GRATITUDE FOR GOOD
A Blog by Gratitude Alliance
Check out our latest video, a celebration of the Bright Horizon Children's Home (BHCH) in Nepal, which has its 15th Anniversary this year.
The song was written by musician, Bam Vox, together with BHCH alumni, Navraj and Sangam. Bam joined our healing convoy in Nepal last January, sharing his love for music as a form of healing, play, and joy.
Thank you to Bam and to all the BHCH students, teachers, and staff. We are deeply moved by the shared experience of co-creating a space of healing and joy!
Our grassroots partners know firsthand that computer literacy can unlock unlimited possibilities - for learning, creating, sharing, exploring, and connecting individuals, communities, and economies to the digital world.
And when computer literacy classes are paired with a psychosocial activity like creative arts therapy, the result is a well-rounded psycho-educational program that develops a broad range of skills while also invoking emotional healing and creative expression.
It's a holistic approach that we often refer to as head, hands, and heart - or, education, skills-building, and healing. An approach that understands that complex problems are not solved via single-issue interventions but rather by comprehensive solutions... and that psychosocial support is foundational to sustainable transformation.
Our partner organization, Lola Children's Home, provides comprehensive support for nearly 30 orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDS in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. With your support, kids now have access to weekly computer literacy and music classes.
Lola's executive director, Abebe, recently updated us on the progress of this new curriculum which, so far, has been successful in teaching kids tangible skills. Under the tutelage of a mentor who teaches both computer skills and music, they kids now know how to:
A big thank you to our generous community for supporting this program! Your contributions are building confidence, technical and social skills, and healing opportunities that will have a lasting impact on these children and their community!
Putting a camera in the hands of children is one of the most interesting things that a photographer can do, through their eyes we can liberate ourselves from the usual conventions of photography and discover new ways of looking.
The eyes of young people are not obstructed by the rules, or suggestions on how to take the perfect picture.
When I thought of this project, the selfish part of me could not wait to learn and be inspired. In reality I would be the one who would have to teach. But teach what? Can you really teach photography?
The project ‘Photography as Healing’ was born in my head and developed thanks to a collaboration with Global Alliance Gratitude and Amy, co-founder of the NGO, who demonstrated enthusiasm, had a relevant project available and accepted my proposal.
The idea is to "teach" the art of photography to children living in villages or marginalized communities in the world. A simple way for these children to express themselves, to tell their life stories, to gain hope and self-esteem. To explain to them that there is a world in which photography is not just 'Selfie' photos and memories, but also stories from our own point of view.
I was playing with a number of things, written explanations, technical applications of photography. Worse still, I had with me some examples of photos to show them.
Thank God I did not do any of it.
Nothing could be worse worse than rules to an unfettered mind .
I asked myself, who am I to tell them that an overexposed photo is not good? Who am I to say that a crooked horizon is not aesthetic? If photography is really the story, they must tell it how they want to, even with dirty, burnt or blurry photos.
Who am I to hold these guys glued to a chair to hear speeches about light?
Success, then, that when I put cameras into their hands, their focus shifted from me to the lens.
I asked them to tell of their lives in school and nothing more. The result? Not a single 'Selfie'.
We did editing, I taught the basic rules of photoshop and I let them change their pictures as they wanted better. The outcome was pink clouds and skies, broken light. Tones of blue and green.
I was surprised how uninteresting black and white was for them, when usually black and white opens people's eyes. They created only a few black and white photos. When I tried to tempt them, telling them that black and white is the simplest solution to the problem of creating an "effect", Their faces lit up, not because they agreed, but rather were laughing like crazy at the fiction of life in monotone.
The world in black and white is fake. And they are right, life is in color, exaggerated, saturated, illusory. But always colorful.
Translated with permission from Chiara's original post at Love the Shoot
It is with joy and enthusiasm that our team travel to Nepal this week. One facet of the trip is to train the staff and caregivers at Bright Horizon Children’s Home to use the Safe Embrace Trauma Healing (SETH) program. This will empower them to help the orphans and vulnerable children in their care who may be experiencing grief, guilt and other unexpressed trauma. ‘Trauma can negatively impact a child's ability to concentrate, learn, develop healthy social relationships and thrive as an independent adult' . Creative arts is one of the three central tenets of the SETH program and self-expression and story-telling will be further developed and encouraged through a music workshop and via a ‘Photography As Healing’ project, during which kids will learn how to take photos, document their lives and create memory books.
Memories, thoughts and feelings are often held in, contained, confined. Instead negative emotion and trauma may be evident in challenging or withdrawn behaviour. The chance to voice the unexpressed, through dance, drama, music, art and photography will give these children an opportunity to tell their stories, show what they feel inside without necessarily having to resort to the complexities of words that don’t flow easily or naturally, or just don’t exist to describe their particular turmoil and trouble.
As the artist Georgia O’Keeffe describes it ‘I found I could say things with colour and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.’
In fact, we all have stories to tell. I would argue it’s an essential part of being human to need to find ways to articulate our personal narratives and who we are, to help us come to terms with our past, enjoy our present and plan for our future. Creativity also helps us move through life with more comfort and peace. For me, happiness, enjoyment and self-expression come from writing (for and as a part of this amazing foundation by blogging and helping Amy put her story into book form), visual imagery and creating jewellery with recycled objects and vintage ‘finds’. Rather than internalizing what’s going on in the incessant monologue in my head, I have an outlet for my emotions and it’s really helpful.
As a foundation, we look forward to using creativity and other parts of the SETH program to help address trauma. The children’s creativity, in the form of their photos and recordings of their music will be shared once the trip is complete. They will tell their stories.
The drumbeat gets louder. The kids toss and turn. Their bodies contour in different shapes. They use their strength to build human pyramids. The crowd applauds. The performers bow down. The smiles are priceless. It seems like a good show for a circus, but it’s a breakthrough in a children’s home.
Maisha, our children’s home partner in Kenya, cares for twenty-two children who were orphaned mainly by HIV/AIDS, conflict and extreme poverty. They are provided with shelter, food, and education in a semi-rural farm environment outside of Nairobi. These kids have gone through immense grief and trauma. Aside from basic necessities, they have unique psychosocial needs.
In 2013, Maisha introduced weekly drumming and acrobatic classes taught by local Kenyan professionals. One of the teachers they partnered with was Peter Waithaka, more commonly known as "Doc". Doc was a former member of the Kenya national acrobatic team called African Sakata Acrobats. He is currently a social entrepreneur, working on other projects that address educational and life skill needs among Kenya's underserved youth.
With the help of Doc and local drumming teacher, Robinson Owino, or "Robbie", the project has been a success. The classes not only help the kids learn how to do somersaults and synchronize the beat of the drums, it also helps develop their self-esteem. The kids learn about teamwork and the value of support in a community. These classes are also good for the community because they provide employment to the locals as well as inspiration. "The smiles they give us after learning a new acrobatic stunt or pyramid give us strength to persevere and be there for next class," said Doc. The teachers have become role models for the kids to look up to. And the experience brings joy to the children’s lives by providing a fun and healthy environment for them to heal.
One of the Maisha girls was homeless, orphaned and exploited by the age of nine. Five years later, despite making overwhelming progress in adapting to home life at Maisha, she still suffers from deep emotional trauma. She has a difficult time focusing in school and at home. Yet for the first time, her teachers are seeing her blossom in the acrobatic class.
They observe that some of the other youth, who are academically challenged and started school at a later age, are also doing well in these classes. Acquiring new skills and thriving in a new environment has helped them believe in their own potential. Our hope is that these experiences will guide them to make positive choices in the future.
In other parts of the world, Circus therapy is proving to be an effective tool for psychotherapeutic healing. Clowning about has helped boost confidence and encourage camaraderie among Finland’s disaffected youth as well as the elderly. Women in London who are suffering from depression are learning to fly trapeze while building their confidence and strength, and moving them towards employment. Young people at risk have discovered a safe haven to find their balance at Halifax’s Circus Circle.
Life can be a great balancing act and at some point, people find themselves walking on a tightrope. But it’s inspiring to know that there are many ways to help people make it all the way across such as teaching acrobatics to a little girl in Kenya to help her believe in herself.
(Reposted from The Gracias Foundation, now called Global Gratitude Alliance)
This January, we're turning two! We are thrilled by how much we've achieved together, and YOU are at the center of it all. So, a huge Thank You (Gracias) to everyone! We hope you'll enjoy our birthday video!
By Rachel Crowther (Reposted from The Gracias Foundation, now called Global Gratitude Alliance)
Over the last couple of weeks, I've been helping put together the Gifts That Give Back webpage for this site. As I was thinking about colours, shapes and styles, I also started to wonder why creativity is so essential to life and well-being?
Why should someone give the gift of music or acrobatics classes when necessities like food, shelter and education seem more fundamental?