Create Now Honored by the
British Council and Volunteer Service Organization
Create Now is thrilled that our Founder and Executive Director Jill Gurr was one of the first four Americans selected by the British Council (a 75 year old agency) and Volunteer Service Organization (VSO) to participate in their first-ever multilateral Global Xchange, which connected youth and community activists from six countries: South Africa, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, UK France and USA. Jill spent three weeks in January-February 2010 in Durban, South Africa where she collaborated with other leaders to exchange best practices. They explored cross-cultural approaches to serving at-risk youth.
In March 2010, the team traveled to Belfast to spend three more weeks together working on community projects. Read more about this exciting project through the Global XChange Blog.
For Global Xchange, Jill was partnered with Rafiki Callixte from Rwanda, whose specialty is engaging Hutu and Tutsi youth in conflict resolution exercises that bring former enemies together to ease their discord.
During the Global Xchange journey, Rafiki and Jill worked with street children in South Africa and also Protestant and Catholic rivals in Northern Ireland to provide support and guidance to the youth and their caretakers, and to learn from them, as well. It became even more evident that the arts are a powerful tool for resolving conflict, uniting former enemies and healing emotional scars.
As a result, Arts xChange is a program that Create Now initiated, which uses our different arts education workshops to link youth around the world.
Thanks to a generous grant from USA for Africa. we are currently offering 32 participants (16 from Kigali, Rwanda and 16 from Compton in Los Angeles) the opportunity to create intercultural dialogue about challenges they face as they create artwork that follows two themes: (1) Overcoming Violence and Poverty, and (2) Creating Reconciliation and Acceptance.
The Kigali youth are students at Spark For Change, which is a non-profit organization in Kigali that helps Rwandan youth. The American students are part of the GIFTED Mentor Program run by Lisa Sprinkles at Youth Build Charter School, an alternative continuation school in Compton, which was organized through our partner, Unity One Foundation (a prominent gang intervention program in Los Angeles). Their Executive Director Cornell “Coach” Ward generously donated sports shoes, clothing and other special prizes for all the African participants.
Our 12-week workshop is bringing together these 32 youth from diverse countries so they can share their personal stories, challenges and ideas with each other through our private Facebook group. Create Now has provided them with curriculum developed with the Western Justice Center, and materials and tools to reflect and focus on specific themes related to conflict resolution and acceptance with the goal of overcoming violence, poverty and building peace.
We are teaching them how to release negative feelings through positive artistic expression in drawings, paintings, sculptures and behind-the-scenes videos that communicate an uplifting perspective with creative solutions for the concerns that are raised. The Rwandan artist is Emmanuel Nkuranga and Rafiki Callixte is the Program Coordinator. The American artist is Carlos Spivey and the Program Coordinator is Lisa Sprinkles. Ruby Medina is the Program Director. We will be sharing the participants’ artwork, videos and personal stories with you as this program continues to unfold.
Marceline Mahoro in Kigali said, “It’s really great. I’m very happy to become an artist.”
Teresa Montes in Compton said, “I love this class!”
Eric Bazimya Kimenyi remarked, “Art is a gift!!!”
Eric comes from a poor family of farmers and he has eight siblings. He had never experienced art before, but as a result of our program, he received a full scholarship to study art at the university.
We will continue to share photos and comments as they develop. Be sure to check our Facebook page for additional updates.
Arts xChange has also taken off in Afghanistan with our Mythic Challenges program through our collaboration with Evelyn Seubert’s International Media class at Grover Cleveland High School in Reseda. Taught by mythologist/author Pamela Jaye Smith of MYTHWORKS, the program had to be retitled Global Challenges, because we had to be very careful about using the word “Myth” or “Mythic” with the Afghans, in case it might be translated in a way that’s contrary to their religious beliefs.
Pamela gave several lectures to Evelyn’s local class in Reseda to help the students find an exciting literary theme to make their documentary assignment more interesting. These seminars were videotaped and shared with students at 13 high schools in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
The students in both countries decided to focus on three of the Millenium Challenges: the Environment, Clean Water and Technology. Since the youth in Afghanistan don’t have video equipment, they provided written material and photos to be used in each video that specifically referred to how that challenge is felt in Afghanistan. The students in Evelyn’s International Media class in Reseda produced and edited the six videos. The Mythic Theme (or “Literary” Theme for the Afghan’s terminology) is “War in Heaven.”
This program is possible thanks to the U.S. Department of State. Anna Mussman, from the State Department in Jalalabad, Afghanistan said, “Unique in Afghanistan and through support of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, selected students at 13 high schools in Jalalabad are able to access the Internet and participate in virtual projects that expand their vision of the world. One such project is Global Challenges. These lectures by Pamela Jaye Smith help Afghan students to develop their English language skills, as well as their creativity. The lectures and correspondence with Grover Cleveland High School students also gives them an opportunity to explore three of the Millennium Challenges that have great impact on their daily lives – the environment, clean water and technology.”
One of the youth, Shafiqullah from Abdul Wakil High School said, “The video was so helpful and important and we learned many things about water.”
Fazeela from Bibi Hawa High School said, “It was very interesting lessons and I hope that Pamela Jaye Smith sends more information like this for us. She will help us very much in our English language and we will know better about how to use symbols in our videos and how to use archetypes.”
Evelyn remarked, “Rather than doing a ‘talking heads’ documentary about clean water, the students found the story structure and symbols that will move their audience to take action.”
All six of the completed videos are now online, to be shared with everyone around the world to experience. Watch these videos by clicking below. Please send them to your friends and associates and spread the word: