Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Big Little Caravan of Joy Visits Burkina Faso 2014!

This fall SEMAFO Foundation invited the Big Little Caravan of Joy back to visit their rural communities in Burkina Faso. Once again, we had the privilege of implementing  our highly dynamic arts based program for over 1640 children. Our last visit, back in 2012, was such a tremendous success that the children and artists asked monthly for our return! What a joy it was to finally go back to the communities a second time, so that we could reunite with our cherished team, friends and the beautiful children.

Our vision was simple. We wanted to deliver and share, with the children from these small rural communities, the rapturous joy, inherent intelligence and healing power of the arts. For many children, the exploration of the arts was a place where they felt safe and off the hook for a moment, from being caregivers and laborers in their communities. From the child’s perspective, this arts based program was not only a simple solution in creating a safe platform to express and explore their individuality, but it was also a place where they had the chance to celebrate their childhood in the spirit of creativity and play. 

Creative problem solving was yet another aspect to our program while implementing our arts based curriculum. We as facilitators see the arts as a place where children have the chance to constantly grapple with solving problem skills. These challenges unfold naturally in the process of art making.This in fact, lays down the groundwork for the acquisition of new found knowledge. Our methodology this time around included cooperative games, dances from around the world, song and chants, a theatre performance by the children, drama games and a handful of fabulous visual arts projects too!

 A big bouquet of gratitude goes out to all of our supporters who made this venture possible. Thank you to Chantal Guerin at SEMAFO Foundation for believing in the program. Our  Team Joy Burkina Faso was on fire and without their expertise and the guidance, love, energy and devotion of Damarise Ste. Marie and Bailey Davis this project would not have been possible!


August 27-29 - COMMUNITY: Dangouna -  275
August 31-September 2-COMMUNITY:  Wona A- 400
September 3-5- COMMUNITY: Wona B - 325
September 7-9- COMMUNITY: Bana A - 200
September 10-12- COMMUNITY: Bana B - 240
September 13-15-COMMUNITY: Bissa - 115
September 16-18- COMMUNITY: Somana - 85

TOTAL 1640 children

Each community listed above has now received 15-17 hours of arts based programming. 
A community show for each school was also included. Each community did 3-7 art projects. Curriculum was translated from French to Local languages by the team. Drama, dance, art and songs were focused and taught for approximately one hour for each subject. Cooperative games took up the other hour.

The Burkina Faso Team: Sarina Condello, Bailey Davis, Damarise Ste. Marie, Dao La Sunni, Amada, Aruna, Musa, Aruna (petite), Modu, Ibrihim, Amidou, Dao Yacuba, Konete Sema, Unosa and Boubacar.

Painted Turtle in 7 First Nation Communities!

The Painted Turtle Arts Camp is a program that is specifically designed for First Nations children and youth of Northern Ontario. The objectives of The Painted Turtle Arts Camp are:

  • To nurture every child’s creative spirit through creative expression and play
  • To build a cohesive sense of community through educating artists, teachers, summer staff and community leaders on ways to integrate the arts through performance celebrations and art based experiences for summer camp
  •  To offer opportunity for youth to be leaders in an arts based environment and enhance   their knowledge and interest in arts based activities

Since 2012, nineteen PTAC(s) have been implemented in seventeen Northern communities. Hundreds upon hundreds of First Nations children have had the opportunity to create and ignite their imaginations through the expressive joy of song, dance, theatre and visual arts. Every year, PLAY partner communities are invited to submit applications to host a Painted Turtle Arts Camp. The completion of an application allows for a process for the community to identify the need and interest for arts based programs as well as identifying resources and support to host the program. It has been an absolute honour and privilege, for the third season consecutively, to have collaborated with Right to Play with the implementation of the summer arts based program-- Painted Turtle Arts Camps (PTAC) throughout Northern Ontario. 

This year was a very special one at that, for the evolution of the PTAC grew considerably and developed into a sustainable and capacity building venture by training leaders to independently and successfully run their own camps for their communities. The year, the PTAC specialized arts activities, usually designed for a week’s long program, were developed and expanded into a five to six weeks curriculum. By teaming up with Right to Play and piggy backing with their Summer Sun Training Session, that was held in Thunder Bay in early June, PTAC had the opportunity to make this new training model possible. 

With 8 community mentors present to train specifically with the Painted Turtle Arts Camp methods, this new model, gave community leaders basic instruction in facilitating the arts-- dance, visual arts, music, drama. The training also provided a methodology on how to manage their PTAC throughout the summer months. Each Community Mentor present also received an art kit that would last throughout the summer and included art supplies for 30 - 80 children, 2 training manuals (one for managing a camp, and one with art based activities) and a USB stick with lots of high energy fun music and two videos of our selected choreographed dances. 

Next year our Painted Turtle vision is a grande one at that! The big dream is to have 15 Northern communities run their very own Painted Turtle camps for the summer of 2015. Our vision for the training session for next year, is to create a more detailed manual and training methodology that will instill enriched arts based activities for all the facilitators involved with PTAC.


 Many thanks go out to Jules Porter who has consistently supported the PTAC’s programming for the Northern communities of Ontario and who helped us develop this new sustainable model. Gratitude would not be complete without acknowledging Nicky Potter’s guiding force. Her dedicated efforts, by supporting, guiding and making sure that all our ducks were in a row for this year’s tour, made the success of this program attainable. Gratitude abound and a huge thank you to all the Community Mentors, Community Officers, Painted Turtle Staff and the hundreds of children who created art with their little hands, sang with gusto and danced to their hearts delight! Our program would not be possible without the committed efforts of Bailey Davis who has tirelessly given up her summers for the betterment of this program and with Rose Lipton and Chris McLeod’s encouragement and assistance with all the details needed to pull off such an endeavour. 

To the Communities of: Mattagami, Moose Cree, Wabauskang, Neskataga, Shkoday, Indian Friendship Centre, Webequie, Aroland– Meegwetch for inviting us to work with your children and for graciously hosting  and supporting the camps! To the Community Mentors: Andrea Naveau, Carmen Cheechoo, Jason Petiquan, Aaron Yellowhead, Candace Hardy, Marriah Belcher, Eric Shewaybick and Chad Kashkish  – Meegwetch! Your initiative in taking on the Painted Turtle all on your own and your dedication in providing your communities’s children with effective programming this summer demonstrated true leadership, courage and a willingness to provide great opportunities for  your community!
And a big thank you goes out to Bailey Davis for being jumping on little bouncy planes and traveling with me throughout Ontario, and being an amazing facilitator and project manager!


 8 Community Mentors, from 8 Northern communities, were trained with a Painted Turtle arts based curriculum and methodology

15 Communities received art kits

 Number of children in communities that ran Painted Turtle Arts Camp for 4-6 weeks: 

Mattagami- 20 children
Moose Cree- 80 children
Wabauskang - 10 children
Neskataga - 25 children
Shkoday and Indian Friendship Centre- - 25
Webequie- 20 children
Aroland - 30 children
Hours of art-based activities for each child during the summer of 2014 :  80 -100 hours

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!