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How to Make the World a Better Place.

By celebrating teamwork through therapeutic storytelling and the arts for social change.

We planned our final celebration after completing a three-day workshop; storytelling, creating portraits, and teamwork with two community mural installations. Three of our USA teenage children were engaged in the workshop and were team support helpers with the La Touche student participants. As a volunteer program, it is not often Kids Share Workshops can bring youth from the United States to another culture. In most cases, we try to skype, google classroom, or share remotely and construct a co-created book together. When youth from other cultures come together, in many cases, there are no boundaries, preconceived notions, or cultural differences; only Pura Vida! (pure life) synchronized together for one common goal!

What followed before our celebration was excellent coordination between the adult and youth volunteers. Kids Share gave the remaining GoFundMe proceeds to pay for a large community gathering of local dishes, drinks, and desserts. Thanks to Akpe-Benedicte Agbemadu and her restaurant catering skills; and Sylvie Enyonam Mensah’s family’s help in her kitchen, the food was more than outstanding! We also were surprised to have local musicians with their talented ensemble singing Togolese-feel good tunes for all to enjoy!

One of the essential Kids Shares missions is to celebrate the hard work; time spent learning about each other, sharing our stories, and feeling well-nourished during our celebration. Food, music storytelling, and art have become an essential part of Kids Share’s therapeutic workshop.

Before our goodbyes, we all admired our completed stories and artwork, feeling proud of what we accomplished as a team. Our Kids Share family was surprised to receive heartfelt, custom-created containers for each one of us, made from composite sawdust. What a beautiful unforgettable experience! We hope to return someday but are very grateful for our time together.

Stay tuned as we finalize the translated French/Togolese stories!

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Problem-Solving & The Sand Mandala-Part II

La Touche is located at Adidogome-Apedokoe Gbomame, outside the bustling city of Lome. Togo is known for its cool panoramic mountains, expansive beaches, decorative fishing boats, pop-up business in shantytown alleys, historic landmark museums, and friendly greetings for foreigners. It is impressive to see how passionate Sylvie Mensah, founder of La Touche, and Nadia Adamou, teacher and interpreter, are about their attending students and their vision for La Touche’s educational expansion. Sylvie lives at La Touche with her children and has big ideas for developing the center in an unfinished area. She hopes to raise enough funding to complete the structure. Nadia and Sylvie’s coordination and translations in helping with the Kids Share instructions made our time together engaging, fun, and productive.

As we close up our workshop with our final writing piece, we asked the students to begin writing the middle of their story, making the last bridge for the Storybridge curriculum writing. They are challenged to problem solve with unlimited abilities; they are the master of their story’s outcome. We ask them to close their eyes and imagine changing the world for the better. There is no limit to their creativity, and nothing is too unrealistic. We explain to the students that their work will be translated into English and French online for others to read. We hope the connection reaches other parts of the world, sharing the same desires and hopes for the future.

After congratulating the students for their hard work drafting their first soon-to-be-published Kids Share Story, we tell them to line up and see the significant change that occurred earlier with their canvas murals.

To symbolize the impermanence of life, the canvas mandala is changed once again, not by the elements but by Kristina. As the children approach the painting area, they are shown a different scene laid out for them to re-create. It was explained that initially, Kristina wanted to see what they could do working together with little instruction. As expected, the result was a bit chaotic. The work they had created together the day before was covered with blue skies, an ocean of waves, a beach, and the words on each canvas, Kids Share Workshops 2022 and La Touche 2022. Children were instructed to get into painting groups of ocean life, trees, people, animals, and buildings. They were given 5 minutes to paint before rotating to the next group. Each group would have another chance to return to the canvas. The results were organized, beautiful, and inspiring! The Kids Share Canvas Murals can be moved, shared, and express love for the community. 

While completing the murals, the adult teachers and volunteers are asked to jump in and add their personal touches. As the children watch on they too feel inspired to see adults having fun working on their co-created work!

Stay tuned for the final celebration, translated stories, and more about the strong support from the Togolese volunteers! 

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Where Are You Today? Painting The Sand Mandala

The destruction of the mandala serves as a reminder of the impermanence of life. When we returned the next day, we found the streets near La Touche flooded and the well-constructed shelter made of palms in shambles after a powerful tropical storm hit the night before. We wondered if the children would be able to join us? The storm also did a number on our canvas murals, hurling one of them across the wall and into another backyard. The canvas was battered and faded because the paint had not thoroughly dried, and was very wrinkled.

Beginning our writing, we encouraged the children not to be afraid to write down how they felt about their life today. We asked them to write the beginning of their story. They were encouraged to support each other in their groups and feel safe about sharing their feelings with their adult team leader if they felt unable to write. The questions were straightforward; What do you think is hard about living in your culture? What is life like when you wake up every day? Are you worried you will never achieve your dream reality? Why? Do others tell you what your future will be like? If yes, how do you feel about that? Is there anything that is upsetting about your life right now? If yes, try to write about it.

After the writing, we moved on to repairing our canvas murals. With the help of adult volunteers, we mixed new colors and allowed groups to keep working on their co-created paintings. We talked about how art can be about change and rebuilding after a destructive event. And everywhere we look around us, even if something looks ugly, there is something very inspiring and artistic about recreating.

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I am Togolese. Who am I?

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!

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Hardware & Paint-Kids Share 101

Since Kids Share Workshops’ inception in 2008 in the USA and in 2010, our first international workshop in San Ramon, Nicaragua, where Kids Share created an art-house out of a donated community building in a tiny coffee community, it was an easy bee-line to the hardware store for all our creative needs in Lome, Togo. I was grateful for the help of Denis Rozand, a true Togolese patriot, and for his extensive knowledge of Lome’s best locations to find everything we needed.

I realized early on that hardware stores and general stores can be found in even the poorest of countries and that latex house paint (which dries like plastic) would be the safest, low toxic paint to use on a large-scale art installation. There was the cost issue and how I could afford to teach 25-50 children and leave them enough leftover art supplies to carry on even after our time had ended. With modest success and huge appreciation for the generous donations, through a GoFundMe page, we were well equipped and ready to teach the 50+ children waiting for us to start on April 5!

Kids Share indeed came full circle with La Touche in Togo, where Kids Share volunteers were invited to help create a new center of art and writing for area children. When I start a new Kids Share Workshop, I tell myself, this could be the last one; go at it with passion and love; this might be our last.

It is a privilege to co-create with another culture, let alone bring your children to be part of this wonderfully enriching experience.

I marvel as I write this, witnessing once again creative minds far from my own country openly share their lives, hopes, dreams, and creativity with love. These special Togolese children are teaching my family and me something new about ourselves. That life is miraculous. Anything is possible if you can imagine it long enough with passion.

Kristina Applegate, founder of Kids Share Workshops

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Arriving in Lome, Togo

April 2, 2022

Here we are again after five years and much change in the world…Kids Share Workshops has maintained its standing since 2008 through the generosity of volunteers, including the founder, and charitable donations from individuals and businesses. Never give up when your efforts are for the good of all people. Kristina Applegate

Our well laid out plans for our youngest child, Enzo (cockapoo) to have a two-plus week sleep-away camp with his new Bouchon friends and family, (dogs), (while we were in Togo), ended abruptly due to extreme canine fear from the separation of home and family. Our good friends graciously tried to accommodate Enzo (to no avail) and returned him two hours before our departure. But no worries (Plan B), their son stayed the night, and our neighbor Bill came to babysit when needed before our good friend Lou (planned housesitter) flew in from Maine to save Enzo from complete human isolation. However….as soon as we took care of Enzo, our son Leo’s flight was canceled from Burlington, Vermont to Newark, New Jersey en route to Togo, West Africa. His father’s quick thinking and willingness to drive the six hours in order to connect with us on our PM departure made it possible for Leo to join our mission. Our exit from Florida did not go as planned, but in the end, planned itself out perfectly.

After a somewhat restful night’s journey in the sky, we found Ethiopian airlines comfortable, very good service, arriving with warm greetings and excellent accommodations. Our Togolese guide took us through a smooth visa and luggage check-through, and I was the only family member in need of a yellow fever vaccine. (Costing only $17 US dollars compared to the $300 cost in the US.)

Our French-born, Togolese citizen Denis, (William’s 1996 Camel Trophy companion), made our arrival smooth and welcoming. William’s French conversational skills with Denis’s connections, quickly helped our family adjust on our way to Hotel Robinson; our first meal at the hotel’s restaurant, and later exploring the marketplace. Thanks to Denis’s expert knowledge, we also enjoyed a beach/roadside freshly macheted coconut milk before bedtime!

The beach where we stayed displayed impressive waves that made it nearly all the way to our patio doorstep. Denis shares with our family the dangers of swimming and waiting until the rocks are visible so as not to be swept away and gashed while swimming. We were told there are no dangerous predators in the ocean and very few biting insects. In fact, Denis passionately tells us, that Togo is a very safe country and the home where his heart resides.

Immediately, I could feel the warmth of the people. No one is allowed to carry weapons. The Togo law bans all firearms, or a person can face immediate imprisonment. Our first meal and night’s sleep were lulled by the ocean waves.

Our family drifted off to sleep after our more than the 24-hour journey to the heart of the palms oceanside of Togo.

I will now retire to my husband in our wonderful airconditioned bedroom leaving the sweat on my back to go take a much-needed cold shower! phew…we made it!

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April 1-17, 2022 Kids Share will be heading to Togo, West Africa!

Kristina Applegate Tapley, the founder, for the first time since 2008, will be traveling with three out of her five children in her blended family with her husband William to help volunteer with La Touche in Lome Togo, West Africa.

This blog is developing in March, so please visit again soon for exciting updates!

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