Photo by lusi on SXC

How can I better lend a helping hand?

Recently I’ve been reflecting on personality and how it may hinder or better support my creative process. One key bit of information I learned was that my personality often seeks ways to help others, so it is natural in my art I want to find a way to support something larger than myself. Several people on Twitter and in “real life” shared the same feelings with me (INFJs unite!). I felt frustrated that I still didn’t feel I had a good answer and despite sharing some of my profits with KIVA, I still felt wanting.

It all came together about one week ago. My school had a presentation about a slum in Africa called Kibera and we are raising funds for a school that resides within the slum. The kids are almost entirely orphaned and many don’t live past the age of 5. For my privileged students (and self) it was quite an experience to hear someone speak about living and working in that environment, seeking to raise money for the kids who choose to come to school, who all yearn for the experience I had and my students are having.

I left that talk feeling inspired. People were all finding ways to contribute, including a teacher that biked around a track for 24 hours to raise funds for the school. Despite being given facts and figures during the talk I knew some students and adults still didn’t understand the gravity of the situation in Kibera. I’m not even sure I do! I began thinking about how I could incorporate this into the classroom and make it something the kids can take ownership of while developing a greater understanding of the problems that school community faces.

In the past I have created a lesson based on the artist group Stan Cafe’s Theatre Company called Of All the People in All the World. I had students develop statistics about consumption within Dubai and our school and create installations or sculptures based on those numbers in order to help develop understanding of the waste we create. I earned a grant for developing that lesson and while it was a hard project to manage, with all different age groups (mixed high school classes) completing all kinds of different tasks (hello differentiation), it was rewarding to see the product.

Everyone likes to help out.

The other night I had a lightbulb moment. What if I switched that project on statistics and instead of speaking to our environment, why not change it to another cause or topic also immediate in the students’ lives? Why not make it about Kibera? I was about to fall asleep but instead I rolled out of bed and filled pages of my notebook with ideas for the lesson. And now I have a project in the works to introduce to students when I return from break! Maybe creating installations and sculptures based on statistics of living in the slum, or going to the particular school we are considering, will open some more eyes. And it also fulfills my need to reach a larger audience and help a larger cause! Now only if I can apply it directly to my own art….

BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Can you reflect on a time when you have been open to ideas and made connections between different areas of your life? When that synergy happens, what have you been able to accomplish?

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