Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Historic Painted Turtle Moment

The Turtle Changes It Up, with a Training Program for Aboriginal Community Mentors!

For the first time in the history of the Painted Turtle Arts Camp, a leadership training program, designed for Aboriginal community mentors, was held this month in Thunder Bay. From June 10th - 13th, at Lakehead University, and in collaboration with Right to Play, the Painted Turtle team presented a new and exciting training program to 10 community leaders from Northern Ontario. Along with the fabulous facilitation and program development skills of Bailey Davis, the Painted Turtle Arts Camp’s curriculum and methodology was the focus of the week. The intent of this workshop was to create a bigger, better and more sustainable Painted Turtle program than ever before, by training and supporting community mentors to create their own camp.

The Communities On Board

Community Mentors from Aroland, Wabauskang,Grassy Narrows, Whitedog, Shkoday, Mattagami, Webequie, Neskantaga and Moose Cree were all present for this fun-filled session. Together they painted, danced, laughed and sang in the spirit of unleashing the creative and expressive spirit of the children from their communities.

All of the art modalities were included during this training (drama, dance, music, visual arts) and facilitation tools and planning sessions on ways to successfully run a summer program were included in this three day workshop. The thrust of the program was designed to: highlight the participant's role as camp director, create an action plan and develop a schedule for the summer months ahead.

Supporting the Vision

7 communities also received fully stocked Art Kits and 9 communities received starter Art Kits, so that all camp leaders can now run their own arts and craft activities. In order to ensure that the Painted Turtle Arts Camps will be a success, follow up visits to each community will take place. All Painted Turtle community mentors running the program will have the support they need to run, manage and facilitate Painted Turtle art-based activities through these community visits from the Painted Turtle support team.

Of Gratitude and Appreciation

The efforts, support and guidance of Chris McLeod, Rose Lipton, Emily Gibson, Courtney Strutt, Jules Porter and Nicky Potter were absolutley paramount to the success of this training. A big thank you goes out to them all. I also would especially like to acknowledge the courageous individuals, this year's community mentors, who have decided to run a Painted Turtle Arts Camp on their own! I celebrate their love for the arts and culture, and their desire to inspire and empower their communities through creative exploration and play. Because of this commitment 250 Aboriginal children will have many canvases to paint, many dances to dance and joyful songs to sing this summer.

Sarina Condello

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Amazing African Tour

The Biggest Tour Ever!

It has been years in the making, but after dreaming big, leaning into the possibility of making it happen, and harnessing the creative power of two fund raising, generous and kind-hearted musical theatre communities, (The Bedford Park and Summerhill Players) the 2014 Africa tour was launched!!! Traveling to nine communities throughout four African countries, The Big Little Caravan of Joy engaged the hearts and minds of 4,000 vulnerable and orphaned children with the guidance and creative spirits of 40 African artists. From the townships and rural regions of Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa, to the rolling hills of Swaziland, from the Kibera Slums of Kenya, to the steep mountains of Baduda in Uganda, the Caravan of Joy traveled with 100’s of kilos of art supplies to unleash the artistic potential in each and every child that they encountered.

The Show of all Shows

With the creative genius of South Africa story teller Sussie Mawara, together we collaborated and wrote a musical that illustrated the power of the arts. The show entitled Thandi’s Magical Drum told the story of a small, shy girl who loved nothing more but to play her drum! As much as it drove the whole village crazy Thandi always went back to the rhythm of her drum for solace and connection to her heart. The story concluded with the simple message on the power of  the arts--for Thandi magically overcomes the monsters that live in the village with her passion and mastery of drumming. The moral of the story is obvious; even the smallest child in a village can be a hero by following the rhythm of their own drum!

Nine performances were held this winter, and almost 1,000 community members in total came out to see their children sing, dance and act. This year’s visual arts program was the most inspiring to date. We used colourful dyes for banners, clay for pots, papier mache for masks, construction paper for weaving and paper lanterns, found objects for collages and mobiles, and drawing techniques to explore geometrical patterns. Parachute and cooperative games, traditional dancing, chants and songs, and drama lessons filled the children's school week with incredible joy.

Four Countries, Incredible Team Joys, Fantastic Volunteers!

 Team Joy South Africa and Swaziland were made up of amazing individuals who have been implemented this programming since 2010. Their mastery in teaching, directing and facilitating all the art modalities, created for the very best art experiences for the children.

South Africa and Swaziland

Community members, teachers and elders were astounded by the expressive nature of their children and joyous accolades were given to all. Clown’s Without Borders South Africa was very generous in lending the tour their speaker, rehearsal and training space, not to mention their phenomenal staff; Sussie Mawara, Sipho Mdletshe Busi Biyela and Sabee Shozi. In South Africa, two Canadian volunteers, Daniel Steiner and Kyra Vitko joined in on the fun and helped the program immensely with their love for visual art, musical theatre and photography skills. To end our stay in South Africa, a very special day was organized to honour, celebrate and inspire Ark Managers and Activity Coordinators. This workshop included all 5 South African communities that Friends of Noah Canada is supporting.
Once again, we were very fortunate to work with People’s Educational Theatre in Swaziland for the fourth time since the Big Little Caravan of Joy started implementing programs in Africa! Nicholas Mamba, Andrew Moyo, Annabel Morgan, Wandile Themba Mabaso and Musawenkosi Zikalala gave it  their all, with their amazing storytelling, directorial, clown, and teaching skills. We worked in the most receptive environment possible, for the school’s head teacher at Kalambhi Primary School, Mr. Musa Dlamini, was involved in theatre for years. 


For the first visit ever, The Big Little Caravan of Joy visited Nairobi, Kenya, and collaborated with an award winning theatrical troupe, directed by David Odhiambo Dinda, The Foundation of Hope. This organization presented The Caravan of Joy with some of the very best artists in the country. All 15 artists, from the slums of Kibera, provided the children at Cheryl’s Orphanage, with traditional dance and music lessons, art, and a fabulous cooperative game curriculum. The Canadian family of Kristi Herold, and her amazing children Cassidy, Andie and Dax, also joined the Caravan of Joy in Kenya as volunteers and added such spirit and fun. Along with their time spent with Cheryl's children, the Herold family also donated incredible art and sport supplies to the camp! This program was also supported by the efforts of Simon Koech. His direction, driving skills and Kenyan connections helped the program ten fold!


To end the tour, The Caravan of Joy ventured into the mountains of Baduda, Uganda. With the guidance of Sebastian and Babrah Wanzama from Global African Village, the program was implemented in 2 rural schools. Hiring a team of 5 teachers, and mobilizing over 500 children, the program infused the community with songs and dances by their spirited children. Babrah choreographed and composed a final song for the show. Melanie Rosen from Toronto joined the Caravan of Joy in Uganda and added her expertise and passion for the Expressive Arts to the camp’s curriculum.

Many Thanks and Appreciation

I would like to thank all of The Big Little Caravan of Joy’s individual supporters from the bottom of my heart. Without their generous donations of art supplies and funds, this tour would not be possible. A special thanks goes out to The Kevin Sullivan Foundation, Ouellette Family Foundation, Melanie Rosen, the Saffer Family, The Vintage Dancers, Nicky Potter, Giselle Foundation, Philip Roadley, Bedford Park and the Summerhill Players, Kristi Herold, as well as Sarah Ferris and Ferris 360 for organizing a craft supply drive for Uganda. I also am profoundly grateful for the dedication of the members of Team Joy, the teachers, Ark Managers, Activity Coordinators and Principals that I worked with. Without their on going belief in the importance of the arts in education, our program would not be possible. And finally, without the innocence, joy, energy, laughter, creativity, spontaneity, brilliance, and imagination of the 4,000 children we danced, sang, painted and performed with, our energies would not have been so masterfully and lovingly channeled. For it is the love and light from these beautiful children that keeps the Big Little Caravan of Joy moving forward. 

Community Comments:

“The program has equipped our learners with skills that they can use in the future.” 
“Even the shy ones gained confidence.” 
“It has improved their attention span, by giving them something exciting in between lessons. They now look forward to going to school.” 
This program has given our centre a chance to strengthen our relationship with the school. We cannot wait to implement the skills and strategies that the Caravan has imparted!” 
“Learners have confidence to speak clearly without being shy. Their level of concentration is uplifted.” 
“I really liked the show. Our children were so happy.” 
“The children really enjoyed the program. They learned so many activities, e.g. dancing, painting, singing.... and also how not to be shy.”
“I suggest that this program visits us yearly.”
“This project changed the lives of the community.”
“Motivation was given to the teachers with new innovative ways of teaching children. 
“The children found the school environment exciting and always looked forward to the next day. This was confirmed by the Head Teacher. During the time the BLCJ was there, there was no absentee or late comings.” 
“This program comes at the most appropriate time in Swaziland, where the government is exploring new pedagogies to teach the arts in schools.” 
“The program was effective for the children became more lively and the teachers reported that there is a great improvement in terms of participation in class by the pupils.” 
“Your team is full of dedication, hard work, enthusiasm, appetitive to work more, and ever smiling, laughing faces.”
“This program has brought skills and knowledge and has enlightened the community about play.” 
“It taught us about working cooperatively.” 
“Through this program the kids are growing physically and intellectually.” 
“ We have learnt that through these activities there is internal peace, trust, acceptance, tolerance and cooperative working required.” 

From the Staff of The Big Little Caravan of Joy

Results from 19 individual staff members interviewed from 4 countries.
100% of all staff, from 4 countries, agreed that the project was a success. 
100% of all staff agreed that the project made a difference in the children’s lives. 
100% of all staff agreed that they have tools to continue the program. 
100% of all staff agreed that the project made a difference in the lives of the community. 
100% of all staff agreed that the BLCJ was focused on the child’s needs. 

Final Numbers:

Number of Artists hired: 43 
Number of Teachers, Child Care Workers: 97 
Number of Children involved: 3,171 
Average Number of Hours of art based instruction for each child: 34 
Number of Countries: 4
Number of Communities: 9
Number of Community Members: 862
Number of Kilos of Art Supplies: 1000 Kilos 
Number of Workshops and Trainings: 5 
Number of Costumes on hand: 670 
Number of Fairy Wings: 125 
Number of Crayons: 2500

From the Team Joy South Africa, Swaziland, Kenya and Uganda:

“The organization and the planning of the whole program was well done and could be seen in all the activities undertaken.”

“This program came at the right time in my life. It has helped me realize my potential and calling. This is great and the joy is mine to be part of Team Joy!”

“I learned how to think on my feet when things are not going they way you planned.” “I learned about the importance of being present with children.”

“ I learnt a lot about leadership and team dynamics. I also learnt about the love, communication and vision needed to lead such a creative team.”

“ I found new approaches and innovative ways to team building through collaborative and participation.”

“ There was a sense of communal unity as the children performed alongside their teachers and parents.”
“Being with Sarina and the team I learned that the arts have no barriers with communication. Our work gelled together regardless of the fact that we were effectively from six cultures. Joy has no passport!!!”

 Creative Arts Workshops

Throughout the 4 month tour, Symposiums and Workshops, entitled a Creative Arts Workshop were held for Community Leaders, Activity Coordinators, Teachers, Artists and Volunteers. The goal of these workshops was to inspire, educate and introduce the staff, who work with orphaned and vulnerable children, a new and exciting curriculum in arts based activities. The hope was that each facilitator would leave having the necessary tools and renewed inspiration to infuse each and every child with something vital - creative arts-based programming.

Designed to cultivate, celebrate and empower the expressive and authentic spirit of each and every child by drawing on the artistry of the performing arts and the magic of creative play, this workshop gave the women and men who work with these children, many ideas on ways to enrich their present  day program. Workshops were held in South Africa, Swaziland, Kenya and Uganda.

Activity Coordinators from South Africa involved: (Vusimpio)-Thembani Khumalo, Khumalo Nzuzo, Makhi Ntini, (Nkobongo)-Alzina Gwala, Nomusa Mtamila, Zamo Mngadi, (Siyawela)Faith Mthethwa, Ntombizodwa Japwta, Hlegiwe Mabase, ( Sithokosize)Khosi Dlamani, Nompuelelo, Lindiwe Msibi ( Christianenburg) Khosa Ngcamu, Nlinga Ambrozinf, Petronella Manzi

Facilitators: Sussie Mawara, Innocent Sabee Shozi, Sipho Mdletshe, Sarina Condello, Melanie Rosen
Volunteers: Kyra Vitko, Daniel Steiner, Kristi Herold

The Summer of 2014, Painted Turtle Power!

I am now back in Canada, and with the help of Bailey Davis and the collaborative efforts of Right to Play, we will be in 10 First Nations communities this summer! Stay tuned for more exciting details and the creative deliverables that will unfold with joy, sunshine, song and dance!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Celebrating 10 Years of my Love Affair with Africa!

How it all Began

It has already been 10 glorious years since my very first arts based experience in Africa. My passion for African dance and music was realized the day I joined the dance ensemble  Kekeli, founded and headed by the incomparable, masterful, and consummate Ghanaian drummer, Kwasi Dunyo. Soon after accepting a personal invitation from Kwasi to visit his country, I was off to Ghana to study the magic of West African drum and dance in Dagbamete, a little village of the Volta region. Little did I realize back then in 2003, that the month spent in Dagbamete, would change my life forever. 

A Mother’s Wish

When I returned to Canada my eyes had opened to how different my Toronto world was from the rural regions of Africa. I noticed that my teenagers, Kyra, Quentin and Teya, were becoming more and more entrenched in an era and culture that seemed to encourage, and even celebrate an empty individualism and promotion of materialism. The contrast to my privileged three and the the African children suffering from HIV and poverty,  gave me the idea of roping my kids into an experience that would hopefully alter their newly adopted North American paradigm and at the same time contribute to the lives of others.

The opportunity to initiate a performing arts camp at an AIDS orphanage in Tanzania by Deborah McCracken, led to my very first arts based program designed for the African child. Alongside with the brilliant and spirited talents of Kihumbe, a Tanzanian award winning dance and circus troupe, and my three teens, our newly formed ensemble traveled throughout rural Tanzania facilitating our arts program for over 1,000 children. I will alway be thankful for the dedication that Kihumbe demonstrated back in 2006.

Thank You Tanzania

After much contemplation during the months following our return, I realized that my family got a lot more out of the African experience then the orphans themselves! It was then and there that I knew that this one-sided approach of my program had to be addressed. Unfortunately, I did not have the financial means to return to Africa and implement the changes needed, which included the training and the education of a child-centric play based curriculum to artists and educators. With the screening of my documentary film Thank You Tanzania, shot during our trip, my world as I knew it, slowly turned upside down. With the help of 2 very special individuals, Chris Wallace and Brian Noon, the production, editing and completion of this award winning film created a buzz about our African journey. It also profiled the successful impact that an arts based experience could have in the lives of hundreds of disadvantaged children. 

I will forever remain grateful and indebted for their kindness and support. I hope that both Chris and Brian realize that their contribution in finishing the film was directly correlated to the development of my charity. 

The Joy and Altruism of Musical Theatre

Through the brainchild and production genius of Kristi Herold and the enormous talents of Sheila Philcox and Gail Leger, two casts of musical theatre troupes were formed. From that moment on the The Big Little Caravan of Joy sprouted wheels and wings. In actuality, The Big Little Caravan of Joy’s accomplishments have flourished through the life force, creative power and support of these two beloved casts, the Bedford Park  and Summerhill Players. And grow it did! The BLCJ gave rise to the Empowered African Child Conference in 2011 and in 2012 it  expanded it’s scope by embracing Canada’s First Nations children with The Painted Turtle Arts Camp.

So Much Support, Love and Guidance

Through the help of hundreds of donors, volunteers, and the support of friends, my benevolent legal team, Trudy White- Dzuro and George Dzuro, my Vintage and Soul Dancers, family and kind hearts, not to mention the generous contributions from Kristi, Kevin Sullivan, and morale support of my family, The Big Little Caravan of Joy was born!!

My gratitude would not be complete without highlighting the guidance and contributions of Nicky Potter, founder of Friends of Noah Canada and the team of the past Noah South Africa: Rachel Compaan, Karen Krakowitzer, Skhu and Katie Andrews. 

I must not forget the collaborative ventures of Right to Play; especially Paula Gilverson, Anna Keefe, Meisha Cole, and Catherine Cheechoo who supported the development of my new initiative that took us into Canada's far remote Northern communities. A big thank you to Jules Porter for believing in my Painted Turtle Program back in 2012! 

Love goes out to Jamie McLaren Lauchman founder of Clowns without Borders South Africa, and Joslyn Walker, two generous South Africans, who have always been there for me, shining their light on my path when I have needed it the most! Thanks would not be intact without the support of Pierre Vaillancourt and Chantal Guerin from the SEMAFO Foundation, and to Kate Webb and Antonio De Gregorio too! Thanks to The Giselle Foundation!!!

Team Joy is the Best!

But my humblest and most gracious honour goes to my Teams of Joy that have been arm and arm in the field with me, doing the grueling but most playful work together, in the kindred spirit of  brother and sisterhood. Whether it was in a hot and dusty field, or in crowded township, or in rural villages, or a fly-in remote Northern Ontario communities, Teams of Joy have sung the hearts out, danced like no one was watching, painted like Picasso, and belly laughed with and for 1,000s of children. Without their tireless dedication this work would be aimless and vacuous. 

Love and accolades also go to my Canadian Team Joy Leaders: Damarise Ste. Marie and Bailey Davis and my core Team Joy African Leaders: Aku Dunyo, Nicholas Mamba, Sandile Ndzimandzem, Andrew Moyo, Richard Ndlovu, Sussie Mjwara, Sabee Shozi, Sipho Mdletshe and our Burkina Faso Team Joy with Dao La Sanni and Vincent too! 

Love abound to Team Joy First Nations Leaders: Joyce and Jerry Wesley, Charles Carpenter, Lorna Chyslar, Grace Bluecoat, Candice Assiniwe, Bighead Bellamie, Eric Spence, and Clarence Piishaan. And too all the other members of Team Joy that have joined us along the way, I thank you all!!

The Sweet Children

But it is the children who deserve the biggest thanks given here! Starting with my own three, who kickstarted this journey and concluding with the celebration of the 1,000s of sweet and enchanting souls who have embraced us and the BLCJ program with open hearts and loving spirits.

Where We Have Ventured and the What We Have Done

As a result of the profound trust of so many, and their mutual love for the importnace and relevance of  creative play during childhood and for most their generous hearts, The Big Little Caravan of Joy will have traveled to eight African countries (Ghana, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, South Africa, Swaziland, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Uganda) and The Painted Turtle Arts Camp will have visited eight First Nations communities in Northern Ontario and The Empowered Africa Child Conference will have traveled to three countries enlightening hundreds on ways to embrace child spirit!

 By the end of 2014 over 550 artists, educators and child care givers and almost 10,000 children will have received over 20-30 hours of arts based programming and training! 

A Tour Dedicated to a 10 Year Love Affair with Africa

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of my love affair with Africa, The Big Little Caravan of Joy and The Painted Turtle Arts Camp will reach almost 5,000 children before the end of  2014! Below is my itinerary for this remarkable tour planned to celebrate the resilience and sacredness of childhood.

 I am thrilled to say that my eldest daughter Kyra and her dear boyfriend Daniel will be joining our team in South Africa. Also, for the first time ever Kristi and 3 children (deja vu) will be joining me in Kenya to run a program at an orphanage called Cheryl’s House. I also look forward to having Melanie Rosen, an expressive arts therapist, yoga guru and creative soul in the mountains of Uganda with me! I hope that you follow my journey and help me believe in the African saying: little by little, a little becomes a lot. 

With love,

Sarina Condello

Big Little Caravan of Joy & Painted Turtle Arts Camp
2014 Schedule


Dates- January 13-17
Community- Durban
Design- Purchasing Supplies, Artistic meeting with Staff, Design of Curriculum

Staff- Sarina, Team South Africa

Dates- January 20 - 24 & January 27 - 31
Community- Sithokosize; Manager- Khosi
Design- Morning entire school + Afternoon Ark Programming
Staff- Sarina, Sussie, Sipho and Sabee
Timing- School Classroom Program - 9:00 AM- 1 PM - entire school
Sithiokozise Ark Program - 1:45 - 2:45 PM - 5 - 9 years olds
Sithiokozise Ark Program - 2:45 - 4:00 PM 10+ year olds

Dates- February 3 - 7
Community- Siyawela; Manager - Faith
Design- Morning Daycare + Afternoon Older Children 
Staff -Sarina, Sussie, Sipho and Sabee
Timing- Siaywela Ark Program with Daycare - 9:30 AM- 12:30 PM
Siaywela After Care Program - 1:30 - 3:30 PM

Dates- February 8  - 15
Community- Swaziland; Manager- Nicholas + Andrew
Design- Artist in Residence Rural School
Staff- Sarina, Nicholas, Anna, Wandile, Andrew, Musa, Sussie, Sipho and Sabee
Timing- School 7:30 - 2:00

Dates-  February 17 - 21
Community- Vusimpilo ( 5 day overnight); Manager -Thembani and Nondomisu
Design- Morning entire school + Afternoon Ark Programming

Staff - Sarina, Kyra, Daniel, Sabee, Sipho and Sussie 
Timing- School Classroom Program -  8:00 AM- 12:00 PM- entire school  Vusimpilo Ark Program - 1:00- 2:30 PM 

Dates- Monday off- February 25- March 1(with Saturday celebration)
Community- Nkobongo; Manager Zamo
Design- Ark based
Staff- Sarina, Kyra, Daniel, Sabee, Sipho and Sussie
Timing- 7:20 AM - 3:30 PM

Dates- March 3- 7
Community- Christianenburg (Claremont); Manager- Thambiso
Design: 1/2 Program Curriculum Development with Thambiso
1/2 day Ark Programming
Staff- Sarina, Sipho, Sussie (For 2 days Kyra and Daniel) 
Timing- Morning Curriculum Development 12:30 - 2:30- 
Christianenburg Ark Program with Team Joy - 2:30 - 4:30 PM 

Dates -  March 10- 14, + 20 -27
Community - Cheryl’s House, Kenya, Manager- Grace
Design - Orphanage Program
Staff - Family Herold first part, with Kenyan Team Joy, Driver Simon
Timing- 10:30 AM - 2:30 PM + 3:30 - 4:30

Dates- March 1- 4
Community Uganda, Manager - Barbara
Design School#1
Staff Ugandan Team Joy
Timing- 7:30 - 2:30

Dates- March 7-11 
Community- Uganda
Design- School #2
Staff- Ugandan Team Joy
Timing-7:30 - 2:30

Dates- March 14-18
Community- Uganda
Design School #3 + #4
Staff- Ugandan Team Joy
Timing- 7:30 - 2:30


Dates- July 7 -  18th
Community- Northern Ontario
Design- Community Based
Staff- Painted Turtle + Right to Play Team
Timing- 10:00 - 12:00 and 1:00 - 4:00

Dates- July 21- August 1
Community- Northern Ontario
Design- Community Based
Staff- Painted Turtle + Right to Play Team
Timing- 10:00 - 12:00 and 1:00 - 4:00

Dates- August 3- 8
Community- Northern Ontario
Design- Community Based
Staff- Painted Turtle + Right to Play Team
Timing- 10:00 - 12:00 and 1:00 - 4:00

Forecast for the Fall of 2014--fingers crossed!


Dates- August 26 - September 5
Community - Ghana
Design- Meeting with government officials and benefactors for the first Empowered African Child Conference in Ghana
Staff - Aku Dunyo and Kwasi Dunyo

Dates- September 5- October 3
Community- Burkina Faso
Design- 4 communities: 
Staff: SEMAFO, Damarise Ste. Marie, Bailey Davis + Team Joy Burkina Faso