Andrew, Caiden and Kane have all experienced significant trauma in their short lives through family violence, parental substance abuse, or family suicide. They simply didn’t have the capacity to ‘turn up’, to focus, or engage with other kids without disruptive or aggressive behaviour. Unable to participate fully in the workshop program due to consistent ‘time out’ events, we made them our ‘techie’ team – running sound gear, video cameras and lights for workshops and performances. They learnt to engage, focus, and were acknowledged for their positive achievements – in other words they ‘succeeded’ at something significant and special. They also ‘found’ each other during the final combined schools concert – and quickly became firm friends.
At the beginning of the Banyule Kids Thrive program we ask children to draw a self-portrait. At the end of the program we ask the same.
These are Grace’s ‘before and after’ pics.
Grace sat under tables for most of the year, but by the final concert she revelled in her role as ‘microphone monitor’, which required her to be on stage and to be ‘seen’ by audience, friends and family.
Jawal – in grade 3/4 – was best able to describe his feelings visually. This is how he felt/saw himself at the beginning of Banyule Kids Thrive, and at the end. Jawal invited his mother into a Kids Thrive workshop. He was so proud his eyes never left her face.
Michael took 21 workshops to learn to beat the two syllables of his name. Trauma made his daily life challenging, and limited his capacity to self-regulate his anxiety and aggressive behaviours. Slowly he settled and learnt to beat rhythms in time with the group, to sing in unison, and to contribute to writing songs and performing with the whole group in Banyule Kids Thrive.
Michael practices his new found social skills at the final BKT Community Concert in his role as Food Host.
An isolated group of Iranian women meet at the Banyule Community Health Centre, and stay on to come to Baby Choir each week. Najmeh and and her daughter Nadia particularly loved listening and dancing to Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’. This song had become deeply significant to Najmeh as her best friend was arrested in Iran for listening to the Western pop music song in her own home.
Tim’s family struggled to get to bring him and his brothers to Australia. He never danced, and would rarely speak in KIND workshops. Over three terms he gathered confidence, until he was regularly dancing down the middle of the ‘showdown shuffle’ line. ‘I felt so shy I would sit in a corner at parties because I was bad at dancing. Now I dance. And I don’t care.’
Baringhup Primary is a tiny school of 15 students in regional Victoria. The entire grade 4-6 participated in Kids Thrive InSchools Philanthropy – partnering with local artist Daryl Young to create a sculpture from recycled materials donated by local farmers – The Flight of the Fledglings. The sculpture represents their experiences of growing up and leaving primary school to ‘fly into the outside world’. It was designed to stay in the school grounds to inspire future kids to aspire to great things and lead their community in making positive change.
This trio of gorgeous girls – known affectionately by their teacher as the ‘poo-faced girls’ – screwed up their noses and refused to participate in anything different or challenging. In the final KIND in Hume concert they stepped to centre stage to sing their song “It’s all in your hands, it’s in your power, you can be real kind”, and reflected later that they had leant “It’s ok to show myself and let other people see who I am. I don’t have to hide.”
Aiden is in grade 5 at Maldon Primary in regional Vic. Autism can make friendship challenging.
His InSchools Philanthropy group approached Helen to help her with the tiny animal shelter she runs from her backyard. They used the money they were awarded for their ‘funding pitch’ to purchase formula for abandoned joeys, and spent weekends helping Helen clean out cages.
Helen attended every session at the school, and the community celebrations, bringing ‘Tickles’ with her. She told us quietly that she has always been scared of children, but now has to put an extra hour aside every week when she goes shopping, so she can to chat with kids in the street who want to know how her animals are doing.
Postcards from Nanna – performed by Cha Cha Sam (aka Andrea Rieniets) and produced by Kids Thrive – is a community catalyst program delivered in regional libraries across Victoria. We go where the kids are – and libraries are key gathering spaces in our communities.
‘Nanna’ is all about valuing diversity and getting up on stage with Cha Cha Sam and getting loved to pieces. Our performances invite kids and grownups to get as close as they wish to the artist and to the story. Kids learn to participate fully and gently, and their grownups do the same. Meanwhile children’s librarians are participating in professional development, learning to use the arts to engage kids and grownups in creative conversations about living in diverse communities.
A typical turnout at a regional Vic library – where culture doesn’t come so easy or so often for many kids and families – especially culture that brings new ways of being in the world. Performances are generally free and accessible to all comers.