So since I’ve just about had enough negativity this week to last me for the rest of the year, here’s a shoutout on something inspiring. I first encountered SuperHero Me in June 2015, when they held a really interesting Festival at the National Library’s open space. B looked so little in the photos from that post!
What is SuperHero Me? Well, it’s a ground-up inclusive arts movement founded by some incredible young people in 2014. In Aug 2014, Superhero Me piloted at Care Corner Child Development Centre (Leng Kee) with a group of 15 preschoolers from Lien Foundation’s Circle of Care. They are mostly from low-income families living in Lengkok Bahru.
Supported by Lien Foundation (another organisation I stoutly admire), this year, SuperHero Me is launching a series of creative arts workshops to bring children with and without special needs together. Here’s why:
A survey on inclusive attitudes in 2016 found that a key cause for apprehension or low acceptance of children with special needs is the general lack of interaction between the public and such children.
Thus, as a start, Superhero Me aspires to be a platform to encourage more socialisation between children of different needs.
Jean Loo, 33, community artist and co-founder of Superhero Me said: “In our journey working alongside children with and without special needs, we have learnt that inclusion –– like cooking –– has no fixed recipe. It is rooted in practice rather than rhetoric and requires effort, even a persistent courage to reach out to others seemingly different from us. Here, creativity is our common language as we embrace inclusion as an artistic choice. Art is a splendid starting point to seed this process of change in a space where children of different abilities can socialise with appropriate guidance.”
I think the work they do is simply amazing. I have friends with special needs kids, many of whom are in mainstream preschools and primary schools. I agree that inclusion is the way to go, and I’m just so heartened by the concrete initiatives SuperHero Me is putting together this year to give opportunities for such interactions to take place.
What exactly is inclusion? In the words of the folks from SuperHero Me:
Inclusion values every individual and creates an environment that welcomes and enables all children – regardless of needs – to participate and feel a sense of belonging. Practising inclusion can enrich the learning experiences of all members of a community and broaden the mind and repertoire of the human experience for those involved. Often, the opposite is exclusivity and even segregation, as children are shuffled into silos based on their intelligence and medical diagnosis. The arts, with its emphasis on creative expression, provides natural opportunities for children to learn and interact through play. In fact, it offers opportunities to practice cognitive, language, socio-emotional and motor skills without feeling anxious over failure.
I think it’s just so important to learn from young that there are many unique individuals in the world, and the earlier kids can learn to interact with children from different backgrounds and personalities, the better. Put two toddlers together, one with special needs and one without, and my guess is that you will see a relationship with minimal prejudice, since many of our inhibitions are those built up over the years as we grow up.
And as our society gets more polarised, with the GINI coefficient rising, such opportunities are likely to become fewer and farther between. Hence, I think it is just splendid that there are people, and young people passionate about this cause at that, intentionally looking into this issue, and doing something about it, instead of warring away on the keyboard, or just grousing about the way things are.
So what can we look forward to participating in? You and your kids can get involved in all these events, running from 16 Sep to 7 Oct.
For a start, there’s “Who is Coming to Dinner?”:
Inspired by the idea of gatherings, children of different abilities will create art side by side in a purposefully designed “art kitchen”, surrounded by work created by children from Superhero Me. The workshop series, titled Who is Coming to Dinner?, is presented by Lien Foundation and supported by the National Arts Council. About 800 children are expected to participate in this workshop series. On weekdays, Superhero Me will host over 440 children from preschools (including St James Church Kindergarten, Odyssey The Global Preschool,. Kampong Kapor Methodist Church Kindergarten, Kindle Garden Preschool by AWWA) and SPED schools (including Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore School, MINDS Lee Kong Chian Gardens School and Pathlight School) in two-hour art programmes.
Although the weekday sessions are only open for Group Bookings, the public may sign up for tickets for their weekend sessions – all the details are listed below:
Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film
155 Middle Road S1888977
● Weekdays: Group Bookings Only
● Saturday: 11am – 6pm & Sunday: 12pm – 4pm
Weekend Programme Details: http://superherome.peatix.com/
Entry is free, but programmes require a ticket.
Here’s are two more events that you and your kids can sign up for. These workshops include DIY-magazines making, making your own dimsum-tingkat and stationery holder.
● ART CHEF Saturdays: Art programmes for children age 5 to 12 from 11am – 6pm
EVENT DETAILS Art Chef Saturdays are priced at $14 for a 60 minute programme and includes a Superhero Me A5-sized pouch.
● MASTERCLASS Sundays: Superhero Me’s partner artists lead workshops for anyone from age 5 to 105.
Masterclass Sundays are priced from $35 onwards for a 2.5 hour programme led by Superhero Me partner artists. More details on the arts workshops and Masterclasses can be found here.
In fact, preparation for this upcoming inclusive arts workshop series kicked off in April 2017 with four programmes. Arts pieces created during these programmes will be on display at the workshop series.
● Dinnertime Stories – A story creation workshop with Kindle Garden by AWWA (my church friend works there, yay for him!), Singapore’s first inclusive preschool. 17 books by the children are on display.
● Bench Buddies – A carpentry, woodworking workshop in partnership with Touchwood Pte Ltd, the craft arm of Ground-up Initiative. 10 children of different abilities designed and created their own benches.
Here are some great photos by Marvin Tang, taken at that woodworking workshop. Doesn’t it look like they had an awesome experience?
● Chef’s Table – A degustation menu featuring food art created by 14 children from Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore School. Seven pieces of work are on display.
● The Tallest Cake in the World – A collaborative workshop with 28 children from MINDS Lee Kong Chian Gardens School Visual Arts Club where cardboard boxes are turned into a 3-metre tall cake.
Here are some more inspiring quotes by those involved in these workshops so far:
Natalie Koh, 20, a second-year violinist at Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, was a facilitator involved in “Chef’s Table”. She said: “Growing up, I only interacted with so-called typically developing people. Before this, I wouldn’t have known how to respond to someone with special needs, but the children taught me how to express love and care for one another in forms other than verbally. It got me thinking how much of a different person I might have become if I were to have interacted with all kinds of people from a young age, regardless of background and ability.”
Sean Bay, 22, an artist with autism and first-year student at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, interned with Superhero Me as a facilitator. He said: “I learnt about community bonding and helping others with special needs like me. I enjoy being a role model to these kids so that they can learn to improve on what they do.”
Well done, SuperHero Me! Folks like you give me a sense of hope about Singapore’s future. I hope to bring my kids down to one of your activities too!
More on SuperHero Me:
SUPERHERO ME is a ground-up inclusive arts movement that harnesses the power of creativity through the arts to empower children from less privileged backgrounds and special needs communities. We focus on inclusive programming, creative advocacy and strategic cross-sector partnerships to shape the narrative of inclusion in Singapore. From its birth in 2014 as part an early childhood development movement by Lien Foundation, Superhero Me has reached out to more than 8,000 people through a myriad of outreach efforts. Superhero Me Ltd is now a registered non-profit arts company and is a recipient of the National Arts Council’s Seed Grant for the period from 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2020.