ARTS & CRAFTS PROJECT
Around 2 years ago, Dominica suffered badly from TS Erika, and Brenda in UK very kindly volunteered to collect and send whatever was needed to help. I was happy to distribute this to those in need who were not able to access Aid from other charities, often because of them being in areas difficult to reach. So together we started Help for Dominica, and were very successful.
Around 1 year ago, we both decided that continuing handouts was no longer the answer, as the more we gave out, the more we were asked for. And once the initial needs were met it was important to allow local economy to prosper again. So we looked for another need to refocus our attention on that would bring long term benefits to the island.
WHY ARTS & CRAFTS?
I have been volunteering at Castle Bruce Primary since I first came to Dominica, mainly helping slower learners. Arts & Crafts is a subject that is on the school curriculum, but the teachers are not given the materials or the resources to do the lessons effectively, but it is very important for the following reasons.
– Some of the academically “slower learners are actually very artistic, but they don’t know it yet. Finding something they are good at gives them confidence in themselves.
– Arts & Crafts make children think in different ways – they work together, solve problems, use their imagination. All essential life skills.
– The children REALLY love the lessons.
– While we do whatever project is the subject of the lesson, we take the opportunity to educate the class. for example, how important are bees, or when we make owls or bats, we talk about their vital role in the Islands Eco system too, and how, “No, they are not evil” or “No, they don’t drink your blood”! If we do colour wheels, or collages, we may talk about careers that use the skills they are learning, or different famous artists, or different kinds of art.
ARTS & CRAFTS FOR SCHOOLS AND GROUPS
Once we had agreed on this project, I teamed up with my friend Patti McInerney who also volunteers at the school. Brenda carried on fundraising and collecting supplies in UK for Arts & Crafts.
Since the project started, in addition to the Castle Bruce lessons, and some in Kalinago Territory, we have supplied and supported over 20 schools island wide with materials for lessons, and we are grateful to others outside the UK who have also come on board to help. We have regular donations from supporters in countries such as France and US.
Patti and I are really popular and in great demand, and we get great feedback from the other participating schools. (Patti is in the US at the moment, as her house was very badly damaged by Hurricane Maria, but she is missing us and still supporting Help for Dominica!)
We have also been able to assist others locally who have an interest in Arts & Crafts to take voluntary classes at schools. This has benefited the children, and also those taking the lessons as it gives them a sense of purpose, and we have been amazed at some of the results from this, including these flowers, cards, wallets and coasters.
Another way we use the supplies is to support groups, such as the Peaced Together project which helps victims of abuse through Arts & Crafts therapy. I was pleased to receive training for this project when we were visited by some from the UK project www.peacedtogether.co.uk
AREN’T THERE MORE USEFUL THINGS YOU COULD BE DOING?
This is a question I have been asked directly and indirectly a few times, and it always surprises me. So many future careers need some kind of artistic knowledge or ability to “think outside the box” or creatively. I hope the points in this blog have given a positive answer to the question!
There are many other ways in which we use Arts & Crafts lessons to help children learn about the beauty of the island, and the importance of understanding the ecology and playing their part in protecting and looking after the environment. One example is regular outings which are much enjoyed by all.
I noted one day, while discussing the beauty of Dominica, the boy I was teaching said to me, “but, Miss, I have never seen a waterfall.” This really surprised me, as this island has so many waterfalls, but many children have never been to our natural beauty sites. So then, I started taking children out for day trips or hiking trips, all over the island in the term holidays, while still helping out during week days. We even once went to Boiling Lake. That was an exhausting day!
We incorporate these learning and fun days into Arts & Crafts lessons to reinforce lessons learnt on our outings. Subjects like Geography, the History of our island, the ecosystem, nature, biology, physics and so many other subjects are linked to the Arts & Crafts lessons and outings which make it so much easier for slower learners. And so much fun for all!
Literacy Week was another week long opportunity to use Arts & Crafts by painting literacy slogans and their meanings on T shirts and banners, culminating in a Literacy march to display them
There are dozens of reasons really, for doing these lessons. Recently we have run an Art competition and seeing and hearing happy children proudly displaying their artistic achievements is the best reward we could ask for.