“Be the change you wish to see in the world” is a popular mantra spoken by Mahatma Gandhi. While many understand the importance of this phrase, it’s sometimes difficult to follow through and actually be the change.
One Brock grad embodies the mantra as she makes a difference in the world, one art project at a time. Rox Chwaluk (BA ’09, BEd ’10) is a co-founder, and the volunteer co-ordinator for Turn Around Projects of the Arts (TAP), a not-for-profit organization with the mission to create and maintain integrated arts projects, which promote reciprocal exchange in order to impact and strengthen communities. Since its inaugural year in 2007, TAP has organized seven successful programs in four countries (Jamaica, Japan, Canada and India). More than 600 people have participated.
Brock University has also recognized Chwaluk’s contributions to society. She was one of the first persons to be featured in the Both Sides of the Brain campaign.
TAP’s pilot project was held in Jamaica in July 2007 when 18 students created an integrated arts program for more than 100 Jamaican participants. The members of TAP believe that art is everywhere, everyone is an artist and that the process of creating art is just as important as the product. Although TAP uses six mediums (theatre, music, dance, visual art, creative writing and photography), art forms like skateboarding, knitting and juggling are encouraged. Everyone has an art skill and TAP will find a way to incorporate it into the programming.
TAP also created a two-tiered Education Fund, which provides opportunities to TAP participants to further their skills as artists in a post secondary setting (Scholarship Fund) and gain real job experiences during their programs (Mentorship Fund). TAP has been very successful in providing a positive experience for participants, so much in fact, that the participants are beginning to facilitate some of the workshops provided. Turn Around Projects of the Arts has proved that participating in art programs empowers people, causing them to want to be involved in programs that gave them a more positive outlook on life.
Most recently, three TAP members took to Bhopal, India. Rox Chwaluk led the project, working with both the staff of Sambhavna Medical Trust and the survivors of the worst industrial disaster in history. On Dec. 3, 1984, Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) exposed more than 500,000 people to gas and toxins when they were released into the air. About 10,000 people died within the first 72 hours and another 15,000 have died since, not to mention the 120,000 that have chronic medical conditions because of it. The plant was abandoned immediately after the leak and the site has yet to be cleaned up, allowing for the remaining toxins to pollute the groundwater Bhopal residents rely on. In 2001, UCIL was bought by Dow Chemical Company. The Sambhavna Medical Trust is one of many clinics in Bhopal that offers free allopathy, yoga, and ayurvedic treatment to survivors of the gas disaster and victims of the ongoing water contamination. Before Chwaluk left for India, she was hoping that Bhopal could be a regular stop for the TAP group.
Chwaluk had been preparing for India for over two years. She had produced a play about Bhopal, met with many activists, and been in contact with the managing trustee at Sambavna Medical Clinic. Before she left she was also nominated to the Advisory Board for the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal. A week after leaving Bhopal, she was selected to the board and currently sits as the Volunteer and Leadership Development Coordinator.
Now that the program has been completed, she is aiming for TAP to go back in December of 2012. Chwaluk and her team were very successful in Bhopal, creating multiple art stations at the clinic so survivors, staff members or even just the local community could stop and participate in painting the mural (created by Jamez Townsend, a local artist who attended Brock), photography, visual art or bracelet making classes. To her surprise, unplanned Justin Bieber dance parties also ensued!
If this is something you’d like to get involved in, TAP is accepting volunteers from all over the world. The only criteria are that you must be an artist, an educator, an activist, or a combination. TAP heads back to Jamaica July 11 to 29 where it will hold its fifth program.
TAP is currently raising funds for this years Jamaica program. To make a donation, or learn more about TAP, please visit http://turnaroundproject.ca/blog/