In January of 1999 I made a new year's resolution to do something that I was always afraid to do. Taking a vacation by myself terrified me. What would people think, seeing me sitting by myself in the Tiki bar? Would the waiters think I didn’t have any friends?

I had heard of service vacations, and thought that maybe if I did one of those, I wouldn’t feel like a loser. So, that July, I flew to Quito, Ecuador, to volunteer at a day care center for handicapped children (that's me, kneeling, on the left in the photo).

How exciting! So exciting, in fact, that one of my best friends, Angela, joined me. So in hindsight never I achieved that new years’ resolution.

But back to the story. When I arrived, I never saw such poverty. Mothers selling toilet paper on street corners. Homes made of corrugated, rusty tin with spaces in between so wide that wild dogs entered and tore the hand off a child with cerebral palsy. Families sacrificing to buy potato chips for us during home visits. Disabled kids at the day care center tied into kitchen chairs by string and rope to sit upright.

And I saw love. Kids sharing, laughing, supporting each other. No one realized they were handicapped except for me (I have a whole other story on that, and it involves water balloons and lots of mud), and maybe, after some reflection, I realized that I was the one with the disability.

Twenty-two years ago Ecuador jarred my life into a new trajectory. Those two short weeks showed me a world so unlike my own, with stories of others that I wanted to share (hint: keep reading these newsletters!) That was the beginning of my own journey that ultimately led to Heard.

Thank you for the love you show for our art team, partners, and clients.

A resident of the Alexandria Residential Treatment Center made this proposal card during our arts class last year. Rumor has it she said yes!
Creative Corner - experience our clients' creations
And a Quick Trip to India...

Last month we stretched a little outside of our northern Virginia community and when Sharmila held a Zoom art class with the girls of 7 Sisters International in Assam, India. Sharmila loved teaching a class in her native Hindi, and the girls, all of whom were rescued from trafficking, created puppets of themselves and their heroes.

Special thanks and a great big hug to my Air Force friend Colonel (retired) Janice Gunnoe, co-founder of 7 Sisters International, who agreed to this partnership. 

Visit our Heard Gallery to see, read, savor, and enjoy more of our clients' original work.
Our Artist Showcase
“If I had a helicopter I would fly you here every week!”

That was one of the more dramatic complements aimed at our improvisation teacher, Keely Kirk. Keely’s fan was an inmate at the Arlington County Detention Center, where she teaches conflict resolution and other life skills through the fun of improvisation.

I’ve attended her classes there and belly-laughed at the creative, funny, and sometimes NSFW plot lines the inmates create. More than one has told her she has changed his life.

When she’s not changing lives with Heard clients, Keely performs improv herself and is the founder of Playing Outside the Lines, where she provides team building workshops for Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, law firms, accounting firms, nonprofit organizations, and schools. 
Keely Kirk has trained and performed with Mental Floss and Laughing Gas Comedy Improv of Miami, Florida, as well iO (formerly Improv Olympics) and Second City of Chicago. 
Spring2ACTion is April 28!

This program is funded by the City of Alexandria Arts Grant Program,
and generous donors like you!
Your donation supports our artists, who foster creativity, confidence, self-worth, and life skills to adults who are underserved, unknown, and unheard by offering them artistic expression through experiential instruction and participation. We are grateful for your support. Donate online through our secure website.

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