Aiste Zitnikaite of Devinto Designs teaches a child at the Angel House shelter the basics of sewing.

Gifts at Work: Art Offers Sense of Normalcy to Children in Shelter

Finding a sense of normalcy in a homeless shelter is almost impossible, especially if you’re a child. You live in a cramped room with your parents that is even more cramped if you have siblings. You can’t have friends over. And you share common spaces, like a kitchen and living room, with a half dozen other families. 

But this summer, nine children living at Angel House in Hyannis, achieved that feeling of stability as they immersed themselves in arts classes for a few hours each week. 

“They loved it,” said Staceanne Sykes, a housing search specialist at Housing Assistance Corporation which operates the shelter. “Most of the families here can’t afford activities like this. It was a blessing that it was able to be funded.” 

Funding was provided through a grant from the Arts Foundation to The Cordial Eye, a community arts organization based in Hyannis, which led a series of arts classes which included sewing, movement, and visual arts, over the course of six weeks. 

“I made a T-shirt and an apron,” said Tamara*, one of the children who benefitted from the program. “I never made anything like that before. I couldn’t sew at all.”

This hasn’t been an easy year for the soon-to-be 12-year-old. Tamara came here from Haiti and has lived at the shelter since May with her sister and brother. “I miss a lot of things. I miss my family. I have a lot of family there,” she said. 

Over 1,500 miles from her home and her family, Tamara was able to find comfort in these classes. The arts gave her joy. It offered her connection. And it gave her confidence, the kind you can only get when you create something for the first time. 

“Having something normal during a time when everything feels tumultuous and unmoored is really valuable,” said Mary George, co-executive director at The Cordial Eye. “One of the parents of a few of the children expressed to us one day that this was the first normal thing the kids had done in a few months. The benefit of being at a camp and being a normal kid is super impactful.”

*Name of child has been changed to protect their identity. 

Click here to help more children experience the benefits of the arts with a gift to the Arts Foundation today! Your donation will connect them to meaningful arts programming which gives them joy, allows them to bond with their peers, builds their confidence, and provides them with a better understanding of themselves and the world around them.