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.

The Gift

By: Shanequa Dasher

I dreaded my arrival at JEHO today because arriving, would soon mean that I must depart. It was the last day that we would spend at JEHO Orphanage and I must say that my heart was trapped within those walls, within those children, within my new home.

We were able to do a few closing activities. We also recorded all of the efforts of our 3 days of learning. I even had an opportunity to teach a new drama game for the kids to play with one another once we were away. But my heart didn’t want to leave. The only thing that kept me positive, was the fact that I knew I would soon be back.

Toward the end of our visit, we were able to share a few of the items that we brought for the group. The most impactful of these items were a host of books donated by The Dubai American Academy Girls Scouts and the Art of Confidence. Their faces lit up with delight! Teenagers were picking up Dora The Explorer picture books and reading with expression and sincere interest. They were simply happy to have access to something they did not have before; literature in their home. The house mother turned to me and said, “You have started their very first library. The other children are going to be so excited when they return”. The intent in each child’s eyes while reading their new gift was priceless. The joy of their smiles was contagious.
We shared the other items with them and they were extremely grateful. Several of them simply did not have a pair of shoes to call their own and had been barefoot for the tenure of our visits. We were able to give them new shoes. We were able to provide personal care items and school supplies that they did not otherwise have. We were also able to leave them with 2 large suitcases to keep their items in, which was of great importance to them. The greatest gift was to see the smiles on their faces. To hear the prayers that the children prayed for The Necessary Arts team, for our family, our health, and our safe travels. I had never seen such a large group of children so spiritually aware. It was not them who received a host of gifts today, it was absolutely the adults of the Necessary Arts team.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Home Again

By Shanequa Dasher

How can a place so unfamiliar feel like home? How can a place full of children who were once abandoned, left to die, and fend for themselves be filled with so much love? The only answer is GOD. The spirit of the Lord is alive, well, and permeating through the walls of the JEHO Orphanage. Today was my second day there, and I again was overwhelmed with love, acceptance, and gratitude for my presence. There were a few hiccups in our arrival. Our car was almost stuck and submerged in the muddy waters of the roads leading the JEHO when our driver got turned around. We eventually found our way to refuge and arrived to be greeted by Pastor Joseph.

As we arrived. We noticed that the room we usually work with the children in was darker than usual. The entire row of buildings had lost power from the rain. Flexibility went into action. We opened the doors of the sanctuary and circled around the small area of natural light to carry on with our day. We reviewed theater stage directions using a series of interactive games. I was so pleased with their retention. They were regular pros!

Prior to working with my younger group, I had the privilege of working with 2 teen girls on a dramatic script. It was such a pleasure working with them and transforming what was an ordinary script reading into a true dialogue among two friends that infused levels of nervousness, sarcasm, depression, and excitement. They were so receptive to my notes and suggestions, and even incorporated physicality into their scene(which is something most actors all always afraid to do). It was such a pleasure sowing a seed that allowed them to truly enjoy the craft of acting.

Once I rejoined my younger group, we hopped right back into where we left off. Each child received their animal puppets, and as promised. I taught them the song that correlated with the literature that we read. I have never seen so much excitement among children! We sang, we added movement, and we had fun! Each and every line of our story had been retold from the voice of the children of JEHO. We even caught the older students joining in on the fun. I can’t wait to share the video footage of what was one of the top teaching and learning experiences of my life! The joy of the children of JEHO is contagious! It felt good to be back at JEHO. It felt good to be, home again.

“Lights In Dark Places”

By: Le’Jon April

It was a sunny morning and the damp roads were covered with mud. We were anxious to get to JEHO for Day 2 of the Necessary Arts Outreach program. I looked out the window in the Pipeline District and watched the members of the community begin their day. There were men washing cars, women carrying baskets on their heads and lots of cars at a standstill in traffic. I was so excited, I thought to myself, maybe we could get out and walk the rest of the way? I didn’t want to waste any more time and I wanted to make sure we maximized all of our activities today. But my patience would have to kick in because today would be met with many challenges.

After turning around several times because of  huge sink holes and gigantic mud puddles that were making it hard to cross the road, we finally arrived. As we arrived Pastor Joseph escorted us inside through the mud puddles that led to the doorway. The children were all standing inside of Jeho in the dark. We looked confused wondered what was going on. Pastor Joseph quickly explained that the power was out in the neighborhood and hopefully would be restored soon. Today we were memorizing theatre scripts and assumed that this would be a difficult task to do without any lights. We immediately went on with our schedule and made the best of the situation with natural sunlight. It appeared as if, the sun was rising  and setting over and over again over Jeho today. What would we do? How would we accomplish our task? These are the questions that ran through my mind.

The kids gathered together in a circle and we began our warm up games and practiced our scripts. They were still engaged throughout the entire process. I was amazed. Their hearts were there and so were their minds. We went on to learn our scripts and were able to record them as well! As we were practicing our lines, every 5 minutes the second youngest in our groups Grace, who is 2 years old, would interrupt the children. She wanted a moment to shine as well. She took their scripts and began to laugh and dance. It was as if she was acting out the behaviors she saw the others acting out. We were all amused by her. Soon it was time for the students to share their gifts and talents. The kids ran up to the front of the stage and began to sing and dance and soon, baby Grace came up in front of them and took the stage too. They all began to follow her lead. The kids asked us if they could play musical chairs. Our first thoughts were, we don’t have any way of playing music? They began to make music with their chairs! My heart was overwhelmed, these amazing children, have mastered making the best of every circumstance with just enough, they were the bright lights shining in all the dark places that surrounded them.

As we ended our day Pastor Joseph brought baby Grace over to us and gave her many kisses. He told us how when they found Grace near by, she was covered in ants, face down, with her mouth sealed shut. It was a miracle that she was alive. He explained that she is always the “life of the party.” His words were humbling. We smiled and hugged baby Grace, we were equally glad that she lived through such tragic circumstances. Grace and all the wonderful kids at JEHO have overcome various circumstances and have learned to make the best of their circumstances. They were absolutely the light in the darkness that surrounded them, in their home and their community. I was very excited and enjoyed the privilege that the Necessary Arts team was considered family and able to share in these priceless moments with the JEHO Family.

The Value of Education

By Suzzanne Pautler

Necessary Arts has complete conviction in the belief that education is a basic human right every child deserves.  Therefore, we are proud to have sponsored this year’s school fees for the 20 secondary students at JEHO because we know that the true value of educating each one of these children moves beyond the here and now.  

 We asked the students to write an essay for us explaining what education means to them, proving that they fully understand its value and importance. Here is a selection of thoughts about education from the mouths of 14-18 year olds:

  • As a girl, I have dreams and I don’t believe in failure. I see myself as a source of inspiration, an idol, and perhaps a role model to many people in a few year’s time.

  • Education equips me with various skills on how to live life. It helps me to analyse a situation critically before making any conclusions.

  • Education helps me to acquire virtues that will help me to fit in the society.

  • In the future, I will be educated. I would like to help the needy and the homeless. I would live everyone to have a place to be and a place to call home.

  • After achieving my education, I would like to fight for the rights of those who are neglected in the community and in our country. These are the orphans, the widows, and the least fortunate who cannot stand and fight for themselves in Kenya and even in our continent Africa. This is how education is important to me and how it will help me as an individual give back to the society.

  • I will really work hard in school so that I may achieve my dreams and goals so that I may become a better person in future and in life.

  • Without education there’s no future for coming generations.

  • Education is the most important thing in the universe. People cannot prosper without education.

  • I want to be educated to be a great woman in the society, a role model. I want to benefit many and transform lives in a great and positive way.  A successful life will need:  God + Education.

  • I believe that by God’s grace through my hard work in education, I will be able to achieve my dream of becoming a great engineer.

  • My greatest desire is to be able to acquire good education to enable me to not be a dependent, but a contributor. A good education will help shape my life in the right way.

  • I love school with a passion and I want to go to school daily and work smart and hard for I know a bright future is built from school.

  • My hobby is playing football. Despite my love of football, I put more consideration and great effort towards my education since I know it is the only thing that can make my future bright.

  • I believe through education I will be able to achieve my dream of being a nurse. Through education I will be able to attain full knowledge of managing my own resources.

According to the words of Martin Luther King, “Education without social action is a one-sided value because it has no true power potential.” I am so proud to read these statements from the children, because several of them prove their understanding of the importance in not only receiving an education, but also in giving back to the community.  With an education, these students will become leaders in their communities, create positive impact and change, and slowly transform the world one day at a time.

From the outside...

Two years ago  I entered this home and stood before a group of people from a different place but very familiar space, and thus a journey began. Necessary Arts and JEHO have built a relationship of trust and dreams realized!

This turning of chapters causes us to safely deliver the JEHO family into the hands of a most competent and purposeful team. The Art of Confidence are sharing in our efforts to stimulate minds through artistic expression.

We share in the process of understanding the arts in literacy development through performance oriented activities.

Reach the Unreachable's first steps along its journey started with JEHO and must now trod on to reach even more talented youth beyond...

A Peak into the process...

Confident Young Men at Sud Academy

By: LeJon April Payne

Today was an amazing day at Sud Academy! When we arrived the students were eager to see us. They were dressed in their very best clothes. You could see their eyes peeking behind doors and windows to get a glimpse of what was to come. We were greeted by the school principal Mr. George. He welcomed us with his bright smile and a warm hug. He apologized for the rain and carefully guided us into the principal's office. He shared in our excitement and enthusiasm about the day. We patiently waited for all of the children to arrive and then it was time for the action to begin.

We gathered in a circle and began our opening warm up for the day. The students introduced themselves and chose the animal of their choice to act out. The room was full of boys and one girl. The boys were entertained by themselves as well as with their acting activities. The boys were joyful and  continued to laugh as they came out of their comfort zone and were soon ready to learn more acting techniques. Soon, we all broke up into small groups and began learning various acting strategies and written reflections by famous authors.

I had the pleasure of working with a small group of middle school boys. They were very timid at first. They sat at the wooden benches and read their poetry. They worked in pairs and as individuals to memorize their lines. They were soon ready to perform their poem for me. I was shocked they had memorized their poem so quickly! I followed them as they confidently walked outside in the mud and rainy ground. The weather could not keep them from demonstrating their accomplishments. They organized themselves and with a loud voice recited an excerpt of “Our Deepest Fear” by: Marianne Williamson. As their principal sat near by in a meeting he was in awe. He excused himself and walked over to the boys. The smile on his face spoke volumes. I was very honored to have worked with these amazing children today! I was even more excited that everyone stopped what they were doing to listen to them. Today I feel Necessary Arts was able to make this community feel proud. Please enjoy an excerpt of “Our Deepest Fear” by: Marianne Williamson performed by the boys at Sud Academy!

Sud Academy is a Community

By: Shanequa Dasher

My experience at Sud Academy today was uniquely different to the experience that I had at JEHO, however it was equally rewarding. We arrived at the Academy and were greeted by yet another friendly man. His name was George, and he was the principal of the academy. He was all smiles as he welcomed us into his place, his pride, his school. We immediately went into Principal George’s office to formally have a conversation about how things were going at the academy. We learned about a special graduation ceremony that would be happening the following day, and how excited all of the teachers and students were to learn who would be granted the permission of participating. We shared a few supplies for the children, for which Principal George was extremely grateful. The formalities came to a close. It was now time to formally meet our children for the day.

Slowly a small group of apprehensive faces began to trickle their way into the outside courtyard draped with stone and mud from the morning rain. They lined up unsure of what the day had in store. They were very shy, except for one gentleman whom through conversation, offered to share a song in his native tongue while we waited for the other students to join us. He had the voice of an angel. Joy permeated through the space, as he shared his song. Even a few of the faces that were once made of stone, perked up in silent delight.

We were soon joined by the remaining students and we broke into a large group in one of the nearby classrooms. We introduced and reintroduced ourselves, and warmed up with my get silly, getting to know you name activity. At that very moment, smiles emerged and laughter crackled through the room. This was a symbol to me, that today would indeed be a productive day.

We had a smaller group at Sud Academy than that of the JEHO Orphanage. In comparison to the 35 students at JEHO, we instead had about 15. With this particular group, we decided to rotate amongst myself, LA, and Suzzi in small groups of 5 according to age and gender. This allowed an opportunity for every student to shine without the apprehension of being before their older, younger, male, or female counterparts. This was the best decision we could have ever made. Each of the individuals came alive in their smaller groups. Even more laughter, talking, and participation was evident. Throughout my theater groups for the day, my individual small groups shared their learning preferences with me. I was able to use immense flexibility to adapt to what their preferences were in order to make the lessons enjoyable and fun.

A Message from Sud Academy

The strongest thing that resonated with me during my time at Sud Academy was the sense of community that each group of students exhibited. There were several students who didn’t understand my instructions or what I was saying for that matter. Each of the others rallied around that student and assisted them in the entire process of what we were doing. This sense of community and genuine care for one another made my heart smile. Not only because of the help that these students provided to their peers but also the fact that after the help was provided, the student was truly engaged and enjoying the process. The culture of community was alive and well at Sud Academy, and I was so pleased to be a part of their community. I look forward to working with them again if only to share in that very culture and climate of love.

Monday, 4 April 2016

"We Cannot Tire or Give Up"

By Suzzanne Pautler

Kenyan Wangari Maathai (1940-2011), the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, is known worldwide for her Green Belt Movement. Over the course of a thirty year period, her campaign encouraged women in East Africa to plant more than 40 million trees to combat deforestation. In addition, she authored “I Will Be a Hummingbird,” a humanitarian-themed story which challenges the reader to see life from the hummingbird’s perspective. “The least amongst us can be the greatest.  Small development interventions can make meaningful impacts.”  

Necessary Arts visited Sud Academy this afternoon for a three hour workshop focused on developing stage presence, stage directions, and memorization techniques.  Small groups of students rotated through each skills-based workshop. I challenged each group to a memorization activity based upon various famous quotes.  A group of six young teenagers focused on Wangari Maathai’s quote, “We cannot tire or give up. We owe it to the present and future generations of all species to rise up and walk.”  The young men were confident that if they heard the quote twice, they would be able to recite it back to me, but not one student succeeded.

We discussed how sometimes it is easier to see information than to hear it.  Each student copied the quote onto a piece of paper, had a few minutes to read and memorize, and then were challenged to perform the quote orally.  Two first boys accomplished this task with ease. The next two boys proudly stood in front of the camera with huge smiles on their faces, but no words escaped their lips.  They were asked to spend more time memorizing, and then come back outside to record. The final two boys could almost accomplish the task without error, but were also asked to return in a few minutes to record again.  One of the goals of Necessary Arts focuses on English literacy development, which is why we challenge the students to accomplish reading, writing, speaking and listening tasks. We know this is not always easy, but this is in and of itself part of the challenge.

Memorization in English

A few minutes later I turned around, and my silent, grinning boys had returned.  During the five minutes they were in the classroom, they came up with Plan B.  They would not allow themselves to fail this memorization task, even though they did not have the English skill set to succeed. Using their ingenuity and creativity, they returned to the camera, opened their mouths, and recited the quote with perfection...all in Kiswahili.  “We cannot tire or give up” came alive right before my eyes!