I have done a lot of school visits over the years, even before I was a published writer; it’s just something that always seemed to intersect with my professional life and community interests. Recently, for throw back Thursday, on my personal facebook page, I shared to unexpectedly positive and encouraging response the photo above from a workshop I did at a local primary school. I have good memories of that experience. The children were enthusiastic (but focused) and the teacher, well, she’s the one who’d done the prep work and the inviting so she was a partner, really, which makes a world of difference between a successful school visit and one that flops. To date, all visits have been voluntary but I frankly can’t afford to do them like I’d like to, but, even where there’s interest, for the most part local schools aren’t budgeted to pay. Other avenues with respect to either public or private funding haven’t opened up, so far, though I could probably paper my whole house with the numerous proposals I’ve prepped and submitted over the years.
What I’m attempting right now is to offer schools workshops under the Jhohadli Writing Project, pitching to the relevant public sector agencies and to the schools directly for those who have active PTAs or means to pay for such programmes, in addition to trying to tap independent funding either through the private sector or grant agencies. With the proposed extended school day, initiatives like this could provide an alternative – one that breaks the usual routine while providing practice and instruction, deepening appreciating for the literary arts, opening up creative thinking, and building literacy skills.
“After being reluctant to come, I actually learned a lot. My writing skills have improved. [Also] learn[ed] about myself,” said a participant in the Youth Media Training Workshop I was commissioned by the Department of Youth Affairs to do over the summer. That kind of transformation is doable but it won’t be achieved with a one-off visit, not when there’s the potential to build sustained programmes and maybe even initiate writing and reading clubs in the various schools.
The Jhohadli Writing Project is an extension (a possible extension since it hasn’t really taken off yet) of my 2013 Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project which tested the waters and yielded feedback like this, “I can honestly say that my writing has improved from this experience and because of it I’m sure I will get better. Highlight of my summer.”
I’ll be candid and say that as a writer living in Antigua, it can be challenging to find financial avenues to keep doing what I do – hence my tongue in cheek reference to being on the hustle. No pretense. Money isn’t my motivation, but it is a necessity. So, yes, this is in part an attempt to monetize my skills. But it’s also about embracing the idea that I, too, am a teacher, albeit one who has had more meaningful impact in the more informal workshop setting than in the formal classroom setting. I find it extremely fulfilling to share what I love and to help others discover what they can do. I’d do it for free if I could, and will continue to give voluntary service to my community in all the ways I can. But, let’s be real, there is a cost to all this, and there is a value to it, and my goal is to tap into resources that appreciate that.
For more on the Jhohadli Writing Project, go here.
If you want to talk about funding such a programme or commissioning my services, contact me.