DAA PLANNING UPDATES
DAA founding camp director Miho Walker (residing in Australia) and YouMeWe NPO founder Michael Clemons (residing in Tokyo) visited three of the children's homes (orphanages) participating in DAA this year. Each home is looking forward to the relaunch of DAA. The following are comments we received from the homes. Miho and Michael also visited Miraikan Taimei, the DAA camp venue located in Ikebukuro, to meet with the venue director and to inspect all of the rooms to be used for the camp.
DAA VENUE - Miraikan Taimei
DAA will take place at Miraikan Taimei(in Ikebukuro), which is a former school. We will lease out the entire third floor which consists of 4 classrooms, 2 orientation rooms and a staff room, with ample space for 40 children to participate in art workshops in the morning and various other art, music, dance, and cooking classes in the afternoon. The children will also be provided with a mid-morning snack, bento for lunch, and a mid afternoon snack for their bus ride back to the children's homes (orphanages).
VOICES FROM THE CHILDREN'S HOMES
"We are very excited to hear that DAA is going to be restarted again this year. After the full camp format of DAA was discontinued due to lack of funding, we realized how much of a valuable experience DAA had been for our children. It was the best memories of their summer vacation. There aren't any other camps like DAA in Japan, so we really appreciate the existence of this camp." - Comment from Ms. Yoshigo, St. Joseph's children's home
"We are looking forward to DAA. We would also like to ask if it's possible for you to hold this camp during the Obon vacation week in August since most of the children do not have any families to return to during that week." - Comment from Mr. Matsuda, Tokyo Katei Gakko children's home
"Some children can’t go back to any family during the summer holidays, so it’s good for them to attend a program like this to refresh themselves. We really appreciate the support of the camp staff." - Comment from Kodomono Ie children's home
VOICES FROM THE DAA TEAM
Amy Moyers-Knopp, camp founder
Back in 2008 while I was helping to develop another NPO that supported Tokyo children’s homes, I kept gravitating towards the idea of an art therapy camp.Rather funny in that I had no serious skills as an artist but what I could recall from my youth years in community theatre plays and nearly 10 years of dance class was that feeling of truly connecting with my inner self as well as the fact these activities often served as an outlet for stress release when I had a bad day. So right there I knew you didn’t have to have a flair for the arts, have any specific skills, but rather just enough curiosity and thoughtful guidance to make an arts program meaningful for kids. Especially those kids who have PTSD, fears, anxiety, and low self-confidence.I saw DAA as an outlet for children to open up and experience new ways of expressing themselves guided by positive role models. It was all about the experience and environment.
Creating a safe, fun, relaxed space for kids to learn about themselves. So with a small group of talented friends, including Miho Walker, we set out to create our camp that could serve as an effective support program for our network of children’s homes. Convincing home staff of this [new to them] camp model took months and months of discussions. At one point, we weren’t sure if even 5 kids would sign up. But sure enough, we ended up that first year with more than 30 kids registered. We learned a lot that first year. Made a lot of improvements to the camp based on that first year. It was a stressful process at times but what we did see that very first summer was encouraging… kids coming out of their shell and experiencing positive relationships with adults. Kids discovering new skills and interests they didn’t see before. Kids seeing a peek of their true potential. . . it was a magical end to that first year’s camp and convinced us that we were on the right path.
Miho Walker, DAA founding director I will never forget the speech that one of the girls gave on the final day for the first Designing Artists Academy back in 2009. She said that DAA was not just a camp for her but a growing experience that changed her entire summer, and that she looked forward to DAA the following year. Back then which was 10 years ago, I understood the importance of DAA. But now that I have a 4-year old daughter and a 1-month old baby girl, I see DAA as "necessary" and not just important, because while both my daughters will be able to attend this type of summer camp every year, the children in the homes do not have the same opportunity without DAA. There are other free camps for these children in Tokyo, but they tend to be much shorter, perhaps 3-days maximum, which does not make it easy for children living in these homes to feel comfortable, open up, and fully immerse themselves. Additionally, since DAA recruits international artists, volunteers, and group mentors who are fluent in Japanese, the international environment combined with Japanese mentoring is a very impactful experience for the children. I hope that we can keep DAA running for many more years to come.
Mr. Matsuda, Tokyo Katei Gakko
Ms. Ishigo of St. Joseph's
Staff Members at Kodomono Ie
Amy Moyers-Knopp and Miho Walker