What I have learned over the last 4 months while online with children is the importance of distilling ‘hope’ through all my different classes online and of late in person. As a verb, it’s definitions include: “expect with confidence” and “to cherish a desire with anticipation”. At the end of March ‘The Rainbow of Hope” began to appear on household doors, neighbourhood trees and there was a sense of heightened creativity in children at home whether being home-schooled or playing outside in the back gardens. “Hope” became the magical word for me on my mission to grow a network of ‘Warrior Kids” through the dark days of COVID19. “Hope” became a word I also needed for myself during isolation and in some ways the children became my own personal hope. Also I have to say my “Warrior Women” Group which included a network of 55+ became my online family in which we gathered three times a week to dance off the sadness and laugh through the tears in our living rooms from i phones and any kind of electronics we could get our hands on. The cocooning days were extremely difficult for many but our ‘warrior’ outlook always thrived!! I used the mantra ‘we can get through this’! I still use it.
When jotting down classes I could introduce to children the first words that came to mind was “Confidence” and “Creativity”. I relentlessly scribbled all my practices and learning I have attained over the last twenty years and began to create a framework of classes I could devise and engage online. The Zoom platform seemed extremely daunting at first for myself. It was also getting a global battering. I knew I was taking a huge leap of faith in my own personal confidence as well. I literally had kids via parents on a ‘Whatsapp” Feed as my only connection to the outside world. So I asked myself : How could I communicate and engage in a positive way to kids during such a strange global crisis?
Through my practices with my University Professor and renowned Director Phillip Zarrilli in Cork, Exeter and as a member of LLANARTH Group Wales, I have a deep understanding and education using psychophysical processes through Asian martial/mediation arts. By mid April I was determined to apply all this learning on screen to children through dramatic arts, visual arts, fitness, mind/body and mindfulness practices. My own personal creativity exploded. And so the classes were developed and the kids flocked online. There was such an energy force and an interaction I have never quite experienced….and all through screen. Zoom became my platform of “hope” and a place to hold a very important connection with children who felt frustrated and sometimes very lost. The early days of lockdown was quite intense and at times extremely painful for everyone. So I created what became a support network for “all” kids, some on the spectrum, some with autism- it didn’t matter as long as we were together the “hope” remained.
By Easter the kids began to create….they began to write down their inner thoughts, aspirations, dreams and hopes. I asked them to keep COVID diaries and to date and keep their work together, like a COVID19 bible. At the same time they were being home-schooled by their parents or guardians so I offered an added support that would help their education through classes that delved into ‘Creative Writing’ and ‘Expressive Art’ exercises. I began to get feedback that their homework began to improve but most importantly their ‘Creativity’ and ‘Confidence’ was soaring. I asked parents to take pictures of the kids process, much of this can be found in my ‘gallery’. Asking a child to step online was not easy and also distilling trust in parents that I offered a safe place for kids to engage, explore and ‘find themselves’ also became a mission. And all this happened…….
My own set back during this was the passing of my mentor ‘Phillip Zarrilli’ who I deeply admired and respected. His passing during lockdown and my own sadness drove me to another level of development – to finally go and set up my own business with children. It wasn’t long before that he had told me himself – ‘Heidi, you have the skills and talent to create something magical’. Phillip was always so empowering and it was a miracle that I had to chance to say “goodbye” via zoom just a few days before he died. Phillip died on April 28th, his partner and my good friend Kaite O’Reilly wrote: “I keep thinking of the Tagore ‘Let it not be a death, but completeness”. Everything I have created in the last four months is a reflection of Phillip’s teaching, guidance and empowerment.
As restrictions began to ease, “hope” became more even more visible – yet I have to say myself and the kids were still reciting poetic dreams online and creating our little book of “magical” future. I encourage children to map out their biggest dreams in Graffiti Wall art and in any artistic expressive way they felt at ease with. There are so many kids I admire and cherish. Lauren skipped onboard from the beginning and she attends all my classes today, thriving with confidence and a new creative uniqueness and new style in her work. She created her own “magic’!!
Many of the children have come offline, as well as my warrior ladies as the restrictions ease and some sense of normality has returned. But the connection is still there, what we have experienced in the last few months has turned us into true warriors! And while it is not over, we have found a safe haven to create our aspirations, to build on our ideas and try new ventures such as “Fitkidz with Heidi”! I could not have done it without my support network, the children, the parents, family and new friends I have made on the way.
While we don’t know the future, we can live in the ‘present’, appreciate what we have and let go of what we may have lost. Letting go of the fears and the anxieties that make us who we are.
To anyone reading this, remember: you are unique, you are valuable, you are important, you are loved and even in the strangest of these times anything is possible if you put your heart into it. I have put my heart into “Fitkidz with Heidi”, a small start up, a group of warrior children, many online and many I will see in Camps next week. So I end with this:
Never give up on your dreams……….
Heidi Ellen Love