Thursday, 21 December 2017

The Power Within

by Naima Thompson

July 15, 2015. I received news that sent bullets down my spine. My doctor told me that I must cancel my trip to Kenya and instead go for breast cancer treatment right away. The earth ripped apart under me. My heart beat so fast against the table I was leaning on that I had to pull away from it...the table that is. I felt completely betrayed by God.

One year and six months later, I write to you from under a mosquito net with the window open inviting the sounds of a gentle rain on the tin roofs next door. The juxtaposition of the lush green with the rusted corrugated iron, sheltering the impoverished, intrigues me. And still, the gentle drizzle blesses the day.

Today begins our fifth and final day of the continuation of the Reach the Unreachable outreach project for December 2017. Ellie Mutz, her pre-teen sons Zack and Colin, Cecil Mack, Melinda Eversteyn, Theresa Toerien and I bring the idea of POWER OF YOU to our participants.

We began our journey last Thursday as we rushed off to the Dubai airport to catch our flight into Kenya. After a smooth and safe journey, we stayed in Nairobi for the night and left for Kilifi via Mombasa early the next morning. That day that I mentioned above, the day that my doctor told me I could not go to Kenya, would have been Necessary Arts’ first visit to Kilifi. I remember my heartbeat against the table and the only thought in my mind was “NOOOOOOOO. I have to go to Kilifi. Kerry and George have warmly welcomed us to Bofa village. I HAVE to go.” My panic overwhelmed. Suzzi Pautler brought Reach the Unreachable to Bofa for the first time in August 2015 and initiated a beautiful relationship with the youth of that community. A strong foundation and connection were set for a subsequent visit in August 2016 and now our visit in December 2017.

Four days ago, when I entered Bofa Village, Kilifi, I felt like I was home, home as in Tobago. The scene could easily have been Lambeaux Village. The Bofa community gathered at least 75 children to participate in the weekend’s activities. Among many special moments that remain with me so strongly is the moment that I witnessed learning in action, children working with children. Our student volunteer, Zack, led the 10-12-year-olds through improvisation and scene work activities as the warm-up for their performances later on. When they came to the “stage,” the students followed direction so well that you could instantly see their growth and development. Zack was particularly impressed with Teddy who demonstrated a clear understanding of “staying open”. The audience, as instructed, called out “STAY OPEN” in unison each time an actor broke the rule and turned his back to the audience. Teddy, while taking his turn on stage, made the mistake of breaking rule number 2, and when it was called out by the audience, he fixed it and thereafter demonstrated that he understood and could execute the concept. As we sat together later that day, I reminded the team to continuously look for learning, for measurable moments where we can make the connection between our goal and the students’ accomplishments. Zack was impressed with Teddy. I was in awe of Zack.

George and Kerry continue to open the door to their home, Tulia-Bofa, to Necessary Arts and the magic within is incredible. At the end of the 2.5 working days, we asked the children if they would be interested in joining a group once a week to do drama and improvisation work. They are very interested. The plan is for me to work remotely with Furaha, a community leader who works with Moving Goalposts, to facilitate the workshops. Kilifi and our family there are vibrant, talented, and filled with love and kindness for each other.

When I landed in Kenya for the first time four years ago, JEHO welcomed me and Necessary Arts School with open arms. That was the beginning of a strong synergy between NAS and JEHO. After missing flights and such, we arrived safely back in Nairobi to prepare ourselves to work with the children of JEHO the following day. As we drove through the Pipeline slum, one thing immediately stood out. THE ROADS WERE PAVED. No more mud puddles and cautious maneuvering to get to the building. Progress is on the rise, it seems. One might ask me to curb my enthusiasm and realize that Kenya just went through political campaigning. A quick fix to get voters out, maybe? Who knows? It sure was awesome to have paved streets leading to JEHO. The welcome back reception, held in my honor, brought me to tears. The embrace they extended to the team was selfless and genuine. The most consistent and sincere sharing of love I have ever experienced comes from this family of orphaned children, led by their mother Miriam.

Once the celebrations calmed down, we got into the work. Soon enough children and young adults were creating a Christmas tree of paper hands decorated with images and words of POWER. The major question being: What is your POWER? The students participated eagerly and effectively. I am bursting with pride for our student volunteers Zack and Colin. They work with huge open hearts and complete commitment. Zack led his group through the improvisation techniques and they all worked together beautifully. Zack’s leadership, knowledge, and base for theatre arts are exceedingly strong, while his communication style and sensitivities are well synced and executed among the children. The end result is absolutely astounding. This real-world experience for Zack will have a ripple effect for years to come - both on Zack and on those he touched.

The JEHO family gathered together after the showcase to pray in a circle, as they always do. The command of prayer and blessings by Elanor a youth leader was so powerful. After many hugs and a lot of tears, we gathered ourselves and our belongings and headed on our way. The debrief of the day at mealtime was very much needed and welcomed by all of us volunteers. It is such an emotional ride visiting JEHO that everyone needs to share a bit of his/her feelings in a supportive and safe arena. We each shared three words that sum up how we feel. The responses include super kind, emotionally overwhelming, amazing, gratitude, pride. I spoke of pride. I am so proud of the synergy taking place with all of the participants of Reach the Unreachable – students and leaders alike. When I witness Colin and Zack in action, I am inspired and hopeful for our next generation's contributions to humanity. The involvement of student volunteers is the next natural step for our outreach work. In Dubai, there is already a NAS company of young artists involved in humanity. Zack and Colin have both set this in motion and I look forward to the evolvement of future student volunteers. After a much-needed debriefing, we returned to our hotel and settled in for the night.

Day 5 takes us to Sud Academy. Three years ago, I sat in Harlem, NY at my sister-friend, Donna Dove’s, flat. As we spoke about the work of Necessary Arts, the conversation led us to Ger Duany, the South Sudanese Ambassador to the UNHCR. The next thing I knew, there he was, in her flat, in the flesh, sitting with us listening to the works and ambitions of Necessary Arts. It was there that the connection to Sud Academy was made. Now on Day 5, I enter the muddy school grounds for the first time since a NAS team of volunteers first visited in August 2015, led by Suzzi Pautler. The students trickled in slowly, and soon enough, Melinda had them creating their names in graffiti while drawing symbols to represent their POWER. We then used those POWER words to develop oral speaking presentations in the drama workshop. I could see light bulbs switching on as the students found their responses to the recurring question: WHAT IS YOUR POWER?

Deng Buoch, the principal, explains to me that this school is funded by a few well-wishers, and by the Grace of God, they are able to do what they can to keep its doors open. We decide to send a student message to Ger Duany to let him know how the school has progressed and how much still needs to be done. They feel very strongly about South Sudanese people helping the school since it is first and foremost established for South Sudanese refugee children and young adults. Due to the ongoing conflict there, many children have lost years of educational opportunities. It is the Sud Academy that welcomes a 20-year old into a grade 8 classroom and attempts to educate him/her based on academic levels and not age. I really want to see Sud Academy thrive, but at least for now, NAS can continue to do its part for the young and not so young learners.

On Day 6, we saw Ellie, Zack, and Colin off on their safari adventure. They completed their work with Reach the Unreachable and were heading out for 5 nights of an amazing experience. Melinda, Theresa and I packed up all our belongings and piled into Maggie’s car for one last trip.

I managed to make arrangements to revisit the Rialla Education Center in Kibera. The significance of this lies in my first ever outreach work in Kenya. Four years ago, when I decided to go to Kenya to initiate this program, my first stop was at this school. At the time, GEMS Foundation had started the construction of the new school facilities and through GEMS, I gained access to work with the Form 4 children there. At the time, the drama classes were held in a galvanized wall and mud floor room. Standing in that spot now brought back so many overwhelming feelings and reminded me of the beginning of this journey for Reach the Unreachable. We were escorted around the new school by one of the students I had worked with back then. It is so clear to me that this new facility is the pride of the community and yet its own community burned and vandalized areas of it during the August 2017 election campaigns. They have managed to repair what they can, but the black hole of burned books sits as a reminder of the realities of living in Kibera.

Our sixth-day journey of Reach the Unreachable December 2017 has come to an end and I am returning to Dubai both completely exhausted and utterly rewarded. A very talented and dedicated team of volunteers brought the POWER OF YOU program to some beautiful and well deserving recipients. Everyone involved gained either a life-changing experience or at least memories to reflect upon in years to come. As for myself, I am so blessed to have my health and strength back, to be on the ground, and to manifest my life’s dreams. I look forward to returning to Kenya to continue the work of the Reach the Unreachable program.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

They’ve Grown Up...

By Melinda Eversteyn

Sud Academy has not changed since my last visit. In fact the only noticeable change in the past 2 years is that the same smiling happy students have grown up! It was such a thrill to be reunited with this special group of Sundanese refugees who spent the past 2 days of their school holidays with Necessary Arts. Although a smaller group in comparison to the past 2 sites we have worked, they were just as enthusiastic and ready to learn.

We started off with art activities. I asked the students to draw their principal George and all of the students brought their very own style. Some mirrored my demonstration, but most brought their own style to the drawing. The students at this school do not take art so today was a novelty. It was evident by the academic work which still remained on the blackboard that a fairly high level of English being taught here, which both surprised and impressed me. After the portraits of George were complete, we did continuous line drawings and the students were happy to take a risk. The results were fantastic. The final art project involved students writing their name in graffiti styled text and they filled in the letters with colors using a variety of donated materials. They then filled the remainder of the page with words and illustrations of their own power, keeping in the theme of "The Power of You!" We exhibited all the work on the board. This lead well into the drama activities with Naima and Zack taking lead. A little shy at first, the students soon picked up on the different drama activities and enjoyed the afternoon. It was really exciting to hear about their dreams: to be a journalist, a DJ, a football player, to run a marathon…

When the sun returned after a night of rain, we were able to go outside and play a variety of games in the same space where we held our very first workshop. The sunshine also brought more participants. I was so excited to see Aleu, who presented me with his personal sketchbook from home. The illustrations are beautiful and depict his family and animals. After I looked at his book, we spent time discussing different drawing techniques that he can use to advance his work. He then drew a man and a giraffe. I asked him to use the art materials we donated to Sud to run art classes with the students at the academy and to share his talents with others.

We finished the session by taking group photos that mirrored the ones we took back in August 2015 and compared them. The boys at Sud Academy towered over me then and they tower over me still!

Monday, 18 December 2017

Returning to Love

The Power of You – The Power of Jeho – The Power of Necessary Arts
by Melinda Eversteyn

As we drove down the busy streets of the Pipeline district I was excited with much anticipation to return to Jeho and to see the smiling faces of the kids that brought so much love last time I was here in August 2017. But nothing could have prepared me for the overwhelming reception the children of the Jeho orphanage has prepared. As we entered their space there was a large banner, cheers, hugging and plenty of tears of joy. Necessary Arts has ‘come home’ to this special place. After welcome backs and introductions, it was time to get to work. Naima took half the older students up to the rooftop for drama, Zach has the middle age group, and I took the remaining older kids as well as the youngest.

Similar to what we did it Kilifi and maintaining the theme of ‘The Power of You’ I asked the children to trace around their hands, write their name, and then fill the remaining space to depict their power and what is important to you. Reoccurring themes included sport, singing/music, religion, love and the mother of the orphanage Mariam who they refer to as Mum. Once completed things got very glittery! The students used wet glue to outline their hand, poured over glitter, shook off the excess and then cut it out. All the hands were placed on the wall to form a Christmas tree. The adults got right into it too! After a snack break, the groups rotated so all children were able to do their hands. Once complete the little ones continued to draw and use the glitter as much as possible. The older ones then used yarn to created pompoms. The kids picked this up really quickly and when complete I taught a small group how to juggle. Others used the pompoms as a hacky sack, where Cecil showed his pro moves to the delight of everyone. The little kids raced around throwing them. It was chaotic but controlled and I have never seen so much glitter in everyone’s hair!

To wrap things up it was performance time. The older kids up first performing, followed by Zach’s improv group. All groups were fantastic, the children loved getting up on the stage and the audience enjoyed the show. Saying goodbye when doing work like this is never easy and today was no exception, in fact, it was the hardest in all my time volunteering as part of the outreach program. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room as we said our goodbyes and had a group prayer. The kids at Jeho are so special. Their love for each other as a big family and their openness to work with Necessary Arts and welcome us as part of their family is so unique. They make us feel like we are home when we are there with them. They are proof that the love of family and friends is much more important than wealth and privilege. I hope they recognize how much POWER they have and that life brings them opportunities to express this.

Future Artists in Training

By Melinda Eversteyn

Day 3 in Kilifi was yet another exciting and action packed day filled with rehearsals, arts and craft and performance. The visual arts group took their drawings from yesterday, mounted them onto recycled cardboard and hung them on stick formations that were being prepared for a beach installation. With only 15 minutes to spare they each created a number of pom-poms and added these, giving the final sculptures more color and flow in the wind. In the end every participant was able to trace around their hand and add personal detail through decorations and these would set the frame for the beach stage. The older group of students spent the morning with Naima, brainstorming ideas for their dance and putting together the choreography. 

By midday we all went down to the beach. The installation was set up, the words ‘Power Of You’ written in the sand in the style the kids practiced the day before. Everyone got on board and filled the outlines with seaweed. Once the performers arrived the remaining kids served as the audience and it was show time. First up was the girls who performed their dance to a contemporary then traditional Kenyan song. This was followed by the boys who performed acrobatics. Our very own Zach and Colin joined them which for me was great to see. After the showcase we returned to Tulia House for a well-deserved lunch that Answari had kindly cooked up. The kids all received a gift as they left, an art kit with paper. As I walked to the beach that afternoon for a late swim and went past some of the kids, they were all drawing and painting! The past 2 days they have ran up and joined me on the road, but not today. This made we smile and I am so glad they can continue to use some of the skills learnt over the past 3 days; I did not realise that would happen straight after the work shop. This is my third Outreach experience through Necessary Arts, my second time in Kenya, however my first time to Kilifi, and this has been a fabulous and unforgettable experience. The kids have challenged me, got me to think on my feet, and overall impressed me with their ideas and meaning generated through their artworks. There are defiantly future designers in this group and my hope is life  will provide them with more opportunities like this where they can follow their passions and showcase their talents in the creative arts.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Power of self-choice

by Cecil Mack

It’s been two days here in Kilifi and I feel we are getting closer to understanding how necessary the arts are to this community. With the fine arts, Mel led the students to first identify themselves with hand drawings, customized to their own colors, shapes, and patterns. As they had exposure to the materials, they began blending colors and layering between the different creative tasks.  Even as the afternoon sun wore down some of the energy we would find shade and still keep going strong.

In the dramatic games with the little ones, we did ELL games first spelling the “Power of You” before playing “red light / green light” where we discussed the power of self-choice. As the most successful runners were those that could stop and start instantly, we talked about seeing a chance for good to be green and move forward, or a danger to stop with red. The students identified moments to stop like snakes and traffic lights, then shared times to go green to help others, with carrying something heavy or helping up a friend who has fallen. We challenged them to make good/green choices in their community.

With the older kids, there were drama games but it was the most genuine when the music that they love was driving the development of percussion, song, and dance. We already have a plan in place for tomorrow on the beach, art pieces are drying in the sun, the big picnic lunch menu has been set and the kids have a taste for performance while ready for more.

We are all looking forward to a great day 3 here in the beautiful beachside Kilifi. There are just as many smiles which are one way we measure a great day of learning and having fun with Necessary Arts. Every child has a chance to learn and show what they have to bring. The team has been working hard and will be well fed by Answari our host and guide at Tulia, Bofa. More pictures and video to come as WiFi becomes available.  

Cecil Mack
Media Historian
Necessary Arts

Friday, 15 December 2017

Chaos Met Harmony Indeed

By Sybille Ecroyd

By Sybille Ecroyd

On Monday night I went to a play put on by an after-school drama group, taught by Necessary Arts founder, Naima Thompson. It was an unexpected pleasure.  From behind the scenes what I discovered, as an adult tasked with shushing exuberant teenagers backstage, was a focused group of young actors intent on giving the best they had for an audience of parents and supportive friends.  

What they had was a piece they had created over weeks of committed
practice and exploration of method acting, Stanislavsky’s way of getting actors to get inside the emotion of a role, to become and experience that role as the here and now.  

The theme for the evening has been the overriding and disturbing theme of our world’s year: devastation. Through a series of pieces they wrote themselves, they explored the enormity of the question of “why” such things happen through a conversation between an omniscient being who personified devastation itself and hope.  

With each act of devastation, the rest of the cast became the victims and survivors as well as the devastation itself, for example, an especially effective scene a hurricane was evoked by a disco where the actors became fans whose voices gradually built to a high pitched crescendo at the point the hurricane hit. 

Emotions were palpable through scenes of cruelty imposed by a soldier in war-torn Germany to families divided by a natural disaster to a brother dying in a faraway hospital bed, alone. Actors became the people affected by disaster. 

It was an unexpected evening of being educated and reminded of my humanity by an unlikely source: the learners themselves. For that, I thank them all!  Bravo!!

Monday, 7 August 2017

A Reflection of July 2017

by Naima Thompson

Reaching the Unreachable from Turkey to Tobago

Volunteerism fosters human connections and the belief that one individual can make a visible, meaningful difference. Necessary Arts benefits from the generosity of our volunteers year round. Summer 2017 was no different as our volunteers worked around the globe in: Gaziantep, Turkey; Grand Riviere, Trinidad; Buccoo, Tobago; and Kampala, Uganda. As the vacation draws to a conclusion, it is important to reflect upon our experiences with the Help a Friend program, noting how we can grow and improve; thereby, helping our sites to do the same.

Our Turkey volunteer team consisted of: Naima, Natasha, Theresa, Buket, and Ozge who spent considerable time looking for learning at one dedicated site. When the learning was observed, it was brilliant. However, the teaching staff and administration would benefit from further professional development, resulting in a more orderly, or perhaps less chaotic, environment for the betterment of the children’s learning.
Our Trinidad volunteer team consisted of: Naima, Allyson, Cheryl, Gregor, Robert and Sophie who brought together a community hungry for the opportunity to work together. Grand Riviere would benefit greatly from the continued support of a performing arts organization to brings students together to accomplish a common goal. Unfortunately, no leadership was available to have a conversation about sustainability of such a program. Necessary Arts plans to return next year to work with the children, as well as to have a conversation with the school principal to select an adult from the community who is eager to work remotely with Necessary Arts to build and sustain the program in our absence.

Our Tobago volunteer team consisted of Naima, Allyson, Cheryl, Gregor, Patrice, Lydia, and Melinda. Our Reach the Unreachable program strives to transform its participants. At the conclusion of our four day program with YAHWEH Foundation, such a transformation was experienced by the student members of the community and was witnessed by the leaders of the community.  The result of such awe excites Necessary Arts to continue working with these participants. We aim to remotely mentor a dedicated older member of the community to continue working in our absence.In an unexpected site visit to the Mello Tones pan yard we had the opportunity to work with the children for an hour before it was clear that we will partner with local NGO's to service this community in Les Coteaux, Tobago.

Our Uganda volunteer team consisted of Teddy and friends. This project represents the ideal Necessary Arts is seeking... what Necessary Arts must become. Teddy returned home to Kampala this summer, and sought out members of her own community who would benefit from one of the Reach the Unreachable programs. She researched, asked questions, found a community of street children, received funding, and rolled out a stimulating one day program, which included sharing a healthy meal with each participant. Teddy exemplifies the type of volunteer we seek. She fostered human connections within her own community, and made a visible, meaningful difference.

All four sites confirmed that when an opportunity arises for an educator to look for and find learning in a young person, we are blessed to witness a transformation that changes that person’s life and thinking, opening their minds to new perspectives and ideas. For our volunteers to witness and experience this in their work is the ultimate reward at the end of a workshop.

Necessary Arts is proud to see its program adapt from one site to the next. The first 15 minutes of meeting a new group of students, getting to know them, and then mentally organizing the perfect workshop is a huge challenge, but this is what it’s all about.  Our participants accept every challenge we propose. Chaos may dominate at times, but eventually order ensues and transformations occur.

Necessary Arts stimulates minds through artistic expression. We never stop.  We keep on keeping on; proving the necessity of sustainability and longevity at each site.

Thank you to all our volunteers and participants in the Help a Friend outreach program from Turkey to Tobago.

Monday, 31 July 2017

My Highlight!

By Melinda Eversteyn

Although I believe that the process is just as, if not more important than the performance, I do have to say today’s ‘performance’ by the group blew me away and was a highlight for me! It was not just about what the students created and performed that got me, it was their passion, excitement, self-pride and owning their achievement.

After a morning of workshopping and rehearsals to tighten up the show, the cast was ready. A small audience from the community came to enjoy the students three scenes. Everybody was focused, kept in character and showed a greater understanding of what they had been taught. We celebrated after and reflected on the entire experience. The students were honest and each had a unique experience. It was during this time that Channel 5 News arrived to interview Naima and take footage. They then asked the students to re-perform their final scene. What great excitement for the students, some of those nerves, to take their scene from an audience of 10, to a potential national news story. It was a thrill to see their entire scene, as well as the interviews, broadcasted as the top story for the night on the news the next time. Hopefully the publicity from this help enable the students to continue experiences like the past 4 days. Well done to everyone that participated, I am so proud of you and glad all of Tobago got to witness your moving and powerful performance.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

A Time Well Donated

By Gregore Breedy

A View from my Periphery

There are many things in life that one can be sure of. One thing is for certain, none of us can escape as creative individuals: the one chance to become the light at the end of the tunnel; inspiring, educating and becoming lifelines for our future generations, and generations to come through the use of the creative arts.

Volunteering my god given talents to the team of Necessary Arts School (N.A.S.), has given me an in depth opportunity to grow as a mentor and teacher of dance. I was encouraged and able to impart my knowledge and years of experience of the theater arts to the participants of these two communities. Reach the Unreachable manifested it's double meaning in reference to both topographical distance as well as interpersonal realization.

Our journey began on Saturday 22nd of July, 2017, with lots of ‘impromptu-ness’, which was referred to by the director of the project, Naima Thompson, as the “and then there were...?” section of the tour. Being able to share my pearls to those lovely individuals at both Grande Riviere Anglican Primary School and The Yahweh Foundation located in Buccoo, Tobago, positioned me in an arena though different from my own, a culturally similar environment, has opened up my eyes to the immeasurable talent expressed by the young males, in these areas mentioned. The young ladies, not to be out done, also embraced these series of workshops, with a high degree of self-learning.

The many faces from the ages of 3 to senior ages, enclasped our activities, thereby creating a sphere for learning, creative learning, that is. Most of the young men in these areas seemed very enthusiastic about learning new work, by engaging actively, thereby placing themselves as perfect cultural representatives for their community.

Many projects such as these, offer us the participating audience, t an accurate intuitive understanding of the children who are our future. One thing for sure I know, is that because of their willingness to learn and grasp the information delivered to them, continuing to lead the way of empowering their or other communities would be the ideal desired outcome for Necessary Arts.

Grande Riviere and Buccoo embraced the N.A.S. volunteering team with eager enthusiastic faces. During these workshops my perception of this project brought to my attention that the outcome of these activities will be based on their ability to accept and display a  transferred innate strength, shrouded with human adjectives, such as, fear, struggle, introvert, and oblivion. Our challenge was to create scenarios using our artistic  skills to impart an intellectual, magical moment, depicting the truism behind the  meaning of arts in education.

N.A.S. can be described as an everyday story forged into art. And this description can be seen from the very changes experienced by these charges who utilized voice, movement, art, script writing, prop making and self directing, to create scenarios reminiscent/reflective of their communities.

I observed our international team which comprised of artistes and teachers who traveled from places such as, China, Australia, Europe, Dubai and Trinidad and Tobago, offering their services as volunteers, so that the vision and motto of N.A.S. Stimulating Minds Through Artistic Expression can be upheld at the highest level possible.

I observed the entire team's usage of the toolbox system, that is, where we supplied our participants with tools with the expectation that they in turn can use these instruments, to edify, educate and simultaneously entertain others in and around their community.

My goal in this project was to impart skills to these participants through movement, which will afford them to become more confident, risk taking promoters of neighbourhood unity, thereby creating an environment of positive community spirit.

The services afforded by both the team and myself can be seen as a wonder drug, which when physically and mentally absorbed can provide the best possible channel of learning and processing through the creative arts. The best any community can get.

There is a great old tradition of community spirit that has gone by the wayside. N.A.S. and their creative team of  volunteers, through the workshops at Grande Riviere and Buccoo, Tobago, has ignited a flame and rekindled this saying by injecting humanitarian life into these communities.

Through the minds and bodies of these participants leaving these changes by imparting life skill tools, set the scene through a highly creative intellectual makeover, which in turn allow these participants through these activities, to create the surrounding they so desired and deserved.

The scenery at both communities was breathtaking and the consequences of these workshops add to the beauty of this chapter, in this life’ movie, filmed during the period of 22nd of July - 28th of July, 2017.

Memories of this project will forever be etched in the annals of my consciousness. Definitely a time well donated.

Friday, 28 July 2017

My first ever in Trinidad and Tobago!

I joined the Necessary Arts team on their third day at Buccoo Community Centre as we were greeted by a large group of eager students that had arrived early, so excited to start the workshop.
While my main task was to take visual footage during the session, I also had the opportunity to work with two of the boys on typography, specifically creating graffiti styled text. Together we drew designs for the six boxes that are used during the major performance. Diamond, one of the talented students, tells me he will go home and practice and that next time I return he will have created more advanced graffiti art. His enthusiasm and willingness to learn a new skill impressed me. He did this in between performing, writing a script and leading others.

Another young man, Roger, prepared all the boxes by wrapping them in brown paper. His patients and attention to detail was quite incredible. While this would be something I would have rushed, it was nice to see him put in the extra time and effort, taking pride in the props. They will look great on stage.

Other highlights from today include both the stage combat lesson and the flying game . It was great how quickly the group would work together as a team and achieve success. After a delicious lunch the group stretched out with some yoga moves and then it was decision time with regards to planning the final act. The rehearsal for their main performance was looking good and I am excited to see the final show tomorrow. Thanks everyone for a great day...My first ever in Trinidad and Tobago!

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

So much to do, so little time...

by Lydia Ledgerwood & Patrice Trim

Thirty minutes...

Thirteen students...

Ten words...

Two scripts...

Different perspectives...


The Plan...

In Tobago on vacation for a quick three day getaway. Found out our Necessary Arts family would be doing a workshop in Buccoo. Lydia hadn't seen them for a while as she's been in China teaching so we thought it would be a great opportunity to see them. The plan was to pop in, share some love and head to the beach. When we got there that plan was out the window and we shared love with a whole new community of learners.

What Happened...

Naima jumps in the car and suddenly the conversation shifts from how you doing to can you help. We aren't prepared but we are professional teachers. We can do this! Buzz words are flying around in the car. Choral speaking. Soliloquy. Community. Script.

We have thirty minutes to help seventeen students hone their ideas from the theme words and pull out movement, voice and actions that can be used in the final performance. They also need some support putting their ideas together on paper in a cohesive and organized fashion for the script they are writing.

Thirty minutes to do all of that? Challenge accepted!

Lydia's Lens

Together we explored the components of effective voice usage for performance. We covered projection, articulation, posture, breathing and emoting. The activities were a balance of challenge and engagement and they were able to strengthen their teamwork skills.

Lydia in Action
In the end it was a journey for the students to be able to merge old ideas with new skills and techniques and make something dynamic and interesting. I look forward to helping them fine tune their product tomorrow.

Unfortunately, I won't be there Friday to see the final product but I'm confident that not only will it go well but I would've helped them learn skills that they can carry with them for life. It's been a while but was great being part of the workshop today and inspiring a new generation of Necessary Arts students.

Patrice's Panorama 

This time for health reasons I had to take a backseat on the project. I wasn't able be as active as I would've liked but I did jump in and help where and how I could. I read drafts of the script they are currently working on and helped them edit for grammar, punctuation and spelling. I also asked questions and made suggestions as to how they could develop their ideas to make the script better and bring their ideas to life.

It was also great to be in the passenger seat for a change. I could see what the needs of our students are and give them the support they needed on the spot to help them achieve the goals set out by the facilitators as well as maximize their potential. It was awesome for me being able to help!

Unfortunately, like Lydia I won't be there for the final product but I look forward to helping them edit their scripts more tomorrow as well as workshop their ideas with the theme words. I can't wait to see the final product and I continue to consider it an honor to help build the literacy skills of the next generation of Necessary Arts students.

Monday, 24 July 2017

A Spontaneous Invitation

 by Sophie Bufton

It was by spontaneous invitation that I witnessed and participated in Necessary Art’s outreach event at the Grand Riviere Anglican School, in Trinidad on July 22nd. The day before, Naima directed me to focus on the “learning”. I was tasked to capture film-clips of the children in a state of learning. It was a great brief to unapologetically position myself to find the delighted facial expressions, widened-eyed listening and joyous movement.

Necessary Art’s engages children in embodied learning. The company seeks to engage children from underprivileged backgrounds, in hard-to-reach areas of the world like Toco, on the eastern-most edge of Trinidad. The engagement and education is all generated through dance and drama, which brings the whole child to bare actively in these moments of education. The various activities were characterized by clarity of direction from teachers to the children. The teachers directed in a way that invited the children to be active participants. The children were invited to be team-players, be an actively participating member of their peer group. Children were disciplined firmly for not abiding by the rules of the activity, which allowed each activity to be focused and organized, but children were never not humiliated or excluded. Positive behavior and moral character were reinforced throughout the day. In the dance section for example children were directed to explode and say a positive trait like “kindness!”, “strength!”. Most importantly their obedience stemmed from a genuine enthusiasm and desire to engage in the activities. All activities were well-directed “play”. If they followed the rules, they found freedom to move, freedom to express verbally and physically, and positive feedback from the teacher as well as simply the progression of the activity.

Some tools that were observable:
Repeat what I said: having the children verbally repeat specific information to ensure they are embodying the information
Repetition was used intelligently, aspects of an activity like choreography was repeated a few times so the children embodied the information, but never to the point where the activity grew stagnant or tedious. This maintained the interest and energy of the children which enabled the activity to progress into higher-level learning. The teachers were aware enough of what each other had been teaching the children, they were able to reference previously-learnt material, like Mary had a Little Lamb, stimulate the children to remember and reinforce what they had learnt.
Well-directed “play” was respected as both the most natural and most effective means of educating young children.
Activities progressed to either complex teamwork, as in the giant elastic-band activity, to solo performance, as in the poem.

One particular observation: Downstairs the younger children were organized into two groups: Team A and Team B, and the teacher was directing both teams to write a poem. The leader of each group was tasked to do the literal writing of the poem onto huge sheets of paper lay on the floor, which the children also lay on, as she said at times “swimming on the paper”. The leaders of both groups were young girls, around age ten they were likely the two oldest of all the children. The girls, given these roles, took to their roles with an enthusiastic dedication to the task at hand, and appeared to emanate a matriarchal potential even at such a young age.

As the day progressed, I was able to observe these two girls in other roles upstairs, where they were asked to go first in reciting and performing memorized poems to a room full of people, performing dance choreographies to their peers. All of which they executed excellently. The creation of a space for young children to express and practice leadership skills and public performance seems so valuable in early development and yet so rare. It was clear to see the self-confidence of these girls grow over the course of the day. Their accomplishments in all the tasks were quite frankly impressive, and I’m sure they were able to feel great pride in their accomplishments at the end of the day – and take away a sense of their capabilities.

As we left the school, a little late, we passed some of the children in their front yards or with their parents. They seemed to exude the feeling of achievement, positive reinforcement and social support generated by their day with Necessary Arts.