To donate to TAP’s programs in Jamaica, please click here.
The past couple weeks in Portland, Jamaica to launch the fifth year of the Turn Around Project of the Arts have been a thrill. The Canadian and Jamaican 2012 Crew of facilitators this year has put so much time and effort into perfecting their workshops, building relationships with each other, and of course creating amazing life long bonds with the Jamaican participants this year. Our entire Canadian and Jamaican crew got to Port Antonio, Jamaica on Wednesday July 11th, 2012 and so far it has been an absolute rollercoaster ride. Before the participants arrived on Sunday July 15th, we had four days to set up everything that we needed for the program, see the town and get used to our new home for the next three weeks. I started building relationships with most of these people over the past few years, and some of the new faces I only met in November – but I couldn’t have asked for a better team. Everyone here is so brilliant in their art, and it has been amazing to watch everyone come together and share their skills. There are 70 of us here now, and I could not contain the excitement I felt to see new faces, and old friends. Friends who used to be small but now tower over me. The feeling I got seeing that bus pull up from Kingston into the drive way was one that I’ll never forget.
This year, we revamped the program just a bit. Rather than having two arts workshops per participant, each participant selected one workshop that they wanted to be in for the duration of the program. This workshop was the students “arts major,” the subject that they would meet in every morning for a few hours to learn, grow, and have fun. The workshops offered this year included music, dance, theatre, creative writing, and visual arts. The great thing about this year was that the afternoons were always different and allowed every one of us to show off different skills that were not offered in arts majors. These afternoon program electives allowed the facilitators to lead workshops everyday, as long as these programs had useful transferable skills that would help enhance our TAP experience. We offered electives in things like culinary arts, Jamaican dance, songwriting, stage combat, sports, learning to play Jamaican dominos, etc. This allowed the students to dip into many flavours of the arts.
While this experience for the most part has been a success, this year the TAP program faced its challenges as well. For the first two weeks of the program, 3 barrels that were vital to the comfort of the participants, and the running of the arts major and electives were not delivered in time. In fact, they only arrived a day before the program ended. This meant that we had very limited food supplies, arts supplies, sports equipment, towels, bed sheets, and a lot more. As a facilitator, it was quite difficult trying to make ends meet without all of the workshop supplies that we intended on having, and trying to explain to the kids why we needed to be very careful with the amount of food we were eating. However, even through the lines, vines, and trying times, we all worked together collaboratively to support each other and because of this support, I can say with confidence that we all once again became united into one larger TAP family, and it has been such a joy.
My good friend, and participant of 5 years, Javaun “JJ” Johnson tells of his experience this year, saying: “TAP has been a life changing experience. The workshops were always fun. I loved spending time with the Canadian peoples, they treated me like a son and we will definitely be friends forever!” Spending time with the Jamaican youth this year, and learning about their culture and making strong connections with them has been the most uplifting and rewarding experience of all. However this connection stretches beyond us getting along because we have lived under the same roof for the last 3 weeks. Something really special has to be said about the fact that art truly brought us together.
My great friend/fellow crew-member, Rox Chwaluk and I had a discussion about happiness late at night a few days before we left for Jamaica. We came to a conclusion that happiness is not a destination, but rather a condition. People can always feel happiness, in any moment, this lead to us realizing that we never really understood why so many people we know spend so much time searching for happiness. It is all about the happiness or emotions you feel in one moment. To me, that is the greatest thing about art. That is why it inspires me, because in some way you can express that moment to yourself, to a friend, or to the world. You can express that moment of joy, or sadness, or despair, or hope by writing about it, or drawing about it, or singing about it, or taking a picture of it. Once it has been expressed or recorded, it remains there in the atmosphere for other people to see. Then, when someone in a similar mood sees that art, they can feel or relive that moment too. They can feel that moment with you. That is what bonds people together, and inspires others. It’s like a primary document of the heart, completely and totally valuable.
That’s what I love about TAP. So many connections were made in this year alone, and the people of TAP will continue to inspire each other, and hopefully others through art as this program continues in the years to come.
Check out the program in action here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YfxCF5oz9s&feature=youtu.be
- Meaghan Gowrie
December 15, 2011: We made it!
Wow… It is so hard to concentrate here to write a blog, and I can’t even begin to express my thoughts right now. It’s pretty overwhelming… but I’ll give it a try.
I’m here… TAP is here… in Bhopal, India! After 3 years, I made it…we made it…
Is it bad to say I did not experience a huge culture shock? I don’t know if it’s my previous experiences, or if the media that did me in. We drove in a car, and passed by dirt roads, cows, goats and TONS of people on motorcycles. I took it all in… the sights, the sounds, and the smells.
More to come…
Much love, Rox
December 20, 2011: The Program Begins
Finding Sambhavna, our program location, was not easy. Abeer (our translator and Bob’s cousin, who met us at the airport) even got lost and had to ask locals! We drove down these tiny roads… the car was too big! Finally, we arrived at Sambhavna.
Sambhavna is beautiful. It’s huge. It’s incredible. The atmosphere is wonderful, and everyone working there is so kind. It was after Abeer left for the first time that we realized we definitely needed translator! The language barrier is very difficult, but we are doing best to communicate with each other. Our first volunteer meeting was interesting. Although we thought our program ideas had been communicated via e-mail, we still had to pitch it to the entire clinic staff. Sambhavna runs like a true democracy. During all the meetings we attended, someone different was taking minutes or leading the meeting. After hearing some of our ideas, we got the go ahead to begin our program!
We decided on a 9×5 mural that will go on the inside of the clinic, so rain will not destroy it. We also brainstormed some immediate ideas of what the mural will entail. This list (after a few days) had over 50 suggestions from clinic staff and clinic users! We also talked about photography, visual art and other fun activities and concluding with a photo and art gallery at the end of our program, and of course – unveiling the mural.
We turned the “round house” in the back of the clinic into an arts workshop space, every day from 10am-230pm! This was the program… and it was going to begin! We put up some signs in Hindi and English saying “Art in progress, all are welcome”. The first day was incredible. We had about 5 or so kids in the morning, and some parents. The afternoon was super busy. Since the first day, it has exploded. More than 50 people are participating in some way. We have multiple stations running at the same time. We have bracelet making with Halyna, Visual Art with Jamez, and Photography with Rox. Lately, Jamez has been working on the mural upstairs so we changed it up a bit. We kinda just go with the flow.
During our second Wednesday… we ran out of beads, but that was ok! Photography is still a hit, and so is visual art. The kids feel they need to draw with rulers and pencils. No going “outside the lines”! We’re trying to break that. We’re feeling ambitious.
December 25, 2011: Our Last Days…
There is no doubt in my mind that this is where TAP needs to be right now. Everything about Bhopal… just clicks. There is something special about these people, and this place. Two weeks is not enough, I can tell already! – Rox
The TAP program is officially finished. Our last day was Saturday. We created an art gallery for Sat/Sun/Monday for everyone to enjoy. We printed 300 photos that the participants took (they can take them home Monday) and put up over 50 pieces of visual art. Yes, Rox still has our Justin Beiber dance party on video – but that will be a private collection!! Great program, executed well. We set goals, and reached those goals. Beautiful journey…
We will miss everyone in Bhopal very much. The clinic staff, who is now family. The neighbourhood children and families.
We’re here…we’re staying…all is good…
The goal… return December 2012.
Sambhavna – Possibilities
Much love and respect,
TAP India Pilot Project Team
Jamez Townsend, Halyna Sopinka-Miller, Abeer Ahmad Siddiqui and Rox Chwaluk
The Bhopal Mural:
Read more about TAP’s Journey to India in this article featured in the Brock Alumni Newsletter: http://www.brocku.ca/brock-news/?p=15555!
I laugh, I love, I try, I hurt, I need, I fear, I cry and I know you do the same so we are really not that different, me & you.
- Colin Rave
This year, 18 Canadian/American participants and 45 youth participated in the project. TAP’s mission is “to create integrated arts projects which foster reciprocal exchange in order to impact and strengthen communities.” All participants, regardless of age, origin or nationality, are impacted in some way through the project. Our theme for this year’s program was The Art of Communication. This theme was reflected in the arts and leadership workshops each day. What each person took away from the program was unique to their individual perspective.
Read on to find out how the experience impacted different participants…
I’ve learned so much about myself as a teacher, as a Canadian, as a student and as a human being from this experience, and I know I will take this learning with me throughout my life time.
- Lescia, Theatre Facilitator, 22
Its an absolute privilege and joy to be here in Jamaica to experience all of this with TAP. An opportunity and experience like this isn’t one you come by everyday. And for a lot of people if never does. So all of this for me is much more than just amazing. Its life changing.
Saying goodbye to the kids today was a huge challenge. But it was a challenge that exceeds the simple term worthwhile. Looking around to see so many of these people crying, was heart breaking. At the same time though, thats when I was reassured that what we went there to do, had been done. It had been done very well. Each of these kids has impacted my life in such a huge and positive way, its astounding. They way these youth made me feel, they way they smile, and touch your heart is something nobody can take away from you. Nobody can take away that change in your life.
All these people are my change. This was my beginning to be the change I have always wanted to be. I’ve started, and take it ”step by step.”
- Sara, Canadian FIT (Facilitator in Training) Team Member, 16
In terms of the effect of the workshops and the aims of the project, I think its overall success can be seen with the example of Kemar. At the beginning of the project, Kemar had absolutely no confidence. Through the writing workshop, he was able go from that person to someone who would go on stage in front of 60 people and belt out an amazing poem about his mother with force and conviction. He undoubtedly left Port Antonio with a new sense of self-assurance and pride that he will take with him to his community and use to benefit his future. Being witness to this profound of an impact allowed me to see how important TAP is, and why I hope to continue the work in 2012.
- Mike, Writing/Music Facilitator, 25
To effectively communicate we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world & use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.
- Anthony Robbins
What a successful year this was for the TAP Jamaica 2011 Project! The TAP Team has been back now for almost 3 weeks and like always, so many of the Canadian and Jamaican participants have been changed by the experience. We were blessed with extraordinary participants and team members who had so much talent. Before I continue, let me stop and thank our family, friends and donors for their support throughout this journey. We would not have been able to run such a great program without YOU. You have helped make this dream a reality for so many participants!
Here are a few highlights from the program…
This year, we enhanced the program with two new art disciplines – Film/Photography and Culinary. Over the years, both have been present but have not been highlighted in the workshops. The Film/Photography Program was offered to only two participants (as a Pilot) who had the opportunity to have one-on-one training with TAP Team members and became the TAP Film Crew, documenting the activities and capturing moments throughout the program.
In the Culinary workshop, a total of 7 “chefs” were born! They learned cooking techniques and helped to prepare the meals for the rest of the participants. At the end of the program, the Visual Art workshop presented the culinary students with a personalized cover for their cookbooks.
Our Canadian/American Team was filled with many volunteers who were able to offer some unique workshops including graffiti, rapping, gymnastics, weaving, songwriting, skateboarding, electronic sound production, knitting, and more! Jamaican youth caught on to these artforms fast and had SO much fun participating!
One of the biggest highlights of the year was the introduction of the FIT (Facilitator-in-Training) Team. The objective of the FIT Team was to train some senior participants who have demonstrated a passion for the arts and leadership skills during a previous program (Canadian and Jamaican) and throughout the year. This program provided the opportunity for 11 participants to co-facilitate in the various art forms including Dance, Theatre, Creative Writing, Music and Visual Art with TAP Team members while also engaging in conflict resolution and leadership seminars based around The Art of Communication, the theme of this year’s program. The FIT Program was very successful and we hope to continue developing the leadership and facilitation skills of our participants all year!
As a result of the FIT Program, 5 of our participants have “graduated” from the program and will be joining the TAP Team in 2012 as Facilitators, where they will be developing and implementing arts workshops of their own. Their contribution to the overall program really raised the bar for the rest of the participants and we look forward to plugging them in to some local and international activities throughout the year, representing the organization on the ground in Jamaica as TAP Ambassadors.
Check out what Jo-Dean Tapper, one of TAP’s FIT Team graduates, had to say below about this year’s program and the overall impact TAP has had on her life. Jo-Dean is entering her third year of a Dramatic Arts degree at the Edna Manley School of Visual and Performing Arts on a TAP Scholarship and has been involved in the TAP Jamaica Project since the Pilot in 2007. This year Jo-Dean played an integral role in her workshops (Theatre and Creative Writing) and demonstrated her leadership skills throughout the program.
I really appreciated TAP for what it was this year…I definitely and positively know that TAP is where my heart and soul is right now. I see so much things happening for TAP and that we can come together as a team to accomplish…I am afraid that if we don’t just go ahead and make these ideas come to life, then someone, some gifted and talented child out there, will not be able to get that wonderful opportunity that Shaneil* and I got. So I think that I owe it to myself and all the other kids out there like myself to just continue making TAP a lifelong project…and know that the sky is the limit for the team.
*Shaneil also received a TAP Scholarship to attend Edna Manley in the Dramatic Arts degree program.
Check back soon for more testimonials from participants (including Shaneil) and highlights from the program!
Keep reading, and we’ll keep writing!
TAP and Lyndesfarne Theatre Projects have partnered to run a 40 week program at The RAFT in St. Catharines, Ontario.
The RAFT operates a resource centre, emergency shelter and provides community outreach and development activities to youth in the Niagara Region (www.theraft.ca). Every fourth week, TAP brings in a Professional Artist – for a total of 9 artists.
Some of our artists have included Magician Alex Kazam, Visual Artist Jamez Townsend, Beatboxer Justin Boutillier and Rappper Ibrahim Qureshi. The artist runs a 2 hour workshop in their discipline – spending a bit of time showcasing their skills and a majority of the time passing on these skills to the youth.
In most of the workshops, there is an aspect of a product (a graffiti wall, a cd of created beats, etc.) The youth have responded very well to our artists and we are excited to maintain this project!
One enthusiastic youth said: “I enjoyed the performances by Justin and Ibrahim because I got to help make some of the beats.”
Five more artists to come! This project is scheduled to end in Spring 2011!!
For more information on Lyndesfarne Theatre Projects, check out their website at: www.lyndesfarnetheatreprojects.com!
The violent outbreak on May 22, 2010 which shook the country of Jamaica, forced the TAP Executive to spend a considerable amount of time in conversation with associates both in Canada and Jamaica investigating the best possible way to proceed with the 2010 Jamaica Project. The final conclusion was reached that, for the safety of both the Canadian and Jamaican participants, it would be in everyone’s best interest to postpone the project for 2010 and commence again in July 2011. Our desire is that the additional time and resources gained will allow us to offer a more enriched experience for the participants next year.
TAP members have worked hard throughout the summer to create care packages for each of our participants. These packages include items such as hygiene products, non-perishable food items, flip-flops, toys, and writing utensils. We are so grateful for the many donations that poured in after the TAP community was informed of our decision. The packages will be shipped this week to our participants across Jamaica!
In order to maintain TAP’s presence in the lives and communities of the participants and in order to strengthen the Jamaican Leadership Team, TAP has decided to host the first ever Arts and Leadership Intensive in February 2011, bringing ten members to Canada for a 10-day program including workshops lead by local educators and artists as well as a chance to interface with Canadian youth by entering local high schools to showcase their talents.
Although TAP did not run its fourth annual Jamaica Project in July 2010, we had the opportunity to introduce two new projects in Canada.
For the first time, TAP partnered with Youth Options for Success (YOS), an organization based in the Niagara Region which creates programs to help promote strong families and healthy communities, and hosted the first ever “Arts Camp” in July 2010. TAP was responsible for providing workshops to youth ages 9 to 14 which allowed them to explore relevant issues through theatre, creative writing and improvisation. TAP will continue to work with YOS in the future, hoping to offer programs to youth and their families to help strengthen communication and ultimately, relationships.
TAP was welcomed by the Woodgreen Community Centre, a local non-profit organization that provides a range of services and programs to the Toronto East Community, in July 2010. The participants, ages 14 to 17, included 15 Aboriginal Youth from British Columbia and 25 Caribbean Youth from Toronto. TAP provided a series of workshops for four days including theatre, music, and dance, and on the final day the youth selected one area to present for the Final Showcase. One of the highlights was the workshop offered by guest artist Blakka Ellis entitled “Rites, Rights and Creative Writing”, which focused on the link between the arts, culture and human development. TAP has made a commitment to continue to work with the Aboriginal Youth by offering a similar program in their community in British Columbia in the coming years.
Wow! What a summer! Let the fall begin!
To find out more about what TAP is up to in the next little while, please join us for our Annual General Meeting and Eat So They Can Fundraiser on Sat. Oct. 16th in Hamilton, ON. More details to come…
Michael(President) and I met when I was looking for a male mentor for one of my grade 6 students who was having issues with the law and had no male role models in his family. Michael talked about his current interests and projects – his music, playwriting, art etc. and we have been friends since. As a retired school principal, I looked at participating in TAP as an opportunity to reconnect with kids in a creative way. I have always been passionate about children and the arts and TAP became the perfect venue to combine both of my interests. I am very excited and look forward to the upcoming Jamaican adventure.
-Jane Cooper-Eade, Board Member/Jamaica 2010 Art Facilitator
I love every opportunity I get to talk about TAP and what has become my biggest passion: the arts. TAP was conceived in a 3rd year Drama in Education classroom at Brock University where I and 17 of my classmates, were infused with the desire to share our talents with youth from our professors’ hometown in Kingston, Jamaica. The course was called “Alternative Forms of Theatre” and in our particular year, the country of focus was Jamaica and our professor was a Jamaican-born dub poet. After seven months of hard work running fundraisers, planning arts workshops and organizing all the finite details, the dream crystallized into reality in June 2007 with the first ever TAP Pilot Project.
One of the most distinct feelings I had upon landing on the island was fear. I was afraid that I wasn’t going to be good enough; that they wouldn’t respond to our ideas; or that there would be no kids in attendance. All of those fears dissipated quickly the first day of the program. We brought enough white t-shirts and tye dye for 100 students and to our delight, we didn’t have enough (we designated some of the students to spray the tye dye). Over 100 kids showed up that first day. On an average day there were approximately 80 students, ranging in age from 7 to 18 years old, who participated in a series of workshops including mask-making, theatre, dance, music and creative writing. After successful program, the students hosted a showcase for their parents and teachers to display their performance pieces (plays, dances, songs, etc) which they wrote and produced on their own. We were students ourselves and although the team was thrown into many unknown situations, the more we came together as a team and let go of control, the better the result.
Fast forward to July 2010. The team will head to Jamaica to run the fourth annual arts program.
Approximately 30 of the students who attended the Pilot Project return year after year and altogether we have welcomed over 200 students from across the country to participate in a free, two-week arts program. The first year I asked myself, “Will there be any students there?” and now I’m asking myself how I’m going to turn them away. There is a buzz around the TAP Program in the five communities we work with. This summer will be my fourth year in a row and I am now the Program Director. After seeing first-hand the transformative power of the arts, I am impelled to work with TAP to give as many students as we can an opportunity to find alternative ways to voice their opinions, express emotions, develop new talents, and for some, even learn how to swim.
What makes TAP such a great organization is that young adults are given the chance to learn about themselves and others, and to enhance their art form from the artistic exchange they have with the participants. In 2009, TAP began the Scholarship Program offering two members from TAP’s Youth Leadership Team the opportunity to attend the Edna Manley School of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston, Jamaica. They are currently completing the second of a four-year Bachelor of Arts program.
A wise author named Steven Pressfield wrote in his book entitled “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles“, “When inspiration touches talent, she gives birth to truth and beauty” and ”there never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny.”
I truly believe you can do anything you put your mind to.
Tiffany Stull, Co-Founder and Executive Director