we visit the site, we are overwhelmed by the love and positive energy that exists within each child.  They know that they are in a safe environment and therefore have the initiative to take risks.  They require very little in terms of teacher direction as they eagerly respond to each task we set forth. Today our six groups worked with the words:  strength, peace, community, responsibility, courage, and love.  Our groups began by using only their faces to express these attributes, and then they used their group's bodies as one to form a tableau to demonstrate the concept.  

The groups had two further tasks assigned to them.  One was to create a song/dance/chant that expressed the word, and the other was to create and perform a skit to share a story about the meaning of the word.  Inevitably, their religion featured in each presentation.  For example, 3 boys were smoking and acting up. 3 girls approached them with a Bible in hand to try to convince them to change their ways. Finally, one boy did.  And then he had the courage to go back to his two friends to convince them, too, that their ways were the wrong ways.

Necessary Arts included artwork in the workshop today.  Each group was also tasked with the challenge to draw a picture of what their word means.  They worked diligently and took pride in their creativity. Each group had to give a speech about the meaning of the artwork, and the audience was asked to share compliments in return. The children could hardly stop complimenting one another.  Such respect and support exists.  

The final part of our day asked the groups to reflect in a written format about their words and what the words look like in their lives.  The Love group suggested that they see love on the football field while carrying out first aid or cheering the players.  The Strength group described physical strength in their work throughout the day, but referred to strength in their hearts in their written reflection.  "If you have strength in your heart, you will be determined to achieve anything you want."  The Peace group wrote that we cannot live without peace because without peace, there will be no progress in a nation. They went on to write about the current situation in Somalia including the lack of peace and progress.  The Community group suggested that "community means people coming together in unity", which in their list of examples, included helping the vulnerable children.  The Responsibility group knows they must take great care towards others.  They mentioned the importance of taking care of young ones, which I presume is their daily reality, as 40 children live together in this humble 3-bedroom home.  Finally, the Courage team reminded us that courage can give us victory over anything!  

The childrens' messages are simple, but strong.  And most importantly, one of the oldest boys, stood up to remind the children that they cannot just play games and activities with these words.  They must reflect upon the concept and commit to applying it to their lives.  There is no point for Necessary Arts to return if they do not process what we are teaching them, nor if they ignore the word in their daily lives.  The children received the message.  And Pastor Joseph requested that next time we come, please come for a full two-day workshop!

The House of Love
by Teresa Cantu

Our van bounded down dusty roads filled with people, livestock, trucks, and shopkeepers on a busy Saturday morning in Pipeline, Nairobi.  After dodging numerous potholes and squeezing through tight passages never meant for two lanes of traffic, our van came to an abrupt stop.  It was announced that we had arrived at our destination and I found myself craning my neck in all directions looking for the building that could possibly be ours.

As I walked through the metal doors I at once left the chaotic streets full of honking cars and shouting vendors and entered a space that brings a feeling of peace.  The children of JEHO sat waiting anxiously for our arrival, and Director Joseph greeted us all warmly.  He led us in prayer and spoke kinder words to my colleagues and I than I think I could have ever have been prepared for.

JEHO is a small facility that not only provides food, shelter, and safety for orphans, but also is actively involved in raising the children to be warm, kind, respectful, and confident members of society.  The Christian centered style of education and rearing is evident from the get go as passages from the Bible are written on the humble cement walls.  Children can be heard singing Christian songs throughout our visit.  The idea of love and kindness are not new topics, and while these children have little they are more than willing to put others before themselves.

As Joseph leads the opening prayer, he does not ask the Lord to provide supplies for his children, or money for his school – but rather he focuses on the Necessary Arts team.  He thanks the Lord for bringing us to JEHO.  He prays for our health and wellbeing while in Kenya.  He prays for all of our family and friends. Joseph never once asks for anything in return, which can be rare when people are at times in dire circumstances.  I am beyond touched.

As we move through our activities it is clear that this experience is not like being in any other school or workshop.  It is almost as if we are in someone’s home, and all of these children are brothers and sisters playing with one another.  All in all this family would be made up of about 40 individuals, and they participated in warm up activities, performances that including singing, dancing, acting, and speaking, and an art activity that involved creating a group drawing.  This workshop was twice as long as previous workshops and for good reason!  The enthusiasm and the desire for everyone to be involved and have a chance to shine was clear, and before we knew it our time had flown by and it was time to go home.

Our day once again ended in a community meeting of sorts.  Joseph asked students, individually and directly, reflection questions about the day.  He expected answers on the spot.  As students were called on, they rose to their feet and began to articulate eloquent answers on demand.  This awareness, thoughtfulness, and maturity was shocking to me – in the best of ways of course.  Through my work with Necessary Arts I have learned it is far too easy to assume that students with certain backgrounds and predicaments might not have the confidence to think through their expressions.  However, I have seen time and time again that when given the chance everyone has a voice worth hearing.  More often than not they want to be heard – they are just waiting for someone to care enough to inquire and lend an ear.

Joseph called the Necessary Arts team to the front of the room and two students approached us to vocalize their thankfulness on behalf of the entire group.  We once again bowed our heads in prayer and thanked the Lord for the blessings the day brought. We nourished our minds, bodies, and souls together.  I learned an incredible amount from the JEHO family and the word that stands out to me the most is love.  It almost seemed a tangible force in the room.  Joseph reminded us all that if you want something in life you must be willing to give something in life.  If you want to be loved you must be willing to give love.  I most certainly felt the love from the JEHO community and I in turn truly loved my experience with them today.  I hope to return with Necessary Arts and see how we can nurture our relationship and develop in love together.

Eager for Creative Action
by Amanda Milkeraitis

As the Necessary Arts team set off for our second day, heading for JEHO, I could only base my expectations on yesterday’s experience. Today was very different!   We were greeted by beautiful, warm, engaging, loving children ready to welcome us to their home and family. Joseph, the pastor and “man-in-charge” made a speech that moved me almost to tears. He talked about how some children just need a “place to stand, and someone to hold their hand”. Having many children already greet me with an open hand, open smile and open heart, it was clear that we were there to hold their hands and give them a Necessary Arts experience to enrich their day. It became so clear to me that they were there to actually enrich OUR day, within moments of our program beginning. Necessary Arts transformed into Necessary Hearts.

In terms of stimulating these children with artistic and performing ideas it was definitely a two-way street, as they taught us a new song, “Balance the Ball”.  Because Necessary Arts has a history of visiting JEHO, and their own enthusiastic attitudes, it was obvious that these children were ready and willing for some creative action!  Every activity we asked them to participate in was met with happy faces and strong and healthy ideas from them.

One young lady that touched me in particular, when she quietly mentioned to me that they all LOVED acting and couldn’t wait to create their own shows for us. Her earnest and very real approach to me demonstrated her real appreciation for the Arts and how important it is in her life. This was further backed up when the girls happily told me that the boys were obsessed with football, while the girls loved to sing and dance in their spare time. (Arts so very, very necessary to those lovely young ladies). The boys in our group were also dedicated to stepping up to the task of drawing, writing, presenting and acting today – even if some included some football!

My overwhelming feeling to take away from today was that of family, love and community. These children belong to a family that is comforting, enveloping, accepting, caring and loving – and they made sure to make us feel that we were part of that family. A privilege and honour to be part of this day. I really could’ve stayed for another 4 hours!

Arts for Love
by Melinda Everstyn
Arriving at the JEHO orphanage was a very different experience from the previous day. We drove through the busy, lively streets as the locals were getting on with their weekend activities. The orphanage smack bang in the middle of the township in a 2-story building. The children came from their upstairs sleeping quarters, to greet us in the large room they use as a church, learning space and play area. But from the moment I was greeted from these children I did not see them as orphans, this was one very big family!

We started with a range of warm up activities the children then started a dance/vocal/movement activity called ‘balance the ball’. I was so impressed by their enthusiasm and confidence. We then moved into the main activity, however we made 2 changes from the previous day to suit the needs of these children. Firstly I introduced an art activity. After the students had completed their human statues I gave each group a large piece of paper and drawing materials. They then were challenged to complete an illustration of their groups’ word. I was interested to see if they would use the same clichés I have seen time and time again as a teacher, and I was pleased to report this was not always the case. I was also interested in the same clichés would apply being in a different culture, being in Africa as opposed to the Middle East and Australia where I have taught. I was not surprised to see ‘love’ group started with a heart, however as their ideas developed they made more additions. Most groups incorporated text and their penmanship was both very neat and creative. After the groups finished they presented their art and spoke about it to the audience who then provided feedback. I was not sure how this would go so was very happy when they kept raising their hands with a lot to contribute!
We then continued with the theatre performance however another activity was included, with the students asked to create a musical piece about their words. Some groups incorporated a lot of movement and others was just voice/song. I got goose bumps with their fast thinking, harmonious and moving songs they sung. Their singing was just beautiful.This school has a lot of love for each other, and for the performing arts. Their passion for dance, drama, music and art was very evident. Therefore the ongoing visits from Necessary Arts is very valuable. The orphanage really shows that you don’t need a lot of possessions to be rich, and I hope the facilities can get funding to develop and allow the children more opportunities to grow, as there are so many talented children in this group….start of thefuturI am sure.

Friday, 14 August 2015

UNHCR leads NAS to Sud Academy

Ger Duany kept his word! 
by Naima Thompson

The Good Lie
I met Ger Duany, an actor and model, at a friend's apartment in Harlem last July. After learning about NAS and our outreach project "Reach the Unreachable", he promised to do what he can to bring NAS together with Sudanese refugee children in Kenya. Being a "Lost Boy" from Sudan and experiencing the status of refugee himself, Ger understands the power of humanitarian efforts as well as the usefulness of the arts in the quest for personal healing and development. One year later,  now an ambassador for the UNHCR, Ger Duany holds true to his word. The Necessary Arts Outreach team is working with a dynamic group of refugee children from the Sud Academy. Many thanks to the Kenyan UNHCR team for making this partnership possible. Please view The Good Lie if you want to understand more about the lost boys (and girls) of Sudan.
Some of our team members who had the experience of working with the children express their thoughts in the narratives below.

Playing helps us grow Healthy and Strong
by Suzzanne Pautler

The words "human rights" intrigue me.  I wonder if it is because I grew up in an environment where I took them for granted? Through my life experiences of living and traveling internationally, my appreciation for all that I have, including my human rights, has grown exponentially. Having witnessed the absence of human rights in countries around the world, I appreciate the many NGOs who are fighting to support those whose rights have been taken away or perhaps have never existed.

The Necessary Arts team began our morning at the offices of the UNHCR-Kenya, whose sidewalks were filled with Sudanese refugees who had slept in the queue overnight to seek help early this morning with employment or medical care. We were introduced to a variety of staff members who are working to secure everything from shelters to educational opportunities for those in need.

The current UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador for Sudan is Ger Duany. I know of Ger from his role in the film "The Good Lie", where he portrayed one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, based upon his personal experience.  In his role as Goodwill Ambassador, Ger visited Sud Academy on his previous visit to Kenya and fell in love with the humble school.  Naima met Ger in NYC where they discussed what a great match the objectives of Necessary Arts would be with the students of Sud Academy. The Principal, George, is a former Lost Boy of Sudan who was forced to become an adult at the age of 14 by taking care of all the younger children who were walking with him.  I love that he is still working in this capacity today.  The school educates 235 Sudanese refugees.  The love and pride he shows towards his students is immeasurable.  

As the Necessary Arts team moved through the theatre arts workshop, one group chose to analyze the word "rights". What does "rights" mean? How could the group members form an image with their bodies to demonstrate "rights"? What kind of story could they act out to tell the audience about "rights"?  Rights are such a powerful concept.  Would this group be able to work through the activities and do it justice?

By the end of the workshop, the group had identified six rights as being most important to their lives as young men:
  • The right to an education
  • The right to health care
  • The right to security
  • The right to move
  • The right to play
  • The right to a family

I do not know the background stories of each student to understand how they arrived to be educated at Sud Academy, though I am confident their journeys have been difficult. Despite the obstacles and challenges they have faced as young boys, I love the fact that the right to play appears on their list. "Playing helps us grow healthy and strong."  Every child deserves the right to play no matter the conflict or strife he faces each day.

Although the students are on their school holiday right now, Necessary Arts truly appreciates the 23 students, ranging from ages 8-19, who had the interest and took the time to walk to school this morning to engage in our workshop.  Additionally, 3 teachers and 5 UNHCR members joined us to better understand what Necessary Arts can offer these students.  One representative shared that "she had never seen anything like this" and that she could not believe how quickly the students opened up and responded to us.  Hopefully today was the first step towards a lasting friendship with Sud Academy, where I am confident Necessary Arts was able to "reach the unreachable".

Day One of my Necessary Arts Experience
by Amanda Milkeraitis

My first day visit today with Necessary Arts was to the Sud Academy, and we were met by the staff and inquisitive students as we entered.  The boys seemed tall and the girls were shy!

After some warm-up games filled with curious faces, much clapping and giggling we set the students tasks of working in groups to make various objects – and they seemed very proud of their abilities to make trees, bicycles and chairs. (All very eager to keep hold of their positions until their pictures had been taken).

In mixed groups then the students were assigned the task of improvising a skit based on a word – the words they chose were “peace”, “community”, “strength” and “rights”. With some encouragement the creative process got underway and the natural leaders came to the forefront. I was impressed by the ideas and collaboration that these students demonstrated for us. I think the performing for them, in front of their peers, was challenging for them, but they embraced it and made last minute adjustments to perfect their acts. This was great to see – they had a little pre-performance anxiety, which is quite apt for all actors!

However, the highlight of the day for me was the last activity of the day. We asked all groups to write down what their word meant to them. Most groups had one enthusiastic scribe and the thoughts and ideas were fast and flowing.  I was absolutely flawed by not only their super English writing skills, but their very mature and insightful responses. “Maybe you can be physically strong, but be weak inside”, “if you are strong inside, no word would hurt you or make you disappointed”, “Right to play – helps us grow healthy and strong”, “Community is a group of people to share the mind or ideas together”.

From the beginning of our time with these young people, with shy smiles and quiet voices, it was so very impressive to see spokespersons then get up on the stage and deliver their group’s work with confidence, projection and clarity. The work of Necessary Arts seeks to give each participant the confidence to know that every voice is important.  Knowing what some of these students have been through, these sorts of activities are just what they need to express some of their emotions they have locked inside.  It was a pleasure to see leaders arise within this school community. A joy to watch, and a joy to be a part of! And they were all genuinely sorry to see us leave, which, of course added to the joy I felt about Day One for me – bring on the next few days Necessary Arts!

Student Leaders among the Refugees
by Melinda Everstyen

It was an honor and a pleasure to work with the students of the Sud Academy on my first day working with the Necessary Arts team in Nairobi. After the initial warm-up activities, the students grew in self-confidence and began to initiate ideas in creative and surprising ways. When each group collaboratively interpreted its selected word (strength, community, human rights and peace), all students brought in experiences from their own lives to prepare and perform short pieces of theatre that were both powerful and strong.

My greatest highlight was watching the older students act group leaders.  However, they slowly stepped back and allowed the younger students to step in.  It was great to see students from ages 8-18 working together. Today was a fabulous debut experience for both the school and myself. I hope to be able to volunteer with Necessary Arts in the future to continue to build this special relationship with the students and teachers of Sud Academy.   

A Fulfilling and Rewarding Experience
by Teresa Cantu

Today was a day that I know I will remember for the rest of my life, and I was literally gushing all evening trying to process everything the Necessary Arts team had the pleasure to witness and experience.  The day began with a visit to the United Nations Human Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  This unit is also known as the United Nations Refugee Agency.  As we pulled into the building the line of people in need of aid was already forming, and some people used the small dirt yard to sleep as they presumably had no where else to go.  We met a man named Jackson Karugu who gave us a tour of the UNHCR building and introduced to Margaret Njayakio.  After a brief meeting, and further introductions with members from the regional office, we ventured on to Kawangware.

SUD Academy’s principal George Deng and Deputy Principal Benjamin immediately greeted us at the painted metal gate.  After the usual pleasantries the students of SUD Academy transformed what was moments before a simple, dusty yard into our classroom full of chairs and wooden desks.  We began the workshop standing in a circle and playing the 1-10/10-1 counting game.  Counting once again was a challenge for many students, but this of course was not the true point of the activity.  The participants aged 5 years to 19 years, were already full of smiles and the energy was building.  We moved into the Wave Game to keep this energy up and to get our bodies moving.  Slowly but surely, the students caught on to the rules, but it did become clear that as expected we were working with varying levels of English.  We finished our warm up with a game of group charades in which each group of 4 to 6 students had to form whatever object Suzzi, Melinda, or I called out.  This finally enabled the students to communicate with each other, to work together, and to laugh.

We transitioned into what we are now calling the Red Card Activity.  You can read more details about this activity from my first blog, but we once again chose the word love as our model.  After having discussed what this word means, we asked the students to give a facial expression to depict love and to create a tableau.  As we had a large group, we broke the larger group down into 4 smaller groups and each group received a new word.  This time the words selected, but the students themselves, were peace, community, strength, and rights.  The students spoke with one another before creating tableaus and skits, but ultimately the most powerful moment of the workshop came with the kids had a chance to write down their ideas.

It is amazing that we can ask for volunteers to lead, whether as speaker or scribe, and students immediately volunteer.  They have an air of confidence to them in these activities, and I have to believe that this is largely due to the fact that they love being in school.  They truly understand and appreciate the power of education, and the safety that comes with this special community at SUD Academy.  Who knows what many of these students have witnessed or experienced, but in school they have a place to feel strong, secure, and loved.  After more than 10 minutes of writing we decided to move on, but I do believe many students would have continued given the chance.  We joined once more as a community and listened to the voices of each group leader share ideas.
As a teacher I have always enjoyed watching the audience.  As each student shared ideas the audience was truly transfixed and focused on each word spoken.  There was eye contact and nodding of the head.  These students may look like children, but they are more than aware of the blessings they have in life. They focus on the positives, on their strengths, and they carry with them the desire to help their community.  They are a true family that wants to look out for one another.
Today was a success on many levels.  I felt incredibly fulfilled personally, but I was also pleased knowing the contacts made by Necessary Arts as a whole.  When working with communities such as SUD Academy it becomes incredibly clear how beneficial this type of work is.  The workshops are engaging, therapeutic, challenging, and fun!  As one group pointed out – everyone should have the right to play.  It can be challenging, more so for some, to navigate this life and everyone deserves a bit of fun.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

NAS Says Goodbye to Kilifi...for Now!

Did We Stimulate Minds This Week?
by Suzzanne Pautler

Necessary Arts has a protocol in place whereby we reflect upon our teaching practice at the end of each site visit to determine if we achieved that which we set out to accomplish?  You know how educators are. We always seem to be in the process of writing standards, benchmarks, and assessments to measure if learning has taken  place.  Although our workshops are informal, we still need to try to determine if we were able to "reach the unreachable".

Did we foster global citizenship?  The students were able to define several facets of global citizenship through performance.  Our conversations and activities, along with their understanding of community, peace, and responsibility, focused exclusively on their lives here in Kilifi. Understanding and valuing one's own community is essential to the development of global citizenship, a concept which will continue to be studied on subsequent visits.

Did we promote personal development through creativity and the theatre arts?  Every child had an opportunity to participate in each activity, whether through their use of language, expression or body movement.  

Much group work took place to encourage students who might be a bit shy or intimidated.  As well, there were several opportunities for individual students to shine by volunteering to act as a student leader for the activity.

Did we encourage successful communication in English as a way to develop literacy?  Student groups were asked to complete a written reflection at the end of each lesson.  Additionally, there were opportunities to do individual read alouds or group choral readings during each workshop.  We certainly encouraged communication in English, though the reality is that translation from Swahili to English was incorporated throughout the workshop to reiterate key ideas.

Did we "stimulate minds through artistic expression?"  Through a variety of warm-up activities requiring both physical and emotional expression, as well as a main activity like a dramatic improvisation requiring recall of detail from the script, students were definitely stimulated mentally, while responding artistically.

Even though the students are currently on holiday, they volunteered to attend the workshops and were quite focused and engaged while at Tulia.  More importantly, they returned each day, bringing along their friends and siblings. Our first workshop reached only 15 students, and our final workshop grew to 35 participants. Interestingly, the students here study each school lesson for 35 minutes at a time, while our workshops required attention and participation anywhere from 90-120 minutes.

Necessary Arts looks forward to continuing the workshop with these young learners. They are eager and motivated students who deserve challenging learning opportunities.  Until next time, Kilifi!

Do You Promise to Return?
by Suzzanne Pautler

To our surprise and delight, several younger siblings ranging from 5-8 years old joined us today for the third and final workshop in Kilifi.  As always, the girls wore skirts or dresses, and our youngest addition arrived in a long white satin skirt with a matching sequined top. We were off to a fancy start!  
Necessary Arts is not a donation machine, whereby we magically fill school libraries or fund scholarships.  Our goal is to volunteer our time and talent to achieve certain learning objectives.  However, we do typically travel with several small items on hand, ranging from Necessary Arts t-shirts to body lotions to candies, never knowing exactly what we might need or who we might meet during our journey.  One of our English teaching colleagues in Dubai donated two dozen soft cover books that her child had outgrown, and as a last minute addition, she added 3 small beach balls.  Her donations saved us today!  While the older students had stagecraft work to accomplish, the younger students had a great time playing charades, singing and dancing, and reading books.

In the early afternoon, a beautiful and colorful meal was served to each child as a gesture of goodwill. It included Kenyan pelau, cole slaw, bananas, and bright red hibiscus juice made from blossoms in the garden.  Thirty five participants were involved in today's workshop, ranging from ages 5-25. We hope that each and every one will return for future Necessary Arts visits.

After lunch the students played with the beach balls in the gardens, while looking longingly at the swimming pool.  Finally, a group of girls approached Teresa and I and asked if we would please, please, please go to the beach with them?  And doesn't a beach party sound like a perfect conclusion to 3 days of meaningful workshops?  Our group once again filled the entire road as we slowly walked toward the Indian Ocean.  Soon not one child was dry. Their smiles and shrieks never stopped.  And, of course, just as the beach balls were a huge hit in the garden, they were even more so in the ocean.  

In between riding the waves and playing in the sand, children approached us over and over again asking us if we will promise to return.  Of course!  While we are hoping the students will return, they're hoping Necessary Arts will return.  What a perfect situation.  These conversations have taken place at other schools and orphanages, too. Sometimes when students understand that we are coming back, they start to list all the items they would like us to bring them.  This is a struggle for us to process as we hope they actually want us to come back to further their learning and development. Only one girl whispered a personal request in my ear while we were standing at the beach. She really wants us to bring some skipping ropes, and I think those just might fit in the small item category.  Along with more beach balls, of course!

...And Scene!

Mission Accomplished
by Teresa Cantu

Today marked our final day in Kilifi, and I can honestly say I will be sad to leave this place.  The new friends we have made at Tulia Bofa have made our stay and workshop incredible experience, and the children have been wonderful to work with.  Today’s workshop was a mixture of emotions.  The workshop started on a high as Suzzi and I were once again greatly pleased to see many new faces.  It appeared that many younger siblings of previous attendees were in attendance today.  I am a sucker for toothy grins and dimpled cheeks, so I was enthused from the get go!

We immediately started our warm up games with energy as we used three blowup beach balls provided by a colleague back in Dubai.  All students stood in a circle and tossed the balls to other group members all while sharing something about themselves.  We began with names, and then moved on to favorite fruits, and animals we found most scary.  I am pleased to say I am not in fact the only person that has an aversion to millipedes! As a group, we then transitioned into the counting 1 to 10 and 10 to 1 game that we practiced on day 1. Suzzi and I quickly began to realize that there was still a great stretch in terms of language ability within the group.  However, this game still proved to elicit giggles from everyone involved.

The new warm-up game today involved dividing our large group into smaller groups of four.  Suzzi or I gave the name of an animal or object, and the groups were challenged to position all of their bodies to create this figure.  For example, we began with tree.  Each group of four used their bodies to create one tree together.  From tree we moved on to elephant, millipede, bicycle, and a few others.  This was a great opportunity for the students to think about their body movements, positioning, and to communicate as a team to work together on a common goal.  We upped the ante when the camera was brought out.  The groups seemed to feel re invigorated at the hope of having the group’s photo taken.

At this point the decision was made to divide the full group into 2 halves.  Suzzi worked with the students who learned the play, “The Fisherman, His Wife, and the Sea of Dreams” while I stayed with the new students.  Most of these new students were quite young and we played some of the warm ups that were used in Day 1 and 2.  We also had some time to discuss the words love, community, responsibility, and peace.  We concluded this session with the group teaching me some of their favorite songs and dances that they’ve learned in Kilifi.

As Suzzi and I combined forces, once more we immediately realized that the students from yesterday’s workshop still have some things to learn about performance.  It was a great challenge to have the students perform with proper volume and energy levels, but it was clear they understood the overall plot and theme of the story.  So, this leads us to the next question.  Have we accomplished our larger goals in Kilifi?

My answer is a resounding yes.  First of all, Necessary Arts came to Kilifi to make positive contacts and engage in an outreach experience.  Our numbers grew with each day, so it is clear that participants were talking to their friends and family and recruiting people to return.  We met not only children, but also adults in the community.  We have strong role models, contact information, and most importantly – enthusiasm from these adults.  They will be a huge asset in the future upon Necessary Arts return.  We also met the head teacher at the local Bofa Primary School, and this will allow us to reach an even greater audience of students and educators in the future when school is in session.

Secondly, every attendee became a performer in our Necessary Arts community.  The activities we selected gave students the opportunity to perform as much as he or she liked.  We saw leaders emerge and performers shine during skits.  We witnessed students playing together and depending on fellow classmates for help and support.  Students who might be shy in school or in the home had their fellow participants to act silly with and possibly open themselves up more than they might usually.  Additionally, we practiced our English literacy skills.  Each student engaged in reading activities, spoken word, and writing activities as a group.

Lastly, a large part of Necessary Arts is to discuss global ideas and experiences.  Being that this trip was based on making connections and outreach, I felt it important to make Bofa Village and Kilifi feel like the center of the world.  We spoke about this village and the experiences of this community.  I think this is the most important step when entering a new community, and especially one you want to work with in the future.  It is our job as teachers and volunteers to let the people know how we truly care about their world and experiences.  We listened to the stories of the children, adults, and teachers and we read the words related to their lives.  Further discussions can take place involving global contexts and learning in future visits.  Upon the closing of our final workshop Suzzi asked Answar, “So what do you think?  Do you think this type of work is good for this community?” and he responding passionately with an affirmative, “Oh yes most certainly.”

Answar is a man that wants more for his community, and he even has plans to start a free of charge computer class for Bofa residents.  He also gladly provided lunch after today’s session for 40 hungry faces just to assure that no one would go hungry for the day.  He is the perfect community role model and wore his gifted Necessary Arts t-shirt with pride all day long.  He was also quick to hold us accountable to our message for the sake of his community when he asked, “So, when will you return?”

The day concluded with the children asking Suzzi and I to join them at the beach for an afternoon swim.  Fully clothed they bounded into the crashing waves that brought the afternoon tide higher and higher.  Their laughter and smiles were once again infectious, and the same children that were so quiet and shy two hours previous became obsessed with being the models for the ever clicking camera.  We appeased their requests of, “Take my photo, take my photo!” The beauty of a digital camera is the instant gratification of seeing one’s photo, but it also means a photo can be easily erased.  As Suzzi and I snapped away we were fully aware that others would never witness most of these photos – much like the very experience we were a part of.

When it was time for the children to go home they quickly asked, “When will you come back, when will you return?” I do not want this trip to mimic that digital camera.  One visit can easily give instant gratification in knowing that we gave our students an enjoyable experience, but I do not want these children to become like the easily disposable photos.  Each one of them is important and their experiences are worth remembering and sharing.  This first trip was a great opportunity for outreach and I know Necessary Arts will do continued beneficial work with these students and community.  As we prepare to leave Kilifi in the morning we know we now have three new local leaders, contacts in a local school, more than enough students to fill a workshop, and the personal desire to return to continue what we’ve started.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

A New member of the NA Team shares her Experience

Bofa Drama Workshop: Monday August 10, 2015 – Kilifi, Kenya
by Teresa Cantu

After a quick thirty-minute layover at my home in Dubai, I quickly squeezed my puzzled cat goodbye and joined my friend Suzzi as we darted off to the airport.  Two flights and fifteen hours later we found ourselves pulling into the incredible Tulia Bofa.  The longtime friends of Suzzi, Kerry and George, built the picturesque cottage.  The two smiling faces of Answar and Mirella, who gave us a tour of the premises, greeted us warmly.  They went out of their way to make sure we had everything we needed to be comfortable, but the best part is that they were greeting us as friends and not as guests.

Pesky jet lag and a long day of travel meant that my bed became my new best friend around 9pm.  Having slept a solid seven hours I found myself ready to face my first full day in Kenya at 4am.  Perhaps there was an air of excitement and anticipation, but I found myself counting the hours until the sun would rise and I might feel it an appropriate time to start the day and further lesson plan with Suzzi.  Fast-forward to 10am and Answar, Kazungo, and the grounds crew transformed the front garden of Tulia Bofa into a proper tented classroom and performance space.  Children from neighboring villages begin to trickle in through the front gate and before we knew it we had seats full of students ranging in ages from 12 to 40 years old.

The idea behind Necessary Arts is to empower all participants as students and leaders.  As some members of the group appeared to be a bit shy, we began the day with warm up activities to get everyone up and moving.  The Wave activity had each participant using body movement to mimic the person standing to their left.  This game quickly elicited giggles from everyone and helped us move into our next game.  This time everyone was asked to cross an imaginary lake while acting out motions assigned to them by other group members.  The most boisterous activity came last as the task of counting up and down from 1 to 10 was set to a beat provided by clapping hands.  Who knew counting could be so fun? This activity focused not only on voice, but more importantly on the significance of eye contact as a means of communication and confidence.

Three leaders emerged as we transitioned into our next activity.  We asked all students to think about the word love and what it means.  All were asked to think about what it felt to love and be loved.  The acting began as each individual was then challenged to make a facial expression showing what love looked like.  Some students were more willing than others.  Mirella, a 22 year old young woman living in Mombasa, lit up inside and she visually expressed her emotion with a grand smile.  She became one of the leaders when the full class divided into three smaller groups. Each smaller group created a stationary tableau to show what love looked like. Ziwadi, a 19 year old Kilifian working on the grounds of Tulia Boha, and Furaha, a 25 year old who has traveled abroad as a soccer player and works in Kilifi as a girl’s soccer coach, emerged as leaders within the second group.  The third group, comprised of younger students, performed well as they began to communicate and trust each other through the sharing of ideas.

After each tableau, all of which involved the physical embracing of all participants, a new word was given to each group and the same instructions were given.  The first step was to understand the meaning and feeling of the word and then a tableau was created.  Mirella’s group received the word responsibility and their tableau looked like people picking crops from the earth.  This makes complete sense given the region of Kenya. Ziwadi and Furaha’s group received the word peace and once again their tableau displayed people holding hands and embracing one another.  The final group of youngsters received the word community and they too joined hands in solidarity as statues.  Students were next immediately challenged to display the opposite of their assigned word.  The responsibility group immediately stopped their imaginary work and began sitting down or looking like many other teenagers around the globe – completely mesmerized by a smartphone.  The peace group dropped hands with their neighbors and turned their backs on one another.  Finally, the community group, no longer arm in arm, walked away from one another.

The final performance task came when students created their own skits to show their understanding of each word.  After about 5 minutes of group discussion, Suzzi and I coaxed each group to their feet to encourage the acting portion of the performance to come alive.  As performances came together, we reminded each group about the importance of eye contact, stage presence and positioning, as well as volume and pace.  The focus of Responsibility performance was a doctor helping an injured girl and two of the actors emerged as true performers.  The Community performance was truly beautiful as it depicted people planting and harvesting guavas.  As there were only three guavas in the harvest, rather than only three people having a taste, the actors divided the three guavas so that every actor and member of the audience was able to have a piece. The choice, be it intentional or not, to have no spoken word was also powerful in communicating the overall message.  Finally, the Peace group portrayed two individuals, Furaha and a young boy, having an aggressive exchange.  The boy commented on Furaha’s clothing.  This was notable as she was the only female in the entire group to wear pants rather than a skirt.  He commented that, “Girls should not dress like this!” and she fired back threateningly.  It is evident that this is no doubt a situation that Furaha has experienced in real life.  In the scene, two other actors emerged convincing Furaha and the boy to make peace with one another.  The skit ended with each actor holding one another’s hands high in the air and chanting, “You are my brothers and sisters. We must live in harmony and peace!”  One cannot argue the importance of these words.

The English teacher in me could not help myself, and the activity ended with each group huddled around a piece of paper writing their final takeaway from the activity and their understanding how they see their word in Kilifi.  Suzzi and I were impressed at how serious and engaged each student was in sharing his or her opinion on the subject.  
The first day of our Bofa drama workshop ended with an activity where we acted as animals in one final round of silliness and laughter.  Students were invited to take candies from a bag provided by Suzzi before venturing home.  Although, many of the girls seemed a bit more excited to pluck the ripe guavas provided by the fragrant tree whose shade we had the privilege of utilizing all morning.

Day two begins tomorrow and we’ve encouraged today’s students to bring along friends, siblings, and family.  Tomorrow we will expose students to scripts and expand upon stage and performance instruction.  It should be an exciting day, and I look forward to seeing both returning and new faces.

Bofa Drama Workshop: Tuesday August 11, 2015 – Kilifi, Kenya

After a fantastic Day #1 my recharge for the soul came in the form of Wi-Fi (I hate to have to admit that) and a great night’s sleep.  The plan to utilize my jetlag to catch the morning’s sunrise on Kilifi Beach proved futile as I remained in bed until 7am.  I suppose today is the last day to use my jetlag as an excuse!  10am came quickly and Suzzi and I are proud to say that we doubled our attendance in just one day.  Today we had a student as young as 10 years and Answar joined us for opening activities once again.  

We learned while chatting yesterday that Answar is a trained teacher, and like so many others, he left the profession as low pay and the number of pupils began to rise.  He also spoke of his frustration with teacher solely teaching to the test, which leaves students at a disadvantage once they move on the higher levels of education.  Does this tale sound familiar?  I’m sure teachers around the world, and most certainly in my native United States, will relate to this frustration.  However, upon seeing Answar working with kids today it is clear to see that he really has something special.  He is a great contact and support to have within the communities of Kilifi and Bofa.

Today’s workshop began with a human knot activity.  We thought this would be a great way to get the participants working together, speaking, moving, and hopefully laughing with one another.  Most of you will probably be familiar with this game.  People work in small groups and grasp hands with the person standing across from them.  Once all hands are connected this leaves the arms looking like a tangled knot.  The challenge is to then delicately twist and turn, without releasing any hands, and untangle the knot.  We assured our students this task was in fact possible, but after several minutes, unsuccessful attempts, but thankfully no dislocated shoulders, we made each group smaller and gave a demonstration.  We found that all groups could find success if we made each group no larger than three. Perhaps they will try again in the future and have better luck.

We worked once more with The Wave game I mentioned in yesterday’s entry.  However, this time we added sound and rhythm to the mix.  We began with simple tapping, and then added clapping, jumping, and cheering.  The build up of energy was great, and this was greatly due to our increased numbers.  The energy was infectious.  We carried this energy into a game of storytelling in which each student is only allowed to give one word at time.  The story grows with each new word given by each new member of the group.  This game has mixed success and we were working with children of very varying levels of English, but the best part was still that the students supported one another and tried their best.  We ended with a fun round of charades in which participants acted out various actions, animals, and emotions.  We finally felt like an energized community.

Suzzi, Naima, and I selected a short play entitled, “The Fisherman, His Wife, and the Sea of Dreams” for today’s workshop.  There were six parts in total and we divided students into each group.  There were between 4 to 5 members per group.  Each group was given a highlighter and asked to highlight their character’s lines.  They then had some time to practice the lines before the choral read-aloud of the play.  We all agreed that this play was perfect as it was about a man who returns a fish to the sea upon catching her.  She tells the fisherman, called Fred, that she is in truth an enchanted princess!  Because of his kindness in not serving her as dinner for family and friends, he is granted wishes.  His wife wishes for a castle but remains displeased.  Fred returns to the fish and asks for a tasteful palace.  However his wife is still not pleased, and neither is a friend who is also displeased with the gifts she has also received.  Fred’s final wish is simply to ask that his friends and family are always happy.  He returns home and finds that his original shanty of a house is back, but the friends and family are all happy.  They will of course live happily ever after.  
We spoke with the students about happiness and how we can find happiness when we learn to appreciate all that we do have in life, rather than focusing on what we do not have.  The groups worked on a final task in which they created lists of things that make them happy in their own lives and community.  Suzzi and I were thrilled to see that all groups listed having a school to attend, a beach to play on, and family and friends to share time with.  There was no negativity around.  

As the workshop on day two concluded we asked if any students might be willing to escort us to one of the local schools.  We know the schools are on summer holiday but we thought we would try to make any point of contact we could for a future visit.  As we left for our journey we expected to be escorted by one or two students, but to our surprise the entire group joined us!  We walked the streets, a mixture of paved and dirt roads, and spoke about plants, animals, my white skin, and curly black hair.  Much of the talk amongst the kids was in their native Swahili.  I need to add that to the list of things to learn…

After about 40 minutes of walking we arrived at Bofa Primary School.  The school was created in 2010 with just two classrooms, but after several donations they have been able to build a total of seven classrooms, two offices, and 3 bathrooms.  We met the head of school, a man named Justus, and he gave us a tour.  He beamed with pride at the state of his school, but he was also very honest with the struggles. Each classroom, all of which are smaller than my own, hold at least 40 students.  There is also no electricity – which is making the planned computer lab a bit of a challenge.  However, he remains nothing but positive and we look forward to working at his school in the future.

During our walk home it became clear why this community is so incredible.  After today’s lesson the participants once again picked guavas from the neighboring tree.  Each student left the home with multiple guavas, and as we came across young children on our walk our students passed off their fruits to those they knew did not have any.  If you look at these kids you might think they are without and would therefore cling to what they do have, but we witnessed the opposite.  It brought back our words of study from yesterday’s lesson: Peace, Responsibility, Community, and Love.  Right then and there we witnessed it all.  They are a true community and share with one another at all times.  We hope that after we teach our students new skills, games, and activities they will make these same choices and chose to share their experiences with others.  This is after all what Necessary Arts is all about.