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The Rainbird Writing Program

The Purpose

The Rainbird Writing Program is designed for children and students to help them feel safe enough to share their stories about past and current trauma. They must be comfortable and know that they are safe to open up. This is critically important to a creative process, but especially for children who require safety in order to open up.

The Program encourages people to learn about issues related to Children's Rights and Child Abuse. It's not a rigid curriculum, though, as Facilitators will allow room for creativity and expression and help children change their concept of themselves, improve their lives, and expand their goals and their future.

Facilitators of the Writing Program will visit the community, schools, churches, and clubs to talk about the program and the perks of children being in the program as well as taking on a supportive role for children and students. Confidentiality is required unless a release form is signed and approved by the child and parent.

The Need to Write

Preservation of Memories

Whether a story is good or bad, it is still an important memory to be shared and explored. Sometimes it is easier to talk about the good stories more than the bad ones. Rainbird wants children to learn to express their feelings and share their life stories without fear of mockery, disregard, or disapproval. As a result of public pressure, our worst memories (experiences) often stay trapped inside and a child does not know, or may not have, an appropriate way to truly move beyond a terrible experience.

Be an Inspiration to Others

Stories inspire others to discover things about themselves and share their own stories. Writing and drawing our stories can inspire us and others. If children learn how to express themselves - other children see this and will want to share their stories.

Developing Skills

The more a child writes and draws, the more their writing, editing, public speaking, and expression skills will be developed. They'll share their stories with the class, if desired. Creativity and unique thinking will be developed as The Rainbird team empowers children to write in their own voice and their own way.

Program Time Frame

The program time frame is flexible and designed to fit within the constraints of school or community events. Below is an example of a possible writing program time frame for a 1 or 2 day a week program.

Introduction/Instructions/Questions 10 minutes
Writing & Drawing 60 minutes
Take a Break 10 minutes
Tell or Read Your Story 30 minutes
Insights & Sharing 10 minutes

The format can expand over several weeks or a school year. If you wish to expand the program, the timeline can be flexible, but it must include:

  • Introduction, instructions, and Q&A (for the children)
  • Group share and independent writing
  • Independent drawing
  • Storytelling or Story reading
  • Group share: Insights and what children learned

Administration of this program is flexible by design. Rainbird facilitators will work with your teachers, administrators, or community to develop a personalized timeline for your children.

Taking Necessary Breaks

This program is intensely focused work. Children need breaks to recharge as emotions may be difficult or challenging. It is critically important to let children process this in a manner that is suited to them so that they can absorb this experience physically, mentally, and emotionally. For this reason, it is important to give them time to get up, eat, drink, run off excess energy, laugh with friends, go to the restroom, or play.

The Staff

There are 4 tiers of Staffing recommended for this program:

  1. The Facilitator: This person is the teacher, Club Director, Group Leader, or Church Director. This person is responsible for the delivery of the course and the well-being of all of the children participating. This person must be trained and certified by Rainbird to lead this program.
  2. Rainbird Staff: One trained staff person from Rainbird must be present at all times during the delivery of this program.
  3. Floaters: Trained volunteers certified by Rainbird to support a Facilitator must be present to work with the children in the program. The number of Floaters in your class depends on the number of children in the class. The ratio is 5 to 1.
  4. Trained Specialist: You may wish to have a therapist present who is trained to deal with child abuse trauma, in case you have a child in need.

Writing

Everyone has a story to tell and this writing program is for children, but there are useful ways that adults can help them tell their stories. The first step, before your children start writing, is to create a Sitting Circle and tell stories. This helps children understand what they are doing. The Facilitator starts by talking about himself and telling a true story from his childhood in a way that is appropriate to the children in his or her care. By doing this, a Facilitator helps the children become comfortable with telling their stories in a group setting. The Facilitator's story must be a real event from their life. This develops trust with the children.

When one person is talking in the Sitting Circle, everyone else listens. No one else can talk while the child is talking. You may establish this easily by passing a "talking stick". When the child has the "talking stick", everyone else listens to the child. In this environment, they will naturally express themselves fully.

Their stories can be good or bad. We all have real stories that are both good and bad. A story can be about the child, someone in the child's family, one of their friends, or something the child did. A story can be written, drawn, and shared with the class, or just written and drawn.

Promote Stories from the Heart

Explain the Value of Honesty

Tell the children that their story must be real and true. Open honesty are critical to creating an environment of trust and understanding for children. There is no teasing or backlash allowed from either the children or adults.

Be an Example

Mentors/volunteers/teachers must be supportive. They are a role model for the children and should lead by example.

Have them Write/Draw About Topics they Care About

Explain to the children that they must focus on events in their life. Stories can be happy, sad, funny, or scary. To ensure that the child is not sharing something inappropriate, the facilitator should quickly read each story.

Share a Mini Personal Story

Help open the door to creativity by sharing your story. You can draw, write, or tell your story. This helps children understand what you are looking for and what you expect from them. Your story must be age appropriate. As a mentor or a volunteer with this program, you represent Rainbird.

The Writing & Drawing Portion

The time frame of the writing program should be no more than 2 hours at a time, and no less than 1 hour and 30 minutes. It should follow a structured outline. Rainbird can work with you to develop the program that works for you and your group.

The Writing & Drawing portion of the program must be allocated sufficient time. During this time the teacher and volunteers will go around and check in with each child. They will ask the child questions and help if a child has questions.

No child is left out!

If a child is struggling or needs more time for personal reasons there should be a "floater" (a trained volunteer) to take the teacher/volunteers place and help the child.

  1. Cover these points in each session (observe scheduled time duration)
  2. Facilitate the start of the program (storytelling circle)
  3. Provide the children their materials (pencils, paper, crayons)
  4. Give them time to create. This is a time for photos & video (with prior parent & child approval)
  5. Provide ample time and silence for them to work
  6. Collect stories as children finish them. Let children write another one.
  7. After collecting the stories, have trained Facilitators review each story for abuse. If there is abuse, bring the writer of the story to a safe place where a trained Facilitator can talk with the child in private to collect the important facts critical to saving the child.
  8. At the end of the writing phase, give children the opportunity to present their stories to the class.

Reading Their Stories

Ask the children if they would like to share their story and drawing. The child should be encouraged to share their story and drawing with everyone at least once before the program is over. The goal is to get the child to learn to improve their writing and drawing skills, communicate a story effectively to an audience, and express their feelings.

Suggestion: Allow discussion but do not stray from the topic. You have time constraints in order to get through everyone, and you must have time for all of the children to share who wish to share.

Keep in mind that these kids are not professional writers. They need all the positive reinforcement... just make sure that the reinforcement is genuine!

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