~ The Art Of Change ~ with Carol Omer ~

Art and Creativity as Mediums for Empowerment , Connection and Change…

Archive for the ‘Staff Training’ Category

Mandalas as tools for Staff Training and Development.

Posted by carolom on June 21, 2016

*Updated:

The Mandala ( the Circular form) which I have shared in other sections of my blog,  is a great tool for inspiring right brain thinking and reflection during our  creativity based staff training sessions.

As people engage with the rhythmic movement of adding colour and meaning to the individual black and white templates, the process is akin to a mind-massage that facilitates  access to parts of the brain we may have lost touch with in education settings and workplaces that don’t engage the hands equally as the eyes and ears for training purposes.

This is especially so in the western system whereas other cultures, i.e. Aboriginal culture, engage hands and creativity as part of the process of telling stories, generating ideas  and transmitting knowledge. This multi-sensory engagement is core to every day life.

In some cultures creative expression and development is not reduced  after early childhood as happens in some aspects of the western school system where the arts are often not considered as important as the sciences and therefore colour movement, dance, story telling, art and the application of the imagination are diminished over time. Creativity does not conform to a pre-existing template and systems that are outcome oriented are often not able accommodate creative expression and exploration.

 The system we are brought up in has enormous influence on how we think and create.

Sadly many people are living their life with the belief (belief )  I am not Creative, in spite of shared experience we all had as creative, imaginative, ‘magical’ children who were not bound by pre-existing templates during times of play and invention.
You can read a little story about what happens to the ‘magical child in exile’ by clicking here..

Feedback after the creativity based training  includes statements like this:

  • I was amazed at how much more information I absorbed even though I was not always looking up
  • thank you for giving us permission to go in to our own creative space and contribute without having to sit still all day in the one position, i am always the biro flicker in workshops because my hands get bored sitting still all day
  • Wow! That was fabulous! I am going to share these tools with my daughter and grandchildren

The following are samples of some of the work that was created during a series of Cultural Inclusivity Action Plan workshops.

The four themes that were central to the day were

  • Team
  • Community
  • Our Place
  • Workplace Balance

You can see the theme is written on the Mandala and the individual creative input is an unique and diverse as the participants and the Community they serve.

We honour the traditional owners of this great land when we implement processes that Aborginalise the western mindset by engaging with traditional cultural practices of art, creativity, story sharing, talking circles and FUN! (Thankyou Dana Shen for introducing me to  the term Aboriginalising ways of learning and information sharing).

This kind of training setting is a along way vastly different from sitting in a row of chairs or around tables and watching but not actively engaging with information. Slide shows, pie graphs and classroom style information sharing  lacks the creative engagement that occurs when hands are given access to creative processes and the information is presented in a way that evokes the imagination and new ideas.

Creativity based learning is a very different setting than the more common workshop environment where people sit still, watch and listen rather than create and interact with the material.

Our Place

Team

Balance in the Workplace

Each Mandala has a developmental theme and is used as both a creative and discussion tool as

  • an individual process,
  • in the small group talking /action plan group and
  • as a larger group we have poster size replicas which, by the end of the day become the centre of an action-plan installation art.

You can see how wonderful it is to create the ART of Vision / Action over the tired old butchers paper sheets that tend to be rolled away and disappeared forever once the workshop is over….

Posted in Aboriginal, ART of Change, Community, Creativity, Imagination, Patterns, Power of Focus, Reconciliation, Social Artistry, Staff Training, Stories, The Art of Change, Transformation, Uncategorized, Wisdom | Leave a Comment »

Domestic Violence Shelter Walls as a Gallery of Possibility not pain.

Posted by carolom on October 9, 2014

Domestic Violence Shelter Walls as a Gallery of Possibility not Pain.

Carol Omer ~ Certified Life Coach / Author

I have worked in Domestic Violence shelters in direct service delivery and on management boards for almost 30 years. One evening in the early days a resident and I were sitting in the group room of the shelter.

The walls were full of the kind of posters often found in d.v and homeless settings. Say no to domestic violence posters and statements that challenge abuse and injustice were the words on the posters lining the walls. The word violence  was written everywhere, even on the refrigerator in the kitchen.
There were also  hepatitis pamphlets, images that represented ill health, struggle and poverty and they were there because they were considered to be educational and necessary for the women, many who are considered to be “at risk”
Staff believed residents and outreach clients should be able to see the information in front of them at all times.

Pamphlets and fact sheets that had the words  trauma and stress, abuse and violence written on them in bright letters were on the wall by the door where women and children came and went throughout the day.

The woman I was sitting with looked around the room and said:

My life feels completely messed up and I look around and see these images and words  and it just makes it all feel so much worse.

It’s like the violence is everywhere. I’ve never been to a place like this before. Seeing that word violence over and over and over  freaks me out,

I saw the setting from her view point for the first time and took her observation to our staff meeting.

After several  discussions over several staff meetings we came to realise that it is not only the women who live at the shelter but the women who work there who are exposed to pain and trauma based imagery and  the words violent  and violence and deficit oriented messages on a daily basis.

Was our shelter warm and welcoming, colourful and bright or was it sterile, institutional and covered in words and messages that highlighted trauma, pain and the struggle?

Had we considered creating positive  visual images (that did not rely on English literacy) to  let women of all cultural backgrounds know that this was her place to unwind, relax and reflect or did our setting look like a government department with warning posters and issue-oriented material on the walls? No we hadn’t and yes it did.

Sistars2

As a staff would we want to live in this environment at the worst period of our own lives? No we wouldn’t.

Would we feel comfortable and at home there considering we would be living amongst and sharing space with strangers?

We decided that no, we wouldn’t be warm and comfortable in our group room or the kitchen area as they were covered in issue related words and imagery and none of us had the word violence or abuse in the communal spaces where we met with friends and family in our homes to share food and stories together.

We noticed we had a sexual abuse hot line magnet on the fridge which we later found out was traumatic for some women to read every time they opened the door to get milk. A “Say no to violence”  magnet was along side of it.
The words “violence” seemed to be everywhere, on pamphlets, on hand outs, on the white boards.

Where were the word’s for Peace? They weren’t there!

Over the next few weeks we took down every poster that had the word violence on it and all of the words and images that presented how life should not to be and replaced them with inspirational images and uplifting posters.

I created a World Peace Begins at Home poster which had exactly the same message as say no to violence but with a very different emotional and visual impact.

We were, for the first time considering what messages the walls and the furniture and notice boards were sending to the women who came to our shelter.

The front entrance area no longer had a list of house rules, they went into the information pack in the drawer. We redeveloped the space with the words A Peaceful Welcome inside of a glass painted Mandala  on the front window.
Our counseling areas were transformed into peaceful, inviting spaces. We consciously created an evocative, tranquil setting in what was once an issue oriented, high profile violence focused shelter.

We also had to acknowledge we had created a very Euro-centric space that had very little cultural diversity or language representation so w e renamed each of the units “Peace” in seven different languages to demonstrate a commitment to muli-culturalism rather than offer token gestures that made space available for diversity but only within a European context. We had the words  placed on plaques that were visual and educational, with the country of origin along with the word for Peace.

We approached an Elder from the Aboriginal Community and received permission to name our meeting space Inbandi  the word meaning to gather.

The Mandala portal at  the entrance point to the Shelter was now a warm and welcoming one rather than a rules and issue based message space. It was an image that spoke to all women from all cultural backgrounds and didn’t require English literacy to transmit the intention.

What we learnt from that pivotal situation is that placing violence related images and literature and issue based words in front of people who are assessed as in need of education and support is  often just adding to the existing problem of a negatively saturated experience rather than acting as a vehicle for change. It was a turning point moment for our team and was the catalyst for a huge cultural shift.

Staff who work in domestic violence settings do not need to be seeing the deficit based words every day of their working lives either. Neuroscience research shows that we are all impacted by the sights we see and the words and sounds we hear daily.

Confronting images and statistics and abuse phone lines often don’t have the impact as intended, they can unintentionally add to an existing landscape that affirms the negative and disregards the positive /aspirational content when it comes to many public awareness campaigns.

We relocated issue based information into brightly coloured folders so that it was accessible but not visually repeating the negative, stressful wording every time someone walked past the notice board. The notice board became a place where women’s art and affirmations and culturally specific images were displayed.

The subliminal impact of the environment was one we had not previously considered but we were now becoming very attuned to the setting and culture we were consciously creating.

Over the next few years our once issue-saturated shelter transformed into a place that was inspirational, evocative, creative and highly educational. Our new in-house culture was grounded in the assumption that people who want to make changes don’t need to see the language of violence and trauma before her eyes and as staff we also chose not to repeatedly see words that evoke a sense of trauma and misfortune, instead we focused on aspirations and possibility.

As time went by I saw tired and over worked government workers melt down into the colourful, warm couches in our group room, look at the walls and the plants and say: It feels really peaceful in here. That’s so unusual for a shelter.

Women who were highly agitated and still fully immersed in the crisis that lead them to the shelter would relax and slow down within the group room which was enriched by having the opportunity to colour some of the art work for themselves and take the positive images and messages back to their unit to create their own affirmation and inspirational gallery. We had meditative music and culturally diverse play lists to add to the ambience of the room.

Our group room became a community space. It was no longer a setting that was driven and created by staff intentions but by what the women wanted to create and share.

This single step revolutionised the sense of community and connection at the shelter because we encouraged the women to create the space and atmosphere by contributing to the environment rather than simply sitting in the one we had created for them.

If the women who work in domestic violence shelters and the management are not open to creativity and creating a new culture of positive imagery and a welcoming meeting space, residents will not feel comfortable to explore their own creativity and sense of place in the shelter either. The service will feel like an institution rather than a Women’s place of healing and possibility.

Creativity and visual imagery was at the core of these sweeping changes and the staff and management had to be open to creating a new culture that can be messy and uncertain during the transition phase. It was a challenge for some of the team to change some of our core practices and values but eventually we also allowed ourselves to engage with creativity in the workplace during staff meetings and staff training events at a much higher level than ever before and this had a profound impact on our work – life balance practices.

I encourage all of us who work in women’s shelters, prisons and community health and settings to take a look at the walls and notice boards ask the questions:

*Are the words I am reading and the images I am seeing day after day   creating an inspirational  uplifting environment or are the walls saturated in pain, issues and trauma based messages that affirm the negative to try and create the positive?

*Could I place the information about pain and struggle and injustice and trauma based counseling into colourful, engaging folders and make space for an inspirational, uplifting invitation to change and empower community and connection instead?

*Look around at your shelter / community house  /office and ask yourself “Is this a place that is both professional and inviting or have we fallen into the government department trap of creating impersonal spaces that do not reflect the creativity, courage and unique cultural experiences of the women who come to live here for awhile?

I offer the World Peace Begins at Home b/w template  freely for workers in shelters and community settings and prisons who are interested in beginning the process of creating uplifting art and imagery in communal areas and would like to offer the women in residence the chance to create with their hands and tell stories and share information using creativity.

It was the first of the inspirational templates I created after the resident of our shelter highlighted the uninviting, clinical space that we had inadvertently created for her.

World Peace b:w

Peace

Posted in Creativity, Domestic Violence, Peace, Personal Development, Shelter, Sisterhood, Staff Training, Transformation, Women | 2 Comments »

EarthSong Aboriginal Healing Pathways Foundation is Incorporated…

Posted by carolom on September 27, 2008

We are very pleased to announce that EarthSong is now officially incorporated as of September 8th 2008.

Here are two of our founding members Misters John Hartley and John Williams holding our certificate of Incorporation.


If you are interested in learning more about EarthSong, who we are and what we are doing, please checkout the Facebook EarthSong Aboriginal Healing PathwaysFoundation group here:
EarthSong….Putting Action to the shared Vision for Change…

Photo update on our first working bee….

Posted in Aboriginal, Adelaide, Community, Domestic Violence, Elders, Forgiveness, Friendships, Healing, Journeys, Justice, Kaurna, Men and Women, Poverty, Power of Focus, Prosperity, Reconciliation, Staff Training, Wisdom | Leave a Comment »