Name tags decorated with three adjectives to describe oneself, followed by abstract portraits of exaggerated facial expressions and colors, is where Kids Share Workshops starts. Next, we instruct the students to pick up the power of the pencil and begin their journey as authors.
The writing is simple. On day one the student writes the end of their story. It has to be positive. Everyone will have a happy ending to their own story. We ask the students to write about the following ideas…Envision the unlimited places you can go. Dream dreams that are so big, so unfathomable. What makes you feel alive? What do you love about your culture and being Togolese? Who do you dream of being someday? What is your future dream job? Where would you like to be living in the future? What is your ideal future living situation? What is your perfect future community? And, when I go to sleep at night I often think about….
The results of the children’s stories are always enlightening, heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking. Children living in the west might write about their dreams to go to college and become something similar to their parents or other adults they admire. But in Togo, it is hard to spot a woman driving a car, let alone hold a professional job after attending college. It is still more likely young women will marry and have children at a very young age. The young men also face a lack of opportunity.
But there is a visible change taking hold. We could feel the optimism and kindness around us. There is hope and shared dreams in the city of Lome and all the way to Togo mountain.
So how can Kids Share Workshops help inspire youth to dream? Teamwork through art and writing projects brings children together to think outside the box. Children inspire each other with little instruction by naturally co-creating in structured groups.
After the end of the story is complete, we move on to letting groups of 5-6 students paint on the newly installed art canvas murals. The only art direction given is to paint images of your community. The next day students return to find a big surprise!