Alan Humphreys describes how Valleys Kids have adapted to the pandemic and why creative opportunities for children are critical to their emotional development.
Throughout the pandemic, Valleys Kids, a community development organisation based in the South Wales valleys, have worked tirelessly to meet the needs of their community.
They have supplied 20,000 free lunches through ‘The Play Yard’ project in Treorchy, including delivering craft activities and food parcels to people in need. Now, with the support of the Arts Council of Wales’ Covid-19 Stabilisation Fund, Sparc – Valleys Kids Youth Arts Project – has joined forces with their Future Families Team to launch an exciting new project to support the wellbeing of children and families.
Puddle Jump is a therapeutic storytelling project that offers support to families in a creative and imaginative way. The title, ‘Puddle Jump’, refers to how children react to grief and trauma by jumping in and out of this experience.
This project will create a range of fun and magical storytelling sessions, story based craft and wellbeing activities and online story resources to support and empower children and families at this challenging time.
An imaginative array of stories has been carefully selected by Sparc and the Future Families team. The stories chosen have been specially written to enable children to explore difficult feelings or experiences such as anxiety and loss, in an accessible way.
From an invisible string that connects us with loved ones wherever they are, to an owl who finds a worry spot, to a little girl that wakes to find a HUGE bag of worries, they explore a world of imagination to inspire conversations and understanding around well-being.
The project is led by Beth Caudle, who has over ten years’ experience of delivering therapeutic creative projects across the UK. Alongside the family team, Beth is working with Sparc’s Digital Arts Worker Guy Evans to curate a series of online storytelling resources to support and empower parents at a time when face to face work is not always possible.
The stories are introduced by a short animation which has been beautifully illustrated by Angie Stevens and animated by Guy Evans.
“Stories are a powerful tool. Through storytelling we can help children process experiences and find a playful way to inspire a conversation about things or feelings that can be hard to talk about. Stories can also be great fun and that’s very important too.’
Beth leads a team of specialist freelancers commissioned by Sparc, using her expertise to transform existing stories designed to help children and their families to cope with loss, trauma and bereavement.
Sparc has been acutely aware of how perilous the world has also been for freelancers in the arts and are proud to be able to support highly skilled professionals during this time, on a project that they feel passionately about.
As Miranda Ballin, Sparc’s Artistic Director explains:
“We work with exceptional freelancers who are so creative and imaginative, this is an opportunity to bring brilliant people together to create something truly special. We can’t wait to share the work.”
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On August 26th, the first stage of the project was piloted with a small number of families in individual social bubbles taking part in storytelling sessions with live storytelling, creative activities and a picnic lunch at the Soar Centre, Penygraig. The session adhered to strict Covid-19 guidelines, and after the event Beth said:
‘It was a joy to welcome the families and share the stories and activities with them. It was really important to us to find out what the families thought of the stories and activities from this first stage of the project. The feedback was fantastic with parents telling us how much they enjoyed the session and that the stories and activities helped their children to understand that all feelings are important and gave new ideas to help them to talk about their feelings too.’
The second phase will include making and creating more story resources, including commissioning an original story on the theme of self esteem and identity.
The work will include collecting local stories and artworks from the communities’ time in lockdown to create an online pop-up book, which will to memorialise this extraordinary time and give us a chance to celebrate our incredible communities.
The project will culminate in a final event in November drawing together professional practitioners from the arts, health and well-being sector. This event will showcase the project, look at future arts practice in the light of the pandemic and look at how we can develop new forms of collaboration; focusing on the needs of children, young people and families.
Ultimately, this project is all about supporting families, as one of the parents described: “I found the story very helpful as it shows everyone, that everyone gets worried on times, and it’s okay to ask for help.”
You can find out more about Valleys Kids here.
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