Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Promises of Peace One Day

By Suzzanne Pautler

Talk of pelau, bananas, and tamarind juice must have been in the air because prior to our start time of 9:30, 45 participants were already seated and ready to begin the workshop.  In all, 85 participants, the youngest being just two years old, arrived for our final day together. The theme "Perceptions of Peace" was the focus of our four day program and on the final day it seemed fitting to have the older students reflect upon this ideal. Students were asked to write down specific actions they will undertake in order to ensure peace within their community. 
10 year old Mary promises to share what she has, like food, with others. 13 year old Erick will stop fights on the streets. 17 year old Amani promises to be honest. 11 year old Alice will love her friends. 14 year old Jackson will share story books. 13 year old Leah promises she and her friends will play together.  16 year old Emmanuel says we need to pray for all people who are in need in order to find peace in the community. 13 year old Zaiwadi suggests that we must love and be proud of our community. 9 year old Furaha wishes we could all dance together. 13 year old Johnson says that peace will come anytime we do good things for our friends. 11 year old Katana thinks we should all sing together to make peace. 11 year old Baraka will visit the sick. 11 year old Amina suggests that peace will come if we eat together.  This was also believed by 13 year old Sophia who said she will invite others to share a meal. 11 year old Neema will make peace by helping an old man. 10 year old Emma says that she will live without fighting because she loves peace. 16 year old Kadzo will bring peace to the community by working together with others. 16 year old Nuru thinks everyone must participate in games and team building activities because they enhance interaction with others which brings peace. 14 year old Sauda believes we must ensure that people participate in all community activities. 11 year old Joyce promises to forgive others. 14 year old Mariana will visit the church to find peace. 12 year old Maureen believes peace will come if we cook together. 10 year old Jamal promises if we dance, play, and chat together, then we will have peace. 11 year old Heri will love his friends and love his parents to make peace.
These are a few examples of the perceptions of peace from the perspective of the youth from the Kenyan coast.  Are these perceptions unique to this area?  Or are these common perceptions that we will hear from youth around the world as we approach the UN's Peace One Day date of September 21st

Monday, 15 August 2016

One Love

By Jeff Quinto

In this vlog Jeff tells us about the highlight of his day 3. Click the link for more.

Our Responsibility is to Take Care of One Another

By Suzzanne Pautler 

A community thrives when its members take care of one another. That sense of community prevails here in Bofa, as evidenced each day. Necessary Arts is offering four days of workshops to the children of the community this week. The participants arrive early, participate fully, and happily recite poetry and sing songs for us. During the workshops, we see older siblings taking care of younger ones without any resentment or attitude. 

Taking care of others and building community is the way of life. Throughout this journey, our dear friends Kerry and George are foremost in our minds as they have offered the beautiful grounds of Tulia for the workshops to take place. With their generosity, the peaceful setting of a garden full of papaya trees, hibiscus bushes, and coconut palms is the perfect shady spot to host 50-85 students.

A local football coach and referee, Furaha, volunteers her time to work with Necessary Arts on each of our visits. She immediately jumps in to translate or to lead an activity whenever an opportunity presents itself. It is obvious that she cares so much for the children of this community.  Zuwadi takes care of the guests staying at the cottage, and also has been instrumental helping with the children this week. No matter the work or chores in which she is involved, whenever a child needs assistance, Zuwadi appears.  She has taken numbers of children back to the toilet, has comforted the sad ones or those not feeling well, and then has walked them back home.

Our friend Answar is an instrumental member of this community. He has many talents and gifts and uses them regularly, not necessarily for his benefit, but for the benefit of the larger group. One area in which he excels is as a master chef of the delicacies of the area. He prepared biryani and beef (75 kilos of each) to feed a wedding party this weekend. And, of course, he invited us to join the party in the park outside of the church.  The next day required him to prepare a similar feast for another wedding. He saved a bit of the biryani and added mutton for us to consume for lunch. Today he prepared an octopus for us with a coconut sauce he made from coconuts cut down and hulled here in the garden this morning. Tomorrow Answar is preparing a lunch for the 80 workshop participants. The menu includes pelau and beef, coleslaw, plantains, and hibiscus juice (also picked from the garden). By no means does he have to prepare meals for us, or for the children to conclude our workshop, but he seems to enjoy taking care of us, as well as all members of the community.  This weekend, Answar took us on a number of errands he needed to accomplish so that we could see more of the community. When we visited the outdoor market, a bus pulled over to ask Answar for assistance. The bus driver needed representation to report a recent accident to the police, and knew Answar would have the poise, confidence and communication skills assist him. Answar is happy to lend a hand to help one of the members of his community.

Today, fifty participants arrived for the third workshop. They were eager to sing and dance "Jambo," sing "One Love" with hand motions, recite their "Let Peace Begin With Me" statements, perform their skits demonstrating peace, and play with the beach balls and skipping ropes provided by Donna Reeves from DAA back in Dubai. No matter the activity, the students all supported one another. I've never met any of their parents as the students walk over each morning and back home mid-day. The parents place great trust in us by allowing their children to participate in the workshops, an opportunity to spend the morning in an environment outside of church or school with three native speakers of English.

It is an honor to arrive as a stranger, yet feel so welcomed into the community.  We are truly blessed and full of gratitude to all members of the community who have reminded us of the importance of getting to know our neighbors and our responsibility in taking care of one another.  Thank you, Bofa.


By William Nazareth

Today's word of the day: superstars. What I found interesting was that so many of the kids were chasing me down during the day, during breaks, after the sessions, etc. There were very many kids who wanted to show off and perform in solos or small groups. 

Two girls in particular, Gift and Alice, had appeared in their "Sunday best" outfits, and had a collection of songs and poems that they seemed to have prepared specifically to be recorded for video. While most of the songs and poems were in Swahili, I asked Faraha and Zawadi, our adult guides, what the poems were about. One poem that Gift recited was about welcoming visitors to the country of Kenya.  One of the songs that Alice sang seemed to have the same theme.

One poem in particular, performed by Gift, seemed to address the typical gender roles that were a part of their tribe, as it talked about women washing dishes and taking care of family members. I will be getting the translation for the poem soon and am excited to hear exactly what it was about!

Other than that, the kids seemed to feel comfortable in front of the camera after several days with us.  We filmed many of the songs and skits today, so tomorrow, we shall see what we have for our final day of footage!

Courage to Lead

By William Nazareth
On the second day of workshops, we started off with a rather large number of participants, perhaps about 35 by the time we got started.  During the first twenty minutes of class, a steady stream of children poured through the door, and soon we were faced with about 85 kids! Word had apparently spread that our teachers were doing something good for the community, and some of yesterday's participants brought their friends and other family members to participate today!

The presence of the camera proved to change the way that the kids behaved.  Many of the younger children continued to wave when the camera was pointed at them, and 
continued to ask to have their pictures taken. The older kids, especially those that seemed to light up in front of the camera yesterday, presented themselves in a way that demanded attention - silk-like fabrics, bright colors, and styled hair was their look for the day.
The footage highlighted the younger children today.  One of the best shots of the day came from the little kids hovering over Suzzi as she read a book to them.  Another memorable moment was when 2 very young girls had led the kids in a song.  Who knew that seven year olds could have the courage to be leaders!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Leaders of the Pack

By Jeff Quinto

Click on the link to access his vlog.

Looking through the Lens...

By William Nazareth

To stand foot on the motherland, surrounded by the beauty of Africa was a blessing all on it's own. But then I walked into the grounds to see a range of bright eyes staring up and ready for a new experience. Being behind the camera gives you a different perspective. Through the lens I was able to see how grateful the kids were to have us there. 

In the beginning, the kids were rather shy to express themselves, but after a few drama games, they seemed to laugh and have fun. At one point, Jeff started singing to the kids, the atmosphere changed.  He first sang a simple greeting song in English, and he asked them to teach him a Swahili song. One child sang a popular Swahili song called "Jambo Bwana".  The kids all knew it, and started clapping and dancing in full voices. Then, some volunteers taught Jeff the dance that accompanies the song.This song and dance became the magical moment of the first day.

If the kids were a bit shy in terms of speaking, they were not camera shy at all. They seemed fascinated with the equipment that I have, and they were constantly waving at the camera. Many ask to take pictures; "Will, take us a photo" was a common saying of the day.  Once the camera is on them, the posing begins. It certainly makes for some interesting footage!

I look forward to a week with more songs and more footage!

Saturday, 13 August 2016


By Suzzanne Pautler

By 9:30 this morning, more than 85 participants had walked through the gate to join the Necessary Arts volunteers for round 2 of our workshops. Wait, let me rephrase that. 82 walked, while 3 were wrapped on the backs of their big sisters. The life skills of responsibility and commitment are definitely alive here in the gardens of the Tulia cottage.  Children are taking care of each other, being inclusive, and leaving no one behind.  

Necessary Arts challenges its participants to "stimulate minds through creative expression," and specific to this workshop to deepen their understanding of peace.  Perceptions of peace.  What does a six year old comprehend about peace?  What about the 19 year old participant?  We aim to explore this theme through song, dance, performance, and other means of creative expression.

Knowing that peace can exist throughout all corners of the community, we tried to identify what it looks like in specific areas.  The following perceptions were shared with us through the spoken voice in a chanting, rhythmic manner. 

Let peace begin with me
And in the field I will see
playing, dancing, and reading.

Let peace begin with me
And in the market I will see 
buying, selling, sharing, and eating.

Let peace begin with me
And in the garden I will see
flowers, grass, and paw paw trees.

Through dramatic performance, students shared their understanding of peace through personal experiences.  The 11 year old girls were skipping rope. Then the  jumper missed her jump, but she didn't want to take her turn turning the rope. The 16 year old boys were dancing with their friends, when one took a phone from the other's pocket.  One teenage girl was cooking lunch, while her sister kept harassing her about when the food would be ready.  Each skit was quite similar, focused on a conflict fortunately ending in a peaceful resolution.

Rhythmic melodies and drumming filled the air all morning long through a variety of peace songs in both English and Kiswahili.  Some participants were willing to take a risk and sing a solo until their friends would join in.  All students were quite eager to sing in their native language.  And finally, Bob Marley entered our singing circle with "One Love."  Let's get together and be alright is a simple message that the children of Bofa seem to be living out each day.

Rain can’t stop, won’t stop us!

By Suzzanne Pautler

Gray skies and a steady stream of raindrops greeted us this morning, the first of our four day Necessary Arts workshop in Bofa village. The activities were to begin at 8:30, and by 8:00, our first participants had arrived. Most were wrapped in the cotton kikoys popular throughout the coastal areas of Kenya.  Today, they are often worn by beachgoers and tourists, though I now know they make for great rain protection, too. One very responsible teenager arrived with her two year old brother wrapped to her back with one cloth, and then draped him with an additional kikoy to protect his head and body.  Every time I turned around, more and more children arrived to the gate. They arrived early; the rain did not deter. And they brought loads of younger brothers and sisters. I’m already impressed by this group of nearly seventy learners!

Our previous visit to Bofa village (August 2015) focused on the theme of community, which the children defined as: to work for something for the large group, to take responsibility in making it a beautiful place to live.  In this morning’s workshop, we talked specifically about the existence of peace and love within this community.  We gave each of the children a small, colorful sticky note and a pencil asking half of the group for examples of peace within their community, and the other half, love. 

From the viewpoint of the children, “Peace is eating together.” And “There is peace when people play together.”“Peace is sharing what you have with your neighbors.” On a bit more serious of a note, “Peace is when we obey the laws of our country.”

Meanwhile, the children see love in the community “by people doing work together.” One teenager sees love “if you drop your phone and then someone picks it up for you.” Another area where we should see love is, “Like you’re in the field playing with others, then you hurt your friend. You must say ‘sorry’.”  The football pitch is another popular location to witness love. “If you are playing football and someone beats you up, just relax and show love to him. Don’t even beat him up.” Finally, as one student succinctly stated, “Love your mother. And your father.”

Perceptions of peace will be our overarching theme throughout the workshops this week. I love the honesty of information shared from a child’s perspective. Tomorrow we aim to write song lyrics based upon how the students defined peace in today’s lesson.  We were told to expect double the crowd tomorrow. We can’t stop, won’t stop. Not even in the rain. Peace.

Music Breaks Barriers

By Jeff Quinto

We arrived in Kilifi late on Thursday night, after flying from Nairobi, and a short drive through small coastal towns and beach resorts. We meet Answar, Zawadi, and Kuzungu, who welcome us to Bofa. I can feel that the area is full of vegetation and life, and I can smell the  sea breeze in the distance. I become excited to see the grounds at night; this being my first time in Kenya, I want to experience all parts of the country - I just came from the highlands of Nairobi, and here I I am at the coast.  

After a night of restless sleep, I wake up, eat, and then go towards the work site, ready to meet the kids.  I see Suzzi , Zawadi, and Sharieq setting up chairs for the days events. Suzzi, William, and I meet to quickly discuss our ideas for this first meeting with the kids, and we dive right into the work.

As a music instructor, I take great interest in different musical cultures.  At one point, I sang them a greeting song that I used with my younger children.  I then asked them to teach me a song that they know with a similar theme.  The kids were reluctant to share at first, but as soon as one child started singing, all 60 kids began to sing along, creating a large powerful sound. The dance that accompanied the song was performed, and the atmosphere opened up and set the tone for the acting workshops.  What I noticed was that the children were hesitant to speak, perhaps because of the language barrier, or because they were not too comfortable with us as the instructors.  However, when the focus becomes music, the voices become emboldened, the faces light up, and sharing becomes easy, almost natural. I even started teaching a goodbye song in Portuguese, and they gravitated towards the flow of the music and the song!  It was an amazing experience.

I am looking forward to making more musical moments with the children!  

Friday, 12 August 2016

“Stimulating Minds Through Artistic Expression”

By interlacing our world views with our creativity, values, and critical thinking skills, we can empower ourselves to become true global citizens and improve society across borders.  As Margaret Mead stated,“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”  We have the choice to contribute or not.  We could choose to passively sit back and relax while someone else solves the problems of the world, or better yet each of us could position ourselves to be a part of the solution.  Necessary Arts chooses to be a part of the solution.  Necessary Arts doesn’t just seek change; we are committed to change.

In February 2002, the Necessary Arts School officially opened in Trinidad & Tobago based upon the vision and commitment of its founders: Lydia Ledgerwood, Penelope Spencer, and Naima Thompson. Necessary Arts utilizes the arts to empower participants to realize their full potential and become confident, productive and innovative contributors to society.  To complement the work being done in Trinidad & Tobago, Necessary Arts began an outreach program in Kenya in April 2014, providing a unique opportunity for participants to develop and enhance life skills, leadership qualities, literacy, and personal character.  The projects in both countries promote strong leaders, critical thinkers, and innovators, which ultimately results in positive contributors to our local and global societies.

From 2014-2016, Necessary Arts Global Outreach stretched its arms across Kenya, nearly to the borders of Tanzania, Uganda, and Somalia in order to reach hundreds of students through the Reach the Unreachable project. Phase 1 of the project offered a variety of student workshops, from building the foundation of dramatic skills to creating a final presentation piece. In just a two year time frame, students completed workshops at the following locations:

  • Riara Education Center-Varkey GEMS Foundation, Kibera
  • Adventist Rehabilitation and Education Center, Kajiado
  • John E. Halgrim Orphanage (JEHO), Pipeline, Embakasi
  • Port Busia Village, Lake Victoria
  • Bofa Village, Kilifi
  • Sud Academy (seeking partnership with UNHCR), Kawangware
  • AMREF “Child in Need Project”, Dagoretti, Waithaka
  • Secondary Girls School, Lamu Island

Developing relationships with each site in order to offer workshops was not an easy task, but this was part of our challenge. In fact, Suzzanne Pautler, one of our teacher volunteers, made the initial arrangements for Naima to offer workshops at a school where her friend Patrick was Principal. A few years previous, Suzzanne had “couch surfed” at his house, visited his school, and commissioned his students to sew several traditional African dresses for her.  It made sense that Naima could begin offering her workshops at his school, while staying at his house. The reality is that Patrick did not pick her up at the airport as scheduled, she did not stay at his home as planned, and he ended up touring her around a vacant school building when they finally did meet.  In addition, we have confirmed scheduled site visits, made our travel arrangements, and then with just a week’s notice, schools have cancelled our visit.  Other times we’ve made the arrangements, arrived at the site, and learned that only half of the students were available due to other commitments.  It has not been easy. Throughout the planning stage of our Nairobi visits, we have learned that the key to success is flexibility.  

During our journey of offering student workshops around Kenya, we were also invited to offer teacher training workshops.  We offered professional development to a combination of certified teachers and student teachers in training.  It is a huge honor anytime a group of colleagues, international or local, asks for help to advance professional learning and improve professional knowledge. We are so appreciative to have received the following analogy from one of the teacher participants: “The teaching staff is like a machine.  We work together and make progress.  Necessary Arts is the oil that comes in to keep us working our best.”

We are not so vain and egotistic to suggest that we have all the answers and know exactly the direction in which our efforts should move. The Reach the Unreachable project has been a great opportunity not only for our teaching, but also for our learning. We took it upon ourselves to attend the annual Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development (DIHAD) Conference to better understand from the experts how to best achieve success through our outreach program.
One key take away from the DIHAD 2015 conference was the following parable:  We do NOT give fish to those in need, NOR do we teach them to fish.  Instead, we tap into their own innovation and creativity.  We realize that we cannot act as heroes coming to rescue Kenyan children in need. When we first arrived here, we were constantly bombarded with pleas of “give me this” and “send me that.” Donations, or fish, are of course always welcome, but they are simply short term solutions, often causing dependency.  To find long term, sustainable solutions, we must work with and listen to the affected populations. They are the ones with the voices to share their true needs and with the innovation to create the solutions.

Necessary Arts Global Outreach had a vision in mind in 2014. The end result of Phase 1 of the Reach the Unreachable project may not look exactly like what we expected or anticipated; however, it was a privilege to see the project develop organically.  DIHAD taught us that shared communication among the donor organization (Necessary Arts), the humanitarian actors (teacher volunteers), and the affected communities (student workshop participants and their adult caretakers) is necessary to guide all humanitarian projects. Otherwise, the project will not be holistic, but rather will develop from just one perspective.  We have learned that we should never begin a conversation with “We want to...”, but rather “How can we…?”  

Additionally, DIHAD taught us that it is foolish to act on our own as one single organization.  It is only through a collaborative approach with other NGOs and aid agencies that complete, sustainable solutions will materialize.  With this in mind, Necessary Arts has had the privilege of working with the GEMS Varkey Foundation, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF), and the Art of Confidence (AOC).  The ideas, brainstorming, and motivation that we share with one another push us to collectively offer the best support we can.

Student participants have come from a variety of cultural, linguistic, socio-economic, educational, and family backgrounds. We have worked with refugees from Sudan, street children in rehabilitation, economic orphans, children from single family homes, the impoverished living in slums, and those rescued from tribes to avoid early childhood marriage and female genital mutilation.  Rather than focusing on the negative plights that have brought the children to this point in their lives, it is essential for us to focus on how to move forward, to empower, to educate, to reach the unreachable.  As one student from JEHO reminds us, “If you have strength in your heart, you will be determined to achieve anything you want.”  We live in hope and do everything we can in order to help even one of the children to realize his or her dreams.  

Throughout this project, all parties involved agree that there is nothing more important in this world than the safety, protection, and rights of the child. We are working our hardest to make this statement come true for all workshop participants. Young refugees from Sud Academy identified for us the six most important rights in their lives: “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.”  In addition, a personal goal of ours is to balance the scales of education as best we can with the tools we have.  We realize what a true disadvantage many of these students face within the competitive global community, simply by being born who they are, where they are.  As Naima blogged in April 2014, “Because of time, place, and circumstances, many of these amazing talented gems will never see their true potential come to fruition.”

One of the sites dearest to our hearts is the JEHO orphanage. In March 2015, one volunteer commented, “It is apparent that 43 children go to sleep each night knowing they are loved.  By growing up on a home full of goodness, imagine the positive impact they will make upon community, society, and humanity.” They are ambassadors for their generation, and will develop into dynamic global citizens who truly make a difference.  Necessary Arts is proud to be a part of the family, “walking in the tracks of compassion, dignity, responsibility, tolerance, diversity, good temperance and the like, to show up for each other, ready to overcome life's challenges through a collective mindedness.” The Necessary Arts team paid the full tuition and incidentals for the 2016 academic year for all twenty secondary school students at JEHO to demonstrate our commitment to and belief in the rights of education for all.

While in Bofa Village, the students reiterated that "having a good education" makes them happy.  One student added that his "nearness to school" makes him happy, while another suggested that "being sponsored for education" would make anyone happy.  Obviously great value is placed on an education. In addition, the students identified the following as being a high priority in their lives:  "the whole village living in harmony," "living in peace in our country," and "to live happily with neighbors".   Peace and education.  Simple and straightforward.

We have documented our project’s journey through The International Educator (TIE) newspaper to educate, inspire, and share with other educators teaching around the world.  Teacher volunteer Teresa Cantu published “Necessary Arts Reaches the Unreachable in Kilifi, Kenya” in the December 2015 issue, while Naima published “Balancing the Scales of Education” in the April 2016. Both articles speak of the necessity of reaching out and helping children who are motivated, talented, and deserving, but may lack resources and/or do not have access to demonstrate to the world how much they have to offer.

To reach the unreachable with such a successful and effective result, Necessary Arts recognizes that a team effort was essential. To that end, Necessary Arts is full of gratitude for the collective efforts made from site managers, local transportation guides, teacher volunteers from around the world, tech gurus who share our word through social media, student workshop participants, private financial contributors, our Kenyan friends, and the Necessary Arts team who started the organization in Trinidad & Tobago nearly 15 years ago! Necessary Arts Global Outreach has just completed Phase 1 of the Reach the Unreachable project.  What and where will Phase 2 bring us?

Perceptions of Peace

by Naima Thompson

Once again the NA team is in Kenya...without me...
After putting things in place to return I received the devastating news from my doctors that it would be in my best interest to not make the trip just yet. You could all imagine my despair. As usual, Suzzi was ready to pick up the torch and carry on to Bofa Village, Kilifi with our two new volunteers. Jeff Quinto teaching music and William Nazareth offering his film making skills to document the experience.

This Reach the Unreachable project has taken on a whole new life of its own since I've been ill and I love how the volunteers are able to jump right in and continue the magic. This morning the team was surprised but very ready to meet almost 75 participants with an expectation of 75 more tomorrow. Jeff is an amazing music teacher at Dubai American Academy and I know he will rock their world in Bofa Village too!

The Peace themed workshop will run for four days. Under Jeff's vocal direction they will discover new and interesting ways to share their understanding of peace. I must admit that I am very excited to see the footage that William captures. On September 21 for Peace One Day, the world will observe the UN allocated day for peace in many ways. I am hoping for Necessary Arts to share a video documentary of our Kenyan voices expressing their Perceptions of Peace in Swahili and English. For now, I will sit back and wait for the magic to unfold!

Thursday, 7 April 2016

“Until We Meet Again”

By: LeJon April

We were eager to arrive at Kajiado and spend time with the girls. As we pulled up to the blue iron gate we looked out the window to see who would greet us. We drove through the gate slowly on the bumpy road and soon arrived at the door. The big hall reminded me of a plantation field deep in the south of America. Many of the children appeared to be happy. They were running around and playing, listening to music, reading, and completing homework. They were comfortable with each other and at peace with the simple presence of their friends. As we entered their community all eyes were on us. They wondered who we were. Out of nowhere familiar faces ran up to us and swung around our necks to give us warm hugs. We were happy to see them again. I looked around for a young girl who was disappointed when I left the last time. Soon, she appeared, she came up to me and gave me a big hug and smile. I was glad she was there, I knew today would be better than the last time when we left.

We quickly got started. Prior to our arrival, the girls had placed each chair in our unity circle. Everyone sat down and we began to introduce ourselves with our names and then by acting out an animal. The kids laughed as we went around the circle trying to be as creative as possible. We soon began to learn stage directions. This is always my favorite part of the day! The students loved this activity and it was beautiful to see them all running to find the correct place to stand on the stage. I felt confident, that they were more aware of theatre vocabulary and stage directions. We all enjoyed this activity.

Soon the students began to work in small groups. Some students worked on building their confidence by creating I AM statements, to edify themselves and others by identifying positive attributes about themselves. Other students went on to work on learning scripts and other students went on to create Kenyan tutus to go with their performances. All of the students were eagerly engaged.  They were very excited to make their tutus. I felt like this activity allowed them to make something that was their own. The kids were also excited to perform their scripts and I AM statements in front of the camera. They all gathered quietly for their moment to shine.

I was able to appreciate their curiosity and enthusiasm. I realized that the girls at Kajiado are teenagers who can sometimes be easily distracted, but at the same time, can be engaged by meaningful activities where they are able to interact with their peers and express themselves  more, in ways, that are relevant to their development.

December's broken heart

When I first went to Kajiado last December, I felt the girls were very quiet and to themselves. They would barely speak. They were very concerned with where Naima was. The would ask over and over again, “where is Naima?” They wanted to work with Naima and it was clear that she had built a circle of trust with them. This time around, I felt the girls were happy to see familiar faces, but I also felt that they would have appreciated more activities where they could be “free” and where they could be children, laugh, sing, dance, and play more. When I left last December, when It was time to say goodbye, I felt the girls were disappointed in me for leaving. One particular participant who I felt I connected with the most, refused to tell me goodbye in December. This broke my heart, but there was nothing I could do. I was very pleased today to see her again and when it was time to leave she gave me a hug and told me with a warm smile goodbye. All of the girls hugged me and told me goodbye. I was pleased as we left Kajiado with our departure. Until next time!   

Creative Confidence at Kajiado

By: Shanequa Dasher

As the Necessary Arts team arrived to Kajiado Boarding School we were greeted by the trickling in of students of various ages.They greeted us with a handshake and awaited direction from their leadership. As they circled around for opening activity, I couldn’t help but wonder how our day would go. The students were extremely timid. More noticeable than the other sites the Necessary Arts team had the opportunity to visit in the days prior. I enlisted the help of my trusty animal sound name stating activity to help break the ice. Admittedly, it was a little difficult to get the students to say their names aloud AND sound like an animal, but it happened. We had a few giggles, and the students warmed up a little.

We learned the fundamentals of stage directions and did a few interactive exercises. I am extremely grateful for this time, because it allowed the nonverbal students to shine. The group as a whole was engaged and enjoyed moving around to share their newfound knowledge of theatre stage terminology.

After our formal whole group activities, we broke into groups. I lead a crafty costuming class where the young ladies had the opportunity to learn how to make tutus. I shared photos of what a tutu was, and immediately the ladies smiled in anticipation of starting. After being instructed on how to complete only one strand of the tutu, the girls were immediately hooked. As they worked, they shared that they really enjoyed what they were doing. They felt that it was relaxing, and they were anxious to complete their tutus to see the end results. Once they were complete, (I am so sad that I did not video their responses.) they were smiling, twirling, and fluffing, all around the room. We did however capture a still moment of their finished products.

The girls were so confident, and felt beautiful in their tutus. I even overheard a few ladies repeating “pretty, pretty”. Those responses alone made my heart smile. I was overjoyed that I was able to share a skill that would not only enhance their repertoire of talents, but also have the ability to increase their confidence.

The power of art and creativity are alive and well. They can literally take a frowning, unsure, silent child and turn them into a confident, happy,  boasting (in a positive way) one. It was my absolute pleasure to make a lasting creative impact on the children of Kajiado’s confidence, and creative skills.


In Need of Positive Role Models

By Suzzanne Pautler

Children need strong role models in order to become better people. An online dictionary defines a role model as “a person who serves as an example of the values, attitudes, and behaviors associated with a role.”  Role models “can also be persons who distinguish themselves in such a way that others admire and want to emulate them.” Being in the field of education, it is obvious to my eyes when children have, or do not have, positive adult role models in their lives.  
In my opinion, “commitment” must be emulated by adult role models so that children learn to hold this value in high regard.  By commitment I mean that a child should learn to be on time, finish what he/she starts, and not quit when things get challenging.  I found that the girls we worked with today lacked commitment.  Don’t misunderstand me.  The girls were present, engaged, and learning...but not with the usual passion and vigor.  

Throughout the past two years, Necessary Arts has invested time and energy into 15 particular girls at the site who are passionate about drama and performance. Nine of those girls were present today, along with 30 other students who continually interrupted and distracted.  For example, the nine would begin an activity, but at some point, a few would choose to leave the activity to go socialize, or else the non-participating friends would interrupt an activity to get the one of the participant’s attention.

The girls were quite involved in the morning’s team building activities like Zip Zap Zop. Likewise they put forth good effort into reviewing stage directions and participating in the flashcard activity. They were intrigued to make tutus in the brilliant colors of the Kenyan flag. Memorization of short quotes did not appear to be a difficult task for most, though reading out loud a script in English proved to be a challenge for two or three. The word “quarrel” was a new word for all. The script was based upon a fable about a big cat and a little cat who were best friends, until a big fight erupted to divide them. Interesting conversation ensued over this point as our big and little cat readers were actually sisters, and they could certainly relate to the topic at hand.  

Children grow, develop, and learn each and every day. Their rate of success often depends upon the adults and the environment in which they exist. I believe that this is what has changed at the educational center. The principal stated that she was happy that we were there “to play” with the children.  And after greeting us, she departed to track down the much needed beans and rice to stock the kitchen.  The assistant principal was involved for the first half hour, but then exited the hall for the duration of our 3+ hour visit.  One young teacher tried his best to support our efforts, but the change in climate had permeated the environment, so his presence did not have a great effect.
During the two years that Necessary Arts has worked at this site, the adults and leadership of the site have changed, not necessarily for the better.  Where are the role models for these girls?  Who can teach them concepts such as “commitment”?  The girls seem to be lacking the positive adult role models who can help them learn such lifelong behaviors.  I don’t expect those adults to be superhuman, but I do expect them to be role models who are present and engaged in the girls’ well-being.

At the other sites we’ve visited this week, the principals, teachers, cooks, pastor, “mother,” and adult volunteers have all been present, involved, and in awe of how well the children have responded to the work we’ve presented.  This is how Necessary Arts has always been received.  It saddens me that today’s site lacked adult presence and supervision.  I do not like to see students or schools head into a downward spiral.  I hope the leadership team has a “wake up call” in the near future to realize how special, unique, and empowered these girls are.  With their full support, the girls will once again demonstrate their determination, commitment, toughness, and power to succeed!

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

JEHO: Peace, Love, and Education

By Suzzanne Pautler

We’ve all commented on it in past blogs. Love. It’s the prevailing feeling every time we walk through the front doors of the JEHO orphanage.  Each child greets us with a hug or a handshake.  Every adult adorns a huge grin and shares kisses on our cheeks.  The warm welcome, the genuine excitement, and the shared love within the room continually results in strong student-teacher interactions, focused work ethic, and great motivation during the Necessary Arts drama and art workshops.  

Necessary Arts is currently delivering its sixth workshop to the 40+ children of JEHO. The founder of Necessary Arts, Naima Thompson, first entered their door two years ago. She is responsible for building the foundation of trust and respect that exists between Necessary Arts and the family, which has created the positive environment in which we are welcomed back over and over again.  Necessary Arts developed the workshops to cover three core areas:  theatre arts, literacy development, and leadership.  According to the students, the series of workshops has taken them on a two year journey of how “to be confident on stage, to never be afraid of anyone, to make friends, to better communicate with others, to concentrate, to use stage directions when acting, to cooperate, to be attentive, to never be shy, to express oneself, to speak in a loud voice, to have confidence when speaking English, to love one another, to avoid fear, and to avoid bad company.”  Did we really teach all of that?  I thought we focused on making eye contact, using our bodies to deliver non-verbal messages, projecting our voices, and having a stage presence.  The students, who range in age from 5 months to 19 years, are telling us that we have succeeded.  And from our adult perspective, we can see and feel the student success and confidence all around us.  

No matter that the children come from a variety of backgrounds and home lives, Pastor Joseph commits to each child that walks in his door.  He finds the time to support each one in the most suitable and appropriate manner. He does not want any child to feel different or not as good as his or her peers.  No matter how broken the child appears, the others welcome him or her into the family with an outpouring of love, patience, respect and dignity. Necessary Arts complements his approach. Pastor Joseph repeatedly reminds us that he values the work we do and the life skills that we teach his children. He knows that our messages of confidence, leadership, humanity, and global citizenship are understood by each child, carried in their hearts, and enacted in the real world. Today he stated that he can walk into the room without any prior knowledge of the activity, and just by looking at the children’s faces, he knows they are engaged and learning in topics that will impact their lives.  

The door to JEHO is a revolving one with students coming and going, moving in and out, attending day schools and boarding schools.  All students in Kenya have the right to attend primary school at no cost.  However, as the students get older, the school fees advance.  For the first time, JEHO struggled to find the finances to enroll each of their 20 secondary students in school.  And for the first time ever, Pastor Joseph is nearly speechless, because every child in his family in enrolled in school!  Every child is on a level playing field.  Every child feels valued and empowered by receiving an education.  Every child knows he or she is loved.  Every child demonstrates a sense of success and victory by attending school.  No wonder the ever loquacious Pastor Joseph is nearly speechless! Necessary Arts is proud to have sponsored and paid for these school fees, and to share in many successes as these children grow up. Pastor Joseph intentionally keeps the students who are academically weaker at a school nearby. This way he can closely monitor their situation as they bridge into their new academic setting. When necessary, he organizes outside tuitions to ensure they have every chance to succeed.  A stable, structured education provides the necessary resources for helping them along this path.  Both the children and the adults are optimistic now that each child has access to such an opportunity.

Over our two years of visits we have seen much growth and development within the orphanage.  For example, we first encountered the two bedrooms (one for boys, one for girls) full of wooden bunk beds.  On a subsequent visit, the bunk beds were gone and the students were sleeping on floor mats. I couldn’t understand why.  Pastor Joseph explained that bugs had started eating the wooden bunk beds and they were no longer safe for the children to sleep on each night, which is why they had to be removed. Today we were happy to see that the bunk beds have been replaced with metal ones which should last indefinitely. Another area in which we’ve seen development is on the rooftop of their building.  It began as a simple open space where the students could play. Today it houses rabbits, chickens, and a garden. The children are demonstrating great responsibility in the sustainable development of such food sources. They very proudly showed off the green onions they often add to their meals.  One of the next goals is to bring the kitchen up to the rooftop.  Right now, the smoke from the wood-burning kitchen fire on the ground floor creates an unhealthy space for the children, resulting in labored breathing and coughing.  It can’t all be accomplished in one day, but little by little Pastor Joseph is making great strides to improve the lives of his little angels.

Necessary Arts has completed the first cycle of workshops with the JEHO students.  More than a sense of pride or accomplishment, there exists a continued feeling of love and respect. Necessary Arts is, and always will be, a part of the JEHO family. These 40+ children have a special place in our hearts, and we in theirs.  Therefore, it is not with sadness that our workshop cycle is ending.  Rather it is with joy and pride that we share our JEHO family with The Art of Confidence, whose mission is to make an impact on the world through the ARTS, by giving students the opportunity to perform and showcase their talents and strengths. The Art of Confidence believes that the ARTS are the pathway that allows individuals to exude confidence and be resilient.  We learned from the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development (DIHAD) conference that making partnerships is the key to success in delivering humanitarian work. Connecting with other partner organizations has a much greater impact than working solo. Necessary Arts is proud to have partnered with AMREF, UNHCR, and now AOC, as we have seen how students benefit from the shared collaboration.  We at Necessary Arts are eager to continue celebrating successes, spreading love, and taking pride in being part of such extraordinary humanitarian efforts.

Priceless Moments at JEHO

By: Le’Jon April

What an amazing day. The kids were eagerly waiting for us to arrive. When we arrived the room was already prepared for us to begin and start our activities. I was very impressed that the students had mastered setting up the room perfectly for our circle reflections. We began the day singing songs and dancing in a circle. The energy was high and everyone was in a positive space.

We continued to work on our scripts and record our dramatic pieces. We began to create a new piece of work called “I AM.” Each participant went around the room and said “I am…” and choose their personal affirmation. Many said, I am wonderful, I am amazing, I am gorgeous. At first they were shy, but they soon warmed up and their confidence began to emerge. It was as if an alarm had went off inside of them and they felt like they had been given permission to express out loud, in public, in front of everyone, that they were brilliant, amazing, and beautiful. The look on their faces was priceless.

After we finished our activities we laid out books that we had brought with us to give to the children. Each child peeked quietly to see what we were doing. The younger children refused to continue any activities because they wanted to see the books. They quietly tip-toed over to the table and their eyes began to expand. I gave each one a book to look through. I became excited for them. They began to look through the books and their faces were overcome with joy. I was amazed that these amazing children under the age of 4 could not read, but yet they went through each page and admired the pictures as if they were telling a story of their own. Soon all of the children came over and choose a book, we were excited that there was more than enough books for everyone. Suddenly, there was silence. For the next 20 minutes there was complete silence. It had not be silent in JEHO since we arrived. There was always some type of sound waves moving through the air because of the amount of people in the orphanage. But each child found a place and took their book and sat down to read. We did not ask them to, we did not tell them to, they choose to sit down and read their books. They were more engaged in reading their books than any other activity we had done. It was absolutely breathtaking that these children who were orphans valued reading a good book more than anything. These were  priceless moments today.

Soon it was time to leave. It was very hard to say good-bye. We all said our good-byes and hugged all of the children. Pastor Joseph came over and said we could not leave this way. He wanted us to formally say our good-byes and for Suzzi to introduce The Art of Confidence. As Suzzi began to speak her eyes filled with tears. She was overcome by her love for the children. You could look in their eyes and see their love as well. It was hard to say good-bye and talk about a transition. As our good-byes went on we all began to pray. This was an unexpected priceless moment that I will never forget because all of the children began to pray for Naima (the Necessary Arts founder) without instructions. You could tell that praying was something they did on a regular basis. Their prayers brought life to my spirit. This was very humbling.  I was in awe at how dedicated these children were in believing the best for all of their dear friends. The leaders at JEHO continued to express their gratitude for Naima and Suzzi and how much they meant to them. It was clear to everyone, that Necessary Arts had penetrated the lives of not just the children but the adults as well. The mission and the goals of Necessary Arts had been accomplished. These were priceless moments and my perceptions on life have forever been changed.