DAREarts Blog

Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence

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DAREarts Leadership Awards 2017: Inspiring Strong Identities & Building a Better Future

The 2017 DAREarts Leadership Awards was a remarkable evening at The Carlu, co-hosted by Jeanne Beker CM and CBC Radio’s Piya Chattopadhyay, that raised $380,000 for DAREarts’ work with at-risk kids across Canada.

Her Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, inspired all of our guests, volunteers and youths with her presence and conversation.

This year’s 2017 DAREarts Cultural Award honoree, Antoni Cimolino, Artistic Director of the Stratford Festival, spoke brilliantly about Identity in Canada’s 150th birthday year and the Stratford – DAREarts partnership.  Mr. Cimolino stated, “It’s inspiring to see the impact of the arts on young imaginations. They help young people feel less isolated and more empowered. DAREarts gives us all hope for the future.”

The elegant decor was thanks to Sinclair Russell and Seneca College Visual Merchandising students.  Guests were greeted by young DAREarts graduates from Rexdale, thanks to Stock Transportation.  A dozen DAREarts youth alumni donned costumes from Stratford Festival’s world-class wardrobes, conversing with guests with Shakespearean panache.

Twelve-year-old singer Zander Marks wowed the 500 guests with his singing of ‘O Canada’. Elder Garry Sault of Mississaugas of New Credit FN conducted an opening prayer.  Performers honoured both Indigenous and Shakespearean creativity.

Left to Right: DAREarts Founder Marilyn Field, Mark LeBlanc of Northbridge, Patrik Montelibano, Yanzhi Chen of Scotiabank, Jaiden Downey, Jack Linklater Jr. & Tarik Muzaffar of TD Bank

The young 2017 Leadership Award awardees, introduced by their sponsor hosts, bravely took to the stage to share their stories of DAREarts helping to overcome challenges including physical and mental abuse, racism, sexism, losing a home to fire, bullying and depression.  Awardees were: Ivan Patrik Montelibano of Etobicoke presented by Northbridge Insurance; Jaiden Downey of Toronto presented by Scotiabank; Jack Linklater Jr. of Attawapiskat FN presented by TD Bank; Eric Shewaybick of Webequie FN presented by Noront Resources; Samira Henry of Etobicoke presented by Bank of America Merrill Lynch; Kiranpreet Kaur Bhangu of Etobicoke presented by Guy Carpenter; and Patina Prize recipient Elijah Brown of Scarborough. They truly enabled the guests to understand the power of the arts to save lives, and that their support ensures all our country’s children will flourish with DAREarts programs led by fine teachers and arts professionals.

Left to Right: Derek & Judy Patina, Elijah Brown, Eric Shewaybick, Kaitlyn Ferris of Noront Resources, Samira Henry & Maureen Jarvis of Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Mike Downie, accepting our Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of his brother Gord Downie, was motivating as a new friend for DAREarts and our work towards reconciliation. The gala featured a Downie Wenjack Legacy Room for all guests to visit, which displayed artwork and videography by northern DAREarts Indigenous youths.  Conceived by the Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief & DAREarts Director, Morley Googoo, everyone is invited to set up their own Legacy Room as a place to learn and share about Indigenous people of Canada so we can all work toward reconciliation.

A special thank you to those 43 guests who raised their hand to sponsor a DAREarts child.

A resounding thanks to all our guests, donors and volunteers for making such a triumphant night – all for the children.

DAREarts is grateful to its National Presenting Supporter, Northbridge Insurance and its Lead Supporters: Scotiabank, TD, Anne Livingston and The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Gold supporters are Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Guy Carpenter and Noront Resources.

We appreciate In-kind donations from Air Creebec, The Carlu, Freeman Audio Visual, daCunha Voyages, Seneca College, Stock Transportation as well as auction donors. Media supporters are CBCClassical 96.3 FM, Globe and Mail and JazzFM91.1.

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DAREarts and Junior Rangers: Spirit of the North

Written by DAREarts Artist-Educator, Glenn Marais.
We are guided by our own inner wisdom and our values system that is our inner compass. Our greatest guide is our heart and that pure wisdom that has grown fertile in our souls from birth. We may have been blessed by good education and mentors and, in this recognition, understand that others have not shared the same bounty.

It was a stormy night and we had a long way to go, but for DAREarts founder, Marilyn Field, and myself, DAREarts artist Glenn Marais, it wasn’t a question of if – only when and how. We were on our way into a forecast of 90 KM hour winds, thunderstorms and possible hailstorms. Our destination: Meaford, ON to speak to a group of Junior Rangers, First Nations youth from all over northern Ontario. Outside of Stayner, it hit us hard: wind so strong the rains were sideways, hail so loud on my van we couldn’t talk over it.  Lightning flashed around us and we held on, drove slow with faith that it would blow over and we would be okay.  It did and we made it to a roomful of hope:  eager, resilient, ambitious, young men and women, training to make a difference in their community.

Marilyn told me we were going for a reason.  I believe wholeheartedly in this philosophy.  It’s a DAREarts philosophy. You show up with an open heart and mind and you embrace the possible in impossible situations.  For these First Nations youth, nothing in life is easy and people let them down all the time. We need to show up. We need to reach out. We need to understand that these young people have had their culture taken away and they are rebuilding their cultural legacy for their own children. That is powerful.

Marilyn was right; something magical happened. We sang ‘Spirit of the North’; a song written in honor of Jordan Wabasse, a youth from Webequie who died tragically young at the age of 15 while attending school in Thunder Bay. They asked us to sing it again and again and again and again. Each time they joined in with more confidence and their voices rose as one. They sensed the power and beauty of this song. Because it is their song:

“I want to see myself, proud,
I want to see myself strong,
I want to be who I am,
I’ve had enough of being wrong.
Love can make you do anything.”

Indeed it can and we love our youth like they are our own, because that is how we see them. As family. It resonated in the room tonight and we left as one people who shared something bigger than ourselves, love.

As we prepared to leave, a young man named Jaren approached me and told me of his grandmother who was in a Residential School. He said, “They took away everything from her.” He thanked me and said that I had changed him. That he believed he could get back what they had lost. In my years of working in the north and with the thousands of students I have had the privilege of working with, this has been the most humbling and beautiful thing anyone has ever said to me. Jaren, you have strengthened my resolve and giving me a great gift. I am eternally grateful. From this storm we emerged into a beautiful sky, burning red, streaked with black clouds, as if hope had burned through and shone its glorious light on us all.

Meegwitch my new friends, we will see you again.

DAREarts 1-888-540-2787 | info@darearts.com

DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower at-risk young people to become leaders. Our lead supporters are Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD Bank Groupand the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

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Volunteer Appreciation Week: Spotlight on Bonnie Masina

DAREarts’ Volunteer Coordinator Bonnie Masina learns to fence with the kids on DAREarts Drama Day! Photo by Alan Dunlop.

In this day and age, every charity is thankful for each and every volunteer and every task they complete! But, it is a rarity when a charity can applaud the fact that they have a Volunteer “Volunteer Coordinator”, and DAREarts is one such fortunate charity!

Giving back and developing community isn’t a learned behaviour, it is ingrained in Bonnie Masina’s DNA – she has always been committed to a greater good for others.  A proud mom of 3, excitedly anticipating the arrival of her first grandchild, while also being a primary caregiver for her mother-in-law, Bonnie still finds the time to be a role model for change.

As a proud volunteer for DAREarts, she joined the team about 18 months ago. She has always had a coach approach to how she interacts with kids, as she coached girls’ soccer leagues for a number of years. She has always understood that, “it’s tough for kids to grow up these days.”

When she joined DAREarts, she knew that it’s “all about the kids, giving them the opportunity to believe they have worth and are capable of so much.” As an analyst in the IT sector, she learned that a lot of the time it’s the behaviours you don’t see that are the best indicators of the challenges someone faces.

She has a calm nurturing approach to interacting with the kids, whether at a DAREarts Program Showcase finale, or working with the DAREarts grads as they return as volunteers. You can see and feel the respect that she gives the kids, and they in turn give it back to her.  Accountability and respect raise the conversations to a level of equality that reinforces the expectations for all.

Weekly Bonnie works in the DAREarts office to track the contributions of all the volunteers that support the breadth of programs we offer. On the best of days, she is able to join a program day or a showcase, where we all get to see the impact of the DARE values: Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence.

And what does Bonnie get back from this work? “It’s a meaningful, impactful opportunity for kids, giving them a place to belong, for them to be a part of something bigger. I get to see our graduates come back and give back to the next generation of kids – and that is amazing! My hope for DAREarts’ future is that one day, our staff are all DAREarts grads, our Board is filled with DAREarts grads, finding their way as our future leaders. That vision, the impact and the kids fulfills me.”

We at DAREarts are truly grateful to have such a wonderful mentor and role model, for our kids, for our volunteers, and for our community. Thank you!

DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower at-risk young people to become leaders. Our lead supporters are Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD Bank Groupand the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

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How Marilyn Field Grew a Top Canadian Charity on a Shoestring Budget

Written by Monika Jensen-Stevenson, Emmy Award winning producer, bestselling author, and DAREarts Director.

“DARE to be Disciplined, take Action, be Responsible and strive for Excellence.” – Marilyn Field, founder DAREarts

For many of us, start-ups are the catch word of the day and no one is more admired than the man or woman who creates an Uber, an Airbnb or Snapchat – companies that earn billions for their founders,  create jobs and add to the well-being of the economy.   But there is another kind of start-up which does not earn billions for its creator and yet has an enormous impact on people’s lives.

DAREarts Founder Marilyn Field, Monika Jensen-Stevenson, Councillor Michael Ford, and TDSB Associate Director Christopher Usih with the DAREarts Grade 8s

For almost twenty years, I have observed the progress of such a start-up, the DAREarts Foundation. Just recently I had the enormous pleasure of participating in its twenty year anniversary which celebrated the success of some 200,000 young people who, over 20 years, used what they learned at DAREarts to fulfill their potential.  Of those kids, very few have failed. Certainly not the young man who had trouble coping when he joined DAREarts as a young immigrant from Ghana. Newly graduated, today he is a practicing optician. Neither the 14 year old who stood his ground against an armed gang on his street, using the confidence he had gained at DAREarts to escape. Still in his twenties, he is today Director of Operations for DECIEM Inc., a multi-million start-up cosmetics company.  He is also DAREarts’ youngest board member.  In the 20 years of its existence, in their careers, personal life and contribution to their communities, DAREarts graduates are successful and happy; most attribute a large part of that to their involvement with DAREarts. Like Liz Ward, homeless at 12 and now in university, who says “DAREarts saved my life.”

The DAREarts Foundation started with exactly zero dollars and is now helping annually 10,000 kids in challenging environments to reach the potential that was in them.  The foundation’s income for fiscal year 2016 was $713,537 – not nearly enough to include the long list of kids who are waiting to join, but a significant accomplishment in today’s tight giving environment.  Only four per cent of that comes from the government.  The largest amount comes from corporations and individuals. These figures do not take into account the value of the hundreds of volunteers which alone is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

DAREarts Founder Marilyn Field & Grade 5 Rexdale-area Delegates

It also does not take into account the enormous accomplishment of the organization’s founder, Marilyn Field, a former teacher who knew that an organization like DAREarts was needed from the time she taught in inner city schools.  There, during detention classes, she realized that the arts could make a significant difference in the lives of children who had no coping or life skills because of their difficult social environment. Instead of forcing them to write promises to do better one hundred times, she got them involved in the subject she knew best: classical music. She says, “They particularly liked Pachelbel’s Canon, keeping a volleyball in the air while the music played. It just worked!” During one incident, two boys got in a schoolyard fight over Mozart, she says. Soon students were lined up before school to join her classes.  She remembers one particularly enthusiastic boy who showed up very early.  He was barefoot. It was winter.

Just as many of Ms. Field’s counterparts in commercial start-ups do, when she could not raise enough money to get started she used her own. She was on leave from teaching.  Money was tight. She says there was only one option, “so I re-mortgaged my house.  That got us started.” She rented space, hired artists to do planned workshops with the kids. Almost immediately, though, she had to look for more money.  A friend who sat on the Esprit Orchestra Board with her introduced her to the head of a corporation who contributed $25,000 as the first serious donation. Soon, more friends stepped up. The battle for funding has been on-going ever since.

Deputy Mayor Vincent Crisanti, Marilyn Field, Monika Jensen-Stevenson, Councillor Michael Ford, and TDSB Associate Director Christopher Usih with the DAREarts Grade 8s at NACI on March 2nd

DARE is the acronym for Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence – the approach by which the 4th through 8th graders, chosen by their schools, can use the talents within themselves to advance their own lives and their communities in Vancouver, Toronto, remote Indigenous communities like Marten Falls FN, Webequie FN and Attawapiskat FN, Montreal and Halifax.  The tool used to bring this about is an intensive arts education program (ten days over ten weeks) that includes diverse arts experiences from a Q&A at Stratford with Oscar winner Christopher Plummer to workshops on the Renaissance, Jazz, architecture, fashion, literature, dance, music and much more. By going back to their schools and teaching their peers what they have learned in DAREarts, students become self-confident and develop leadership skills. The kids say, “You saved my life.”

At the DAREarts winter showcase held on March 2nd, 2017 at the North Albion Collegiate Institute in Rexdale, kids from all grades showed off their newly learned skills. A group of truly multicultural grade fours wrote and performed their ten-stanza song about the Silk Road called Voyage. Below are excerpts.

….Mapping the world
And changing the globe.

From England to Asia
Collecting as I go
Selling and trading
That’s how I earn my dough!

Trading spices East to West
World discovery, no more rest
Learning new languages throughout the globe
That’s what happened along the Silk Road.

Not bad for fourth graders who had begun their one-day-a-week classes only ten weeks before! Now they performed with confidence, expressing all they had learned about Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence.  The audience which included Toronto Deputy Mayor Vincent Crisanti, Councillor Michael Ford and Toronto District School Board Associate Director Chris Usih, was impressed.

Before they start DAREarts, many kids lack self-esteem or confidence.  One eighth grader was so unsure of himself he hid in the bathroom on the first day of classes. At the final showcase, he was the star of an exuberant hip hop performance.

African drumming, a take-off on Commedia del’arte, a blues performance are just some of presentations that entertained the audience.  The showcase ended with a powerful song, ‘Spirit of the North’, written by the kids in Webequie FN and sung as a ‘musical handshake’ by the kids in Toronto.

DAREarts Toronto children sing “Spirit of the North”, a musical handshake with our northern First Nations youth.

Lest anyone think that DAREarts’ work with FN kids in the north is the usual Canadian dead-end run around of some well-connected person getting government funding for a one-time project which leaves Indigenous kids still feeling abandoned once again, they should know this.  An Elder from Webequie approached Ms. Field during a Canadian Forces event. He told her about his teenage daughter who had committed suicide two years before and a teen who had recently hanged himself in the doorway of their community centre.  He said, “Marilyn, please come.”  Against opposition from her own foundation board who did not want to dilute scarce monies already attributed to other DAREarts programs, Ms. Field went, paying her own way and that of three other artists-as-teachers.

“That was a request for life,” she says.  “Not responding was not an option.”

When she returned from that first week of workshops in the north, she got to work finding designated funding from a company that shared her interest in Webequie.  Noront Resources responded with a $40,000 donation so that the youth of Webequie could create their own film telling their community’s story.  The documentary is now being considered for a CBC program as well as by other networks.

Ms. Field says, “We need to find other northern supporters like Noront and national supporters like Northbridge Insurance for all our programs.” Thousands of kids and their schools are waiting to participate in DAREarts.  With the help of generous corporations and individuals and its track record, DAREarts can lift more kids to be all that they can be.

To help a child, call Brenda at 905-729-0097 or visit www.darearts.com.

Monika Jensen-Stevenson is a former Emmy award winning producer for Sixty Minutes and bestselling author.  She is currently chief correspondent on a documentary about the legacy of the war in Vietnam.

Photos courtesy Alan Dunlop.


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Artist-Educator Glenn Marais Reflects on Winter Showcase Music – ‘Spirit Of the North’

Written by DAREarts Artist-Educator, Glenn Marais.

Music is a gift to all of us. It echoes in our hearts and minds and resonates forever in our consciousness. Great songs can transport us to a specific time and place and a memory within seconds of the first note or chord and just like that, we are whisked away and under its spell.

Writing songs with my young friends from DAREarts is a true passion of mine. We write at a frenzied pace, starting at 9:30 and finishing with a recorded song at 2:30. The songs are written based on theme and once selected, I share song writing techniques and examples by singing popular and classic songs and then we send them off in small groups to brainstorm words, then lyrics which become verses, chorus’, rap sections and melodies developed to match their words.

The teachers and myself are continually blown away by their creations and this years’ Gr. 8 class took it to another level thanks to the generosity and compassion of the people at DAIS.  DAIS is a creative arts and music studio in Toronto, featuring five floors of recording studios, writing spaces, meeting rooms, multi-media and more. It is a cornucopia of creativity and we had it for the day to create and record our song. What a blessing. This building is incredible and eclipsed only by the generous nature and enthusiasm of the owner, Sol Guy and staff.

Our theme this year was self and our place in the world and how we can make a difference. It’s all in the lyrics written by these insightful, compassionate and intelligent students.

I could feel their nervousness at the rehearsal prior to Thursday’s performance, but I wasn’t concerned. It was a caring tension. It felt like they were presenting their song to the audience with a compassion born from creating it and a pride in their work. As if they wanted it all to come out with the same beauty as the creation of it. I admired them for that love of their craft and respect for their art.

When they performed, it was with grace and poise and attitude in the rap sections and power in the chorus. They owned it and it showed in their beaming faces as they smiled at the end with the applause of their parents, family and friends washing over them.

At the end of the show all of our DAREarts students gave a gift, a musical handshake to the people of Webequie First Nations reserve. They sang the song, “Spirit of the North”, composed by myself, and teachers and students of Simon Jacob Memorial School in Webequie. We wrote the song in October 2012 as part of a healing process after one of Webequie’s fine young men, Jordan Wabasse, passed away while living in Thunder Bay pursuing his dream of playing hockey at a high level.  He was found by the Kaministiquia River three months after disappearing in February of 2011.

The entire community was devastated and his classmates in particular where in shock and in mourning over the loss of their friend and someone they all looked up to.  We composed the song to heal our battered souls and to offer hope and love to the community. The lyrics seemed to flow out of us and the song grew around it like a protective cocoon. When we performed it in Webequie, the students sang with incredible passion and feeling, releasing their pain and opening their hearts again to healing and possibility. It was an incredible time to be with them and share that journey.

The students sang the song last night as if it were their own. There was a resounding power and joy in their voices as they sang together, in harmony, extending their hearts to our friends in the Far North.  I had shivers up and down my spine as I sang with them and felt the emotion coming out of our DAREarts students in waves of uninhibited passion. I’ll never forget that moment and if their words have wings the people of Webequie must have heard them last night and felt the splendour and glory of the moment.

This program does so much more than produce great music. It creates great moments of triumph through struggle, growth through understanding of self and a shared passion for the arts and each other that is developed and nurtured through the DARE values. I try to live by these values too because they are guiding lights and reminders of what we can be when we try our best.

DAREarts Artist
Glenn Marais

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DAREarts Uses Creativity to Empower Rexdale Area Kids

Last night, March 2nd 2017, DAREarts, a charity that empowers kids using the arts, held its annual DAREarts Winter Showcase at North Albion Collegiate Institute (NACI) in Rexdale, ON. 

The event showcased over 130 children, grades 4 through 8, from 13 Rexdale area schools.  With the theme “Promenade Through Time,” the Showcase features visual art, fashion, drama, dance, music and film, created by the youths with arts professionals, that time-traveled from the past to the present: from the Renaissance to hip hop.  Highlights included Juno-nominated musician Glenn Marais performing alongside Grade 8 students, and David Wall, blues artist and Jazz.FM91’s Director of Community Outreach and Education, alongside Grade 7 students. Community leaders attending included Deputy Mayor Vincent Crisanti, Councillor Michael Ford, TDSB Associate Director Christopher Usih, TDSB SOE Glenford Duffus and TDSB System Superintendent Annie Appleby.

This event is critical at a time when many young people face difficult choices. Bullying, peer pressure, youth violence and delinquency are just a few of their harsh, daily realities. With a severe lack of leadership opportunities or creative outlets, kids often become targets of negative influences. DAREarts closes the opportunity gap by giving these kids artistic, learning and personal development opportunities.  Participating schools were Albion Heights JMS, Beaumonde Heights JMS, Boys Leadership Academy, Chalkfarm JS, Claireville JS, Cookstown Central PS, Elmbank JMA, The Elms JMS, Greenholme JMS, Humberwood Downs JMA, Melody Village JS, Smithfield MS and West Humber JMS.

DAREarts operates nationally and is centred around the power of the arts and the DARE principles of Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence.  DAREarts’ Toronto program works with 9 to 14 year olds from schools in high-priority neighbourhoods, empowering them to become leaders.  Select schools choose two students from Grades 4 to 8 who are in need of broader opportunities. DAREarts Lead Teacher, Laura MacKinnon, and a team of arts professionals take the children to many arts venues across Toronto, including the AGO, the Aga Khan Museum, DAIS, Ballet Jorgen, the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, and the Toronto School of Art, where they explore cultures and then themselves create.  After each DAREarts Day, the student ‘delegates’ are tasked with going back to their home schools to peer teach their classmates what they have learned, becoming sharers of knowledge and cultures in the process. The annual Winter Showcase is a celebration of all they have learned in the program and a testament to their potential as future leaders.

“I’m incredibly proud of what these children have achieved in building their confidence and courage to be leaders through their DAREarts experiences,” says DAREarts founder Marilyn Field. “Their inner discipline, talent and creativity is truly admirable.  It’s proof that, with the right opportunity, our kids can achieve anything.”

Established 21 years ago, DAREarts has a proven track record of inspiring at-risk kids to reach their full potential. DAREarts has reached over 200,000 kids, giving many the necessary skills to avoid the pitfalls of drugs, guns and gangs and, instead, take up the arms of paint brushes, voices, instruments and acting. DAREarts’ success stories include young adults in business, medicine, law and education who may have been lost without the program.

DAREarts thanks its national supporter Northbridge Insurance and its lead supporters Scotiabank, TD Bank Group, Anne Livingston and the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.  Local Education Partners include the TDSB –The Toronto District School Board.

Photos courtesy Alan Dunlop.

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DAREarts Vancouver: Silenced Voices Sing

Written by DAREarts artist-educator Lori Sherritt-Fleming.

“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” James Humes

vancouver-3What if you could not speak or write what you felt?  What if you felt trapped or silenced?  What if you had the drive, but not the tools?  This is where the arts help.  This is where the arts heal and empower.  This is where the arts give voice to those who are afraid to speak.  And this is what DAREarts accomplished [in January].

Finding your voice and sharing your gifts were two key themes of the DAREarts program in Vancouver this January.  DAREarts is a charity that empowers kids through specialized arts workshops that are led by Shelley MacDonald and local arts professionals.  Inspired by Indigenous actor, John Aitken, and his play, ‘The Gift’, a class of grade seven students from Britannia Elementary School spent five intense days excavating their inner voice and speaking through their artistry in a public Showcase held on January 26th.

Every day began and ended with a circle where everyone could reflect on their goals, challenges and successes.  On the first day, students were asked, “What do you bring?”  Some responses included, “I bring my passion.  I bring my respect.  I bring my sense of humour.  I bring my words.”  Deep and varying revelations for young leaders.  These circles provided a foundation for moving forward and served as a reminder that, everyone, no matter how young, no matter what obstacles they may be scaling, bring something of value to our circles.

vancouver-2Through a multitude of art forms:  drama, creative writing, spoken word, digital media, dance, movement, visual art and music, students were encouraged to take risks, to collaborate and communicate, to celebrate their strengths and to offer leadership, empathy and active support to those struggling with their voices.  They were encouraged to ‘go where they were needed’.

As the Showcase neared, students designed the content and running order for the presentation and many, eager to communicate how inspired and transformed they had been, offered to bring in their own instruments and play them, write and perform their own monologues and choreograph their own dances in addition to the collective pieces.

Below is part of the monologue one student, Oliyad, wrote and performed, inspired by his week with DAREarts.  With immigration, integration and acceptance so high on people’s radar these days, his words remind us how challenging it is to be new and how, most of the time, all people want is a friend: someone to connect with, even if they do not know how to reach out.  It reminds us to be more aware, to take notice, to help those who want to speak, find their voices.  DAREarts accomplishes this is so many ways.

vancouver-1I come from Kenya in Africa.  My first language is Swahili.  When I first came to Canada six months ago, I didn’t talk, laugh or play. I wanted to have friends but my voice didn’t work.  I tried to talk but I was afraid.  I wanted to join others and play with them but my voice was not there.

Finally after a couple of months I spoke.  Once I began to use my words, I found it easier to make friends.  My voice is important.  It allows me to communicate with others.  It tells people who I am and allows me to express who I am.”

Another young student, Ione, was a selective mute.  She had only just begun to speak this school year.  She shone on stage and voluntarily took on leadership roles that celebrated her voice.  She moved from silence to a whisper to a gentle roar, finding that her voice mattered and that she had a safe place to develop and share it.

These students and many more of their peers were immersed, through the DAREarts program, in artful communication.  Judging by the confidence they exuded in their presentation, they now have a firm grasp of the language of leadership and how each of them can contribute to the wider circles they will encounter as they continue to grow.

DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower at-risk young people to become leaders. Our lead supporters are Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, and TD Bank Group. Supporters of this DAREarts Vancouver program are ArtStarts, Parker Art Salon, and Marketwired (in-kind donation). We would like to give special thanks to Presentation House and to Britannia Elementary and Secondary Schools.