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.

My first experience as a teacher volunteer

By Theresa Toerien

July 1 - July 3

Ali Bey Kenagi Hotel
We arrived in Istanbul on July 1, and continued onto our next flight and destination - Gaziantep.  We arrived at this very quaint old style hotel, where we met up with Natasha.

We had a day and a half to get ourselves prepared for our workshops and orientate ourselves with our environment.   After a lovely day exploring we met up with Jehad, Furaz, Ms. Ruba and Captain Fawaz to explain our program and make arrangements for the next few days.

On Monday morning we all woke up refreshed and ready to go. After sharing a breakfast of a variety of cheeses, breads and fried eggs with Natasha and Naima, we did some further preparation for the day ahead at New World Academy.  

Communication is a barrier and messages get lost in translation.   We were waiting for Captain Fawaz, (he got that name because he coaches soccer) to pick us up at 12:00, since we thought after our previous evening’s meeting that we would be working with the teacher’s from 12:30-2:00, since the boys were swimming and the girls had another activity.  Captain Fawaz arrived at 1:15 pm and excitedly we jumped into the mini van.   We arrived at NWA and it seemed chaotic. The 3-4 year olds were running around getting ready to go for lunch, the girls were in English class, the boys were just returning from their swimming activity and heading to lunch.

We decided that we will take all the kids from ages 4-11 to work with them for the first 2 hours and then do some art at the end of the day...Oh boy what an interesting experience. I walked around and started taking photos as I was the designated photographer.

We had to wait a while for the kids to finish lunch and as they finished slowly they started peeking around the door of the multipurpose room that we were going to use as a drama room.   One little boy was brave enough to come in with a little bit of encouragement.  You could see by the look on his face that he was intrigued with these strange people.  We learned that his name is Said and that he can speak pretty good english, eventually his friends Assad and Ahmet joined them.   After a couple of minutes the rest of the school rushed in.   The “games” began.  I must say I loved seeing the little ones trying to mimic the Drama activities with as much gusto as the older children and with maybe even more concentration.  It goes to show that even with the language barrier actions speak louder than words. After an hour we decided that it was time to split the groups as it was a little chaotic and the AC was not working in the room. Naima took the older ones and continued the drama activities and Natasha took the 4-7 year olds for ELL.  It was interesting to learn that the kids were reluctant to remove their shoes and sit on a floor without carpeting.  I observed the kids and noted that they were very aggressive towards each other and then there were also groups who would not let go of each other.  We have an idea of what some of them have experienced in their short lives but we will never know the actual back story and the impact it already has on their future.

We arrived back at the hotel after a long and tiring day to meet up with Buket who joined us from Istanbul to help with the Art program.

Monday, July 3rd

We arrived at New World Academy and Naima and Natasha received a resounding welcoming. I moved between classes for the first two hours taking photographs and just observing the behavior of the kids. We had purchased books for the kids to do their writing and it was interesting to see that every time they were asked to do a different writing activity they would rip out the page and start on a new one. When they left the room they just left the writing books on the table although we had explained that it was theirs to keep and to bring back for the next lesson. For the last hour of the day Naima and I started a hand drawing activity with the boys as the girls were dancing.  We are getting them to make a friendship tree.  

Tuesday, July 4th
They drew their hands, wrote their names, drew a picture and then colored it. Once they were finished each boy had a turn to get up and explain why he had used the specific colors and what the words and pictures meant.  They were all very engaged in this activity and it was one of the quietest moments during the day.  The owner has kindly offered us 5 free meals. We day and enjoyed a lovely dinner at Imam Cagdas Restaurant.  

Wednesday, 5 June
Yet another interesting day to begin with the little mites. Today we introduced friendship bracelets. I prepared the card with the string and taught them how to start weaving the bracelets. They were all very interested in making these bracelets and took pride in their achievements when they saw how these loose pieces of string eventually became a knotted bracelet.  They could not complete the task in the given hour and were very excited that they could take them home and bring them back the next day to complete.  This was the only activity where the boys and girls were not aggressive toward each other and gender did not matter they were just being kids.  Mohammed had finished his bracelet and wanted to finish his as he was not coming back the next day.  I did not quite get the message from Naima and the poor child was so upset that he could not finish his bracelet.  Naima managed to get the message across that we would put the button on the next day and send it home with his mother who works at the school.

Thursday, July 6th
When we arrived at the school the kids came up to me with their bracelets and were anxious that they had to wait until the end of the day to finish their bracelets.  Some of the kids asked me to keep their bracelets until the art class.  It was very interesting to see their little faces light up once we had added the buttons and fastened the bracelets around their wrists.

Friday, July 7th
We took a rest day!

Saturday, July 8th  

Natasha and I decided to do a little sightseeing today.  We went to the Gaziantep Mosaic Museum. The mosaic’s displayed in the museum is from an archeological site that was discovered in 1987. The mosaics date back to 300 BC when Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the great’s generals founded the city Seleucia (named after him) on the Euphrates as a strategic and commercial city. He also founded another city on the opposite side  named Apameia.  Seleucia grew and Apameia declined.  Seleucia was annexed by the Roman Empire and renamed Zeugma.  It was a major trade city on the Euphrates.  Over the year as history continued the cities were buried and rebuilt.  Since 1987 excavations for the two cities were carried out by the Gaziantep Museum, but in 2000 due to other artifacts found it came to the attention of the international spotlight.  Unfortunately with the completion of the Birecik Dam in 2000 the water began to rise over the ancient cities of Belkis/Zeugma and eventually submerged the cities for eternity.  Fortunately hundreds of square meters of mosaics columns, fountains and small artifacts were rescued and restored and these are on display at the Museum today.

We also went for a walk through the old markets, with displays, of copper wares, handmade leather shoes, dried vegetables used for the making of dolmades and of course the famous pistachio nuts.

BBQ in the Park

Jehad and Furaz picked us up at around 6.00pm for a barbecue in the park. We arrived and there was group of about 15 adults and a combination of teenagers and smaller kids.  We were a total of about 20 people.  Upon arriving Jehad walked us around the park where we able to observe different stages for “courtships”  from weddings to engagements.  We saw brides in wedding gowns ranging from white, blue, light pink, purple it was a rainbow of colors.  Some dresses were hijab styled and others were very western and quite revealing which I found very interesting.  I could hardly figure out which were wedding celebrations and which were engagement celebrations as all the outfits were so similar.

We finally settled down under some Eucalyptus trees and the evening preparations began.  The ladies prepared the salad and breads and hummus, while Captain Fawaz took charge of getting the fire going and cooking our chicken. Throughout the evening I had various conversations with individual people in the group and found more about their lives in Syria and how they arrived in Turkey and are coping with the current situation. They ranged from doctors, dentist, biochemists, educators and housewives. They were of the fortunate ones who still had a means of getting out of Syria and starting a life in Turkey without having to experience the hardships of the camps.

Jehad and Furaz, met at university. She is from Damascus and he is from Homms.  She was in her first year and he in his final year studying to be a chemist.  She jokes about how they fell in love and he was patient enough to wait for her for four years to finish her degree in biochemistry.  They married and opened a pharmacy in Homms. After the revolution started they travelled to Damascus one weekend to visit Furaz’s family. Upon returning to Homms they discovered that their building in which they worked and lived had been destroyed, many of their friends had died and disappeared that weekend.  They went to Damascus to try and rebuild their lives but eventually decided to come to Turkey, which was no easy feat, they packed their possessions into the car and drove a dangerous route to Lebanon, from there they continued their journey and eventually ended up in a small coastal town in Turkey, once they received their protective residence status they moved onto Gaziantep as they already had a network of friend here who had made the journey before.  The car they picked us up in is the one they came with four years ago.  They took psychology courses and are working at NGO’s within Gaziantep helping local Syrian’s as well as women and children within Syria.

We also chatted with a younger lady (Sarah) whose journey was even more challenging,  she has been in Gaziantep for just over two years now.  She was studying to be a doctor like her sister but according to her she unfortunately did not get the grades required to continue after two years of studies.  She is married to a doctor who has chosen to stay in the villages around Homms because there are no doctors looking after pregnant and sick females.   Her journey to Gaziantep began like all the other stories.  Their home was bombed and after numerous moves from one apartment to another and hiding away with 3 children all the time just became to stressful.  Her sister who is a dentist was already in Gaziantep. For Sarah the journey was even more daunting - she had a 3 month old baby and two 9 year old girls. One of the girls is severely brain damaged and in a wheelchair, unable to do anything for herself.  She was born normal but at two months old the doctors found a tumor on her brain and decided to operate.  Her condition just deteriorated from there.  So with a baby and a child in a wheelchair and no husband to help her, she started her journey.  She had to change vehicles eight times on the journey from Homms to Lebanon.   After that she had to take a boat to Iskenduren, Turkey to be able to arrive on a protective residence visa.  After her visa was granted she continued the journey to Gaziantep to meet up with her family.  She has only just moved into her own apartment with her kids and we were fortunate to meet her husband.   He had come to Turkey for Eid. He wasn’t sure when he was returning to Homms because his journey is extremely dangerous. Once he reaches the Turkish/Syrian border he walks or travels on a donkey for 6 hours back to Homms. He does not use any vehicles because he says that makes him an easy target and he needs to survive to keep doing his job.

This is just one of many stories we heard. It is amazing to me how these people have the strength and tenacity to rebuild their lives and continue to be so positive and happy.  I learned a lot about human nature from them.  Thank you to all.

10-13 July, 2017
We returned to the organized chaos of New World Academy on Monday refreshed and ready to continue our teaching quest. I was amazed at what these kids found valuable to them and hung onto that.  We would generally assume it would be textbooks, pencils, crayons, and books, but it wasn’t. It was the little things like the friendship bracelets they spent hours making, which I must admit I am very proud of being able to teach them how to make those.   The little click clack crocodile clips that made sounds, the plastic covered maraca bottles made me think that perhaps those are the things they miss the most. Having something simple, and what we think may view as irrelevant, to be able to call their own.

I learned that just showing up and caring, taking a minute of your time to stroke the arm of a distressed child who cannot handle the noise of another screaming child, meant the world to these children.

The thank you we received at the end of the week was overwhelming and brought tears to many, that made up for all the other frustrating events and language barriers which there were plenty of.

We are always all so busy and caught up in our own lives, that our problems seem to be the only ones in the world, then you have an experience like this and realize how spoiled and privileged most of us are.  

I want to make an effort to continue helping those in real need.  I may not be an educator with all the necessary degrees required these days to be able to help those in need, but I am a mother and a grandmother and love and caring just comes naturally.  I’m sure I will be able to add the other things to my repertoire like learning more arts and crafts!!!!
Thank you Naima for giving me this opportunity to work with you and the team in Gaziantep 2017!