The Community Arts for Children Training Series

Amy Tuttle, Jamaine Smith and Laurie Williams traveled to Haiti to conduct a six week BuildaBridge training project with UNICEF-Haiti.

The team trained 90 community workers in three locations. The locations were Artibonite, Port-au-Prince, and Jacmel. The BuildaBridge team started training in Haiti on Monday September 17 and continue through October 28. The three trainers taught 3 arts-based courses, Community Arts for Children (Tuttle), Creative Safe Spaces (Smith) and Program Development (Williams). Tuttle, Smith, and Williams have volunteered with BuildaBridge on projects in Haiti and Thailand. Ms. Williams was a research assistant with Drs. Corbitt and Nix-Early for their book, Taking it to the Streets: Using the Arts to Transform Your Community (Baker:2003). Selected by BuildaBridge based on their commitment to service and excellence in their community work, they successfully completed a Train the Trainer Program by BuildaBridge, and are Artists-on-Call. Since 2008, the BuildaBridge Institute has formed an educational alliance with Eastern University to offer a Master's Degree in Urban Studies, Community Arts Concentration.

Both Tuttle and Smith are graduates in the Community Arts Concentration. The Master of Arts Degree in Urban Studies: Arts in Transformation Concentration (AITC) exists to prepare students with creative interests, artistic gifts and commitment to become active leaders and change agents engaged in holistic community transformation. The AITC is offered through an educational alliance with the BuildaBridge Institute, a community partner with over 10 years of global community arts training and education. Values include:
  • Art-making in service to the poor and marginalized of society, where access to resources and opportunity is often limited or non-existent. 
  • An environment for learning and mentoring relationships that nurture a community of creativity, discovery and support. 
  • Collaboration with those of other disciplines through interdisciplinary skill-building in holistic creative community transformation. 
  • Ability to work and serve within diverse civic environments of social, religious, ethnic, and economic diversity 
BuildaBridge, an arts intervention and education organization based in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has partnered with UNICEF Haiti to train 90 community workers to better the serve children of Haiti still in recovery from the devastating earthquake of 2010. By forming an alliance with BuildaBridge International, UNICEF will provide local leaders in Haiti with creative and transformative community skills to meet UNICEF’s vision to “offer children daily opportunities to reclaim their childhood” within the context of building resilient communities.

The selected ninety (90) community workers will be trained to offer practical knowledge and skills in community arts (view a sample workbook here), creating safe places for children, and program planning and development in their communities. The Community Arts for Children Training Series will begin in Artibonite-Gonaives.

The Community Arts for Children Training Series is a creative and complimentary addition to the holistic recovery efforts in Haiti. Part of the Arts Relief and Development strategy of BuildaBridge International, the goal of the project is to build human, social and organizational capacity for organizations working with children and youth in local communities. The training will be offered in three (3) training workshops of three (3) days each in three (3) locations. Lectures, community asset research, creative art-making, place-making, and group projects are integral to the training. Trainer manuals, student texts and workbooks are provided in Haitian Kreyol as well as online supplemental audio/video files (view a sample workbook in Creole here). Pre and post testing of participants knowledge and post program evaluation will be conducted Haiti.

Prior to the 2010 earthquake, the state of child welfare in Haiti was already in need of support. Post 2010, the need to protect children from abuse, violence, and exploitation has increased. According to UNICEF, one of the long-term development partners in Haiti, more than 750,000 children were directly affected. One of the concerns is the extreme fragility of children living in crisis, poverty, and trauma. Many of them are vulnerable due to the lack of education, health care, and most of all, genuine nurture.

This initiative is in line with BuildaBridge's mission to meet the needs of the most vulnerable through the creation of safe places through trauma-informed, hope-infused, child-centered spaces and relationships that lead to resilience. BuildaBridge has strengthened her commitment to the children in Haiti. With over 10 years of serving children and families in transitional homes in Philadelphia and informal settlements abroad, BuildaBridge International understands the importance of fostering hope and healing for those who have been traumatized. BuildaBridge accomplishes this through arts-based methodologies. Since 1997 BuildaBridge has served over 10,000 children in 25 countries.

Based on community assessment surveys conducted by BuildaBridge in Haiti in 2010 and 2011, many local Haitian organization leaders and workers lack the tools and knowledge necessary to form creative and safe, healing spaces for children and to build capacity for their organizations. (view a BuildaBridge video of early project) According to a UNICEF report, more child-friendly spaces are needed to reach 150,000 children, and 250 community workers need to be trained nationwide over the next years. In efforts to build better systems for the whole child in Haiti, UNICEF is developing a network of trained social workers and is supporting the training of those working with children throughout Port-au-Prince. By forming an alliance with BuildaBridge International, local leaders in Haiti will be provided with the skill sets to meet UNICEF’s vision to “offer children daily opportunities to reclaim their childhood.”

The Community Arts for Children Training Series is offered as part of the BuildaBridge Institute, a training and applied-research academy of BuildaBridge International designed to prepare creative artists and community workers to integrate the arts effectively in education, community and human development. The BuildaBridge Institute prepares creative people, teachers, psycho-social support assistants, and community workers with arts-based tools for healing and empowerment, and effective ways to implement them to better serve children in communities in the contexts of crisis and poverty. The focus of the BuildaBridge Institute is on engaging the arts for healing, education, community development, and sustainability. The basic methods of training include inquiry-based and interactive learning, mentoring, intellectual discovery and practical application, all integrated with residency-based training and technology.

Now in its eleventh year, the BuildaBridge Institute has trained more than 600 professionals worldwide, and has attracted a faculty of 85 professionals in the field. Training has been held in Malaysia, Haiti, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Kenya, Colombia and the Netherlands. The annual BuildaBridge Institute is conducted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania the first week of June in the United States of America. Jamaine Smith, Amy Tuttle and Laurie Williams have joined the Institute as trainers and faculty.

Jamaine Smith was born and raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York, and is a graduate of Eastern University's (Pennsylvania) Master of Arts in Urban Studies, (Arts in Transformation concentration). Jamaine obtained a Bachelor of Science in Social Work from Nyack College (New York). It was during his time at Eastern University where Mr. Smith learned to how to effectively merge his passion for the Arts with social justice, education and human development. Mr. Smith has been a trained BuildaBridge Artist on Call for the past two years, is a registered BuildaBridge Trainer and was the Artology summer program Education Director for the summer of 2012. He will direct the Philadelphia Community Programs of BuildaBridge upon his return from Haiti. He is a firm believer in the transformative power of the Arts and is passionate about educating others on incorporating Arts into education, community work and youth development.

Amy Tuttle is a "placemaking" artist and arts-based community development specialist who resides in Cincinnati, Ohio. She has a Master of Arts degree from Eastern University in Urban Studies: Arts in Transformation. Amy specializes in the field of "arts-based placemaking." Placemaking is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. Put simply, it involves looking at, listening to, and asking questions of the people who live, work and play in a particular space, to discover their needs and aspirations and represent them through the arts. Amy has engaged her passion for placemaking in many settings including: Haiti, Philadelphia, India, and Cincinnati. Amy has worked with BuildaBridge for 3 years as a student, Artist on Call, and recently- a Trainer.

Laurie Williams is a visual artist (calligrapher and painter) and vocalist. As an artist and community development specialist, she has had the opportunity to promote the arts through many avenues: as an instructor for various children’s organizations; a facilitator of craft programs for domestic violence victims; and as a research assistant for the Taking It to the Streets: Using the Arts to Transform Your Community project, under the leadership of Drs. J. Nathan Corbitt and Vivian Nix-Early. Laurie earned her undergraduate degree in Community Health Education at the University of Maryland, a graduate degree in Urban Economic Development at Eastern University, a Master’s in Multicultural Education. She truly enjoys her current work as an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher and a freelance writer.


All The Good

Oct 20, 2012
Amy Tuttle

“Mwen pral kab fe
Tout bon bagay
Ke le mond bezwan
Men mond-la bezwen
Tout bon bagay
Ke-m kapab fe
Ke-m kapab fe.”

For the past 5 weeks, we have ended every training with this song of wisdom: “I cannot do all the good that the world needs, but the world needs all of the good that I can do!” At each training site, this song serves as a closing ritual and as the under-current of all of the work that we do together. We hear participants huming, singing, rapping this tune in the morning as they come in, on their way to lunch, as they leave the training site each day. These words of truth and wisdom are all around us.

In Haiti, there seems to be an endless supply of great ideas, energy for transformation, and engaged agents of community transformation- like our participants. However, this positive energy is most often met with a major shortage of resources, lack of support from the government, and many many other problems. Throughout my time in Haiti, I have met many folks who are discouraged and disempowered. At the beginning of each training, we are challenged by participants with questions like: “How are you going to change my community, what resources will you actually provide so that my work is strengthened?” We spend a lot of energy in the first module affirming and re-affirming that at BuildaBridge, we believe that the strength and capacity for community transformation lies within the community. I have many conversations encouraging participants that they are the answer to change, that they have the capacity to transform, that they hold more power than they think.

Amazingly, in each training, we see close to a 100% shift of worldview from participants. On the first few days, we work hard to teach about the power of community assets and that change happens little by little. We use the Haitian proverb “Piti, piti, wazo fe nich le”- little by little the bird builds its nest. It is difficult work, to sift through all of the doubts, frustrations, and distrust that participants initially have. In Gonaives, a participant said: “My community has no assets, we are waiting for the government and NGOs to help us. We have nothing.” In Port-au-Prince, many participants had strong reactions to the question “What is the biggest barrier in your community and what is one small step that you can make to overcome it?” One participant said: “Nothing, I can do nothing. I don't have any power.” In Jacmel, one participant said “When I ask you a question about how to change my community, I want YOU to give me a direct answer. I want YOU to tell me the steps. How do I change my community? And, what resources will BuildaBridge give me to change my work?” So, we start out with these notions of disempowerment and distrust.

Without fail, each training becomes transformative around Days 3 & 4 when we ask participant to re-evaluate the scope of the solutions to problems they are proposing, to identify as many local assets as possible, to find the possibilities that exist within a problem, and to start thinking about the simple elements of a safe and creative space for children. Participants start to trust the work and the many tools that BuildaBridge is offering to them. Participants also, most importantly, become engaged in identifying their own strengths and abilities to transform their communities in sustainable and viable ways. We see confidence emerge amongst the groups and the bonds of community within the class become strengthened, without fail...every time.

We have ended every training with comments such as:
"Thanks to you too who was available to make this huge undertaking a reality. We at UCDDJ will not give up, we will keep going 'till the end. Thank you very, very, very much." -Ronald
 “I think many challenges can be overcome in this country.” - Paul
“My vision is to pass this on to other organizations. Thanks to the training, we will know how to write a project. In the training we formed a family.” – Mercilus
“I’m glad I had this training. I can’t take all of this and put it in a drawer. I want to say thanks, but I think it is too small. This is more than ‘thank you’. Knowledge is priceless.” -Mislene
“I will go back to continue my project to increase the capacity of the children. I know how to write a project, but I would pay people to help me implement it. Now that I know how to monitor and evaluate, our reports will be productive. We got in the children’s shoes. We formed another family.”- Yavelina
“I can do a project now! I’ll teach my kids.”- Ketsia
So, we have learned in our time in Haiti that no one person can do all of the good that the world needs. However, we have all become confident that the world needs all the good that we can do- because little by little our actions pave to way to change!

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