Ablevision Ireland Workshops

Getting ready to warm up and start the day.

For the past 2 days I have had the amazing opportunity to lead workshops with a group from Ablevision Ireland. This is a program that works solely with adults with learning disabilities. They have set up 2-week long summer camps to culminate in the production of a film created by the participants. I was brought in on the first day to lead a session that would help the participants get to know each other better – and aid in communication and collaboration amongst the participants and staff. I wasn’t given the specifics of how many people I would be working with or specifics about the various disabilities that would be represented. I was unsure about how quickly the workshop would progress or how much I could fit into such a short amount of time. We ended up having time for 5 activities, the most successful of which I feel was “The thing you don’t know about me is…” Surprisingly, it was enough excitement trying to find a new place and not be left in the middle to keep everyone excited and involved. I also felt like it allowed for the most amount of learning about the others in the room. We also played peas in a pod, but this required mingling and socializing one on one in a large group and I observed that many participants were not engaging with each other, unwilling to step out on their own amidst the crowd. Oddly enough, most of them were okay being the complete center of attention in the other activities!
Today’s workshop was centered on expression and storytelling. Tableaux work was a little difficult due to a great amount of mimicking when they were a “statue garden”…however, when they were divided into groups and given topics themes like love/hate/home/etc. the images began to have much more depth. Most of the time when I use this activity groups are very concerned with “getting it right/wrong”…and for the first time, that wasn’t the case. Each group’s tableaux was a little different, some abstract some more real…but there was a general appreciation, as well as an understanding of the feeling of the pieces – if the theme/word wasn’t guessed outright. For the last half of the workshop we focused on storytelling. I began by having the participants draw a self-portrait with their eyes closed. Afterwards they had to guess which one was theirs (there WAS some peeking going on). However, I was able to get most participants to talk about distinguishing features in their pictures that set them apart from others. The next step was for each participant to tell a story about their picture, it could be true or fictional, but all of them were required to share….it was the last 30 minutes that completely blew my mind! Not only did each one of them get up without complaining or trying to hide, but they shared such HUGE parts of themselves! On participant, who was talking about his love of singing and telling the story of singing in a pub began singing for the room! It was amazing to see this group, that had been so shy only yesterday become so expressive and trusting with each other. I was floored. I will never, ever forget their stories. …luckily there was a documentary crew filming the whole thing and the gentleman promised to send me the footage of their presentations!
I’m not going to lie…even this morning I was pondering over the possible success of this workshop and how I would measure the success of it…and I am not sitting here completely floored at just how successful it was. I was trying so hard in my planning not to underestimate the group I was working with that I was a bit afraid that I may have gone too far in the opposite direction. Fortunately, each participant rose to the challenges that were put in front of them.
The one thing that I am struggling with and I feel was a bit of a setback both days was the level of involvement by the caretakers…some were very involved in a productive way (allowing and aiding participants to answer for themselves and make their own choices), some were involved and telling participants exactly what to do, and some were there, but made it clear that they wanted nothing to do with what was happening. Clearly, the first type of caretaker was my favorite. It just makes me think that in the future, I should speak to the caretakers separately prior to the workshops to let them know what they are in for and how they can best help. That said, all of the participants were engaged and appeared to enjoy the workshops. Some were very obvious because they were laughing, smiling, and told me as much…but others, who often appeared to be more detached made it clear that they understood through the sharing of their ideas and stories.
I’m supposed to be done with this group today…but as always I get so very attached…I’m headed back through Drogheda next week and I imagine I’ll be popping in to say hello! Meanwhile, my rainbow is blazing!