“Hearts starve as well as bodies.
Give us bread but give us roses too.”
– J. Oppenheim
Bread and Roses Summer Camp was a three year arts-based resilience promotion program for vulnerable children (children whose lives are impacted by behavioural/emotional challenges and/or parental mental illness, incarceration, and/or substance abuse). Led by a team of professional artists, child psychologists and education specialists, we delivered an exciting programme of activities spanning every day for the month of July including gardening, baking, art projects, yoga, meditation, dance and weekly field trips. For the rest of the calendar year, participants were engaged on a monthly basis with creative and community building activities.
This community outreach project is an outgrowth of previous work, in particular The Silents, which was created with the help of testimony from persons with mental illness and their families. Informed by this work in combination with evidence based best practices on resilience promotion, Bread and Roses Initiative is designed to help vulnerable children develop the skills and connections needed to effectively cope with challenging times, in a setting that fosters a sense of childhood joy and belongingness.
Our team of teaching artists and community volunteers offers a variety of activities during a four week all day camp incorporating movement, song, creative dramatics and writing, visual arts, reflective practice, communal living (including culinary arts) and gardening.
Activities, embedded within a mind/body/spirit framework, are derived from 4 core resiliency building areas:
1. Yes We Can Can (positive personal power). Through daily arts-infused camp activities and monthly Saturday gatherings, children gain experience in basic life and social skills. They learn and practice responsible problem solving and decision making as well as healthy life habits, including exercise, nutrition, cooking, and self and other safety practices. This process contributes to the child learning to successfully handle ongoing and future life demands, and helps instill in the child a sense that she is an able, capable human being.
2. Lift Up Our Hearts (relatedness)- Children have opportunities for creative self expression, for pro-social and relational skills development and for acquiring habits and experiences that help the child maintain a positive and hope filled way of being and walking in the world.
3. Tending the Spirit …The Garden That is Me (reflectiveness) – Through an arts, nature, and meditation based format, children are guided in the development of mindfulness and an informed, reflective conscience. Children learn means of managing their emotions and impulses, developing a sense of inner direction, as well as connecting to a Greater Good.
4. Build a Bridge (belonging and possibilities!) A variety of ongoing linkages with the greater community is nurtured through our family and community engagement activities. The children have opportunities to connect with others locally and globally through service and shared activities. We also work with Big Sisters/Big Brothers and other community child/mentor programs.