On September 26, 2016, the ARI volunteers went to the Juvenile Detention Center to work with boys, ages 10-17, who are awaiting sentencing for various criminal acts. The volunteers all agree how it's hard to even imagine that these boys did anything wrong because of how respectful and appreciative they are towards us. This group is such a joy to work with!
There were about 20 boys in this week's workshop.The concept of this workshop was to help participants take part in the experience of seeing and being seen through mirroring techniques. We began by handing out materials and splitting up into pairs. Everyone got a paint brush and a piece of paper; one person was the leader for 15 minutes while their partner followed their free painting. After 15 minutes, the leader switched with their partner and followed the partner’s free painting. This was to teach the boys how to interact with others and paint in a different way. Some didn’t understand the purpose of the mirroring or found it uncomfortable, which is normal for this exercise. It would be helpful to have paper to cover the “followers” paintings in the future. However, most of the boys found the mirroring techniques relaxing because it gave them a break from having to "think" about what they were drawing by following their partner's lead.
Our primary directive was intended to explore personal situations and the feelings around them through the creative process. Using any materials, participants created something in nature that survives the harshest conditions. It could be a flower that grows out of a crack in the sidewalk, a fish at the bottom of the ocean, a tree on the edge of a cliff, or a cactus in the desert. We encouraged them to use different materials outside of their comfort zones. Even though it wasn’t scheduled in our original plan, having each participant share a little bit about their work was a positive experience because it helped them relate to one another and gave the volunteers a platform for communicating with the group.
They appeared to enjoy the workshop. Even though some participants didn’t know how to do certain portions, they still put their best efforts forward and learned new techniques. The boys shared common themes in their artwork; harsh conditions included the surrounding nature and views from their homes, extreme weather changes like the dry and wet seasons, or fish swimming up-current towards a powerful waterfall. One boy created a large dead tree in the middle of a lively jungle setting; it was an deeply insightful directive.
We ended the session with a writing exercise where each participant was given a blank piece of paper and an envelope to journal. They were asked to write a letter to their future selves in 1 or 3 years from now that wouldn't be shared with anyone else. The letter could be a journal entry, poetry, a rap verse, or even a picture if a participant didn't know how to write, but it was intended to include positive affirmations. The boys put the letters in their envelopes and were told they could keep them locked in lockers for safekeeping. This was another great portion of the workshop - the boys all separated from their friends and moved to polar opposite spaces in the room in order to have some privacy while writing their personal letters. The group responded really well to this intervention; one boy shared with a volunteer that he wrote positive phrases like “never give up” in his letter.
Overall, it was a relaxed atmosphere because the boys were able to work on their own without requiring volunteer assistance. This allowed the volunteers to even work on their own art work based off the nature-themed directive as well! Unfortunately, photos were not taken for this workshop, but the final products were truly indescribable. From a personal perspective, I know that I left this workshop feeling overwhelmingly inspired - this was an experience that I will keep with me well after my time here in Chiang Mai. Speak Soon!