The rewards of helping in a less-privileged neighbourhood

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For 23 years now, ArtHeart has provided free visual arts education, programs, materials and healthy snacks to children and youth, as well as healthy meals in the Regent Park community.

Tim and Julie are the extraordinary ArtHeart teachers, and midtown residents Linda Boros and I volunteer at this magical place.

Tim, the studio manager, has worked at Artheart for almost 20 years.

“I’m constantly amazed by the sense of family and community I feel when I come to work,” he says. “There is a strong connectedness that extends from the kids and adults to the teachers and numerous volunteers that come here.”

ArtHeart has provided a safe place for kids and adults over the years. The best story I have is one of my students coming back after 20 years and bringing her daughter and her mom — three generations!

Some people are coming from the shelter system and some from Regent Park Housing. Our drop-in system welcomes everyone.

ArtHeart provides visual arts programing as well as healthy snacks for children and youth, and a healthy meal during the adult programming.

The children drop-in program is Tuesday to Thursday, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. The adult program is twice a week, and they also have the Kiwanis Boys and Girls Club and Little Embers as part of the programing during the week.

On Sundays, there is a family drop in from 1:30 to 4:30. This is the fastest growing programing, with more than 160 families registered. It’s extremely popular.

Linda Boros, a long-time Bayview and Eglinton resident who works at a daycare in Leaside, says ArtHeart has been her way of giving back to the community.

“I’m constantly inspired by their artwork and the creativity they exhibit,” she says.

I have had a lifelong love of art and enjoy teaching myself, and I’ve grown quite attached to the children at ArtHeart and to some of their stories.

When we sit around the table and do our art, I am touched by their openness and willing to share their experiences, hopes and dreams. Some of the children are new immigrants to Canada and are finding their way in the community and learning the “Canadian Way”.

Other volunteers have shared their experience at ArtHeart with me.

“The children’s joyfulness and quest for learning keep me coming back year after year as a volunteer,” said Miss El, who is getting her teacher’s degree at York University.

“The kids here are so cute and fun and I love the way they work!” enthused Maisha, who works here as a volunteer for her community hours.

I interviewed some of the children that were there for after-school drop-in. Paula likes to paint, Laura enjoys working with the older kids and the volunteers, Mohammed likes snack time and melting beads and Shorna likes computer lab and spending time with Miss El.

ArtHeart is a registered charity and offers drop in visual arts programing for children, youth, adults and families. Everyone is always welcome!


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Posted: Apr 9 2015 12:57 pm
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Edition: Toronto
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