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Image of Helium Arts Volunteer, Adam laughing with participant, Ruth during a Helium Arts workshops

Helium Arts volunteer Adam Stapleton with Participant Ruth Cotter, Cork working on her exhibition pieces for the ‘Helium Arts Youth Showcase’ 2023, which is a multi-location exhibition series showcasing artworks created by young people living with lifelong physical conditions, with events taking place in Cork, Limerick, Galway and online this November and December. Photograph by Eamon Ward

Adam’s storyOpening up new career opportunities

Adam’s internship with Helium Arts might have ended, but it’s an experience that will stay with him for life.

For six months, he worked alongside one of our lead artists, Chelsea Canavan. Together they brought creative experiences to children in the outpatient department at the University Hospital Limerick, as well as guiding a community workshop through from its first week, to its final showcase and exhibition.

He couldn’t help but be nervous. A theatre and psychology student, Adam hadn’t worked with children before, let alone those with lifelong health conditions. But Helium’s volunteer training programme had prepared him well, and from the moment he stepped inside the hospital grounds, Adam knew this was where he was meant to be.

“I got in, and it was so organic. You’re not acting or performing, you just do. It was so fun. And if I got stuck – I asked, they helped. There were so many people I could reach out to.”

Adam had always been a fan of the arts, but what he loved about Helium was how accessible that art became. Whether he was tracking ‘Bear Hunts’ through the outpatient waiting room or making wire sculptures and acrylic paintings in community workshops, with Helium, every child is given the chance to unlock their creative potential. With that creativity comes a moment to forget about the health challenges they face, and to just enjoy being a kid.

“To have a space that’s not just for children, but for children with lifelong health conditions, it’s so unique. It’s a way to let them express themselves. To get something out of themselves.”

The secret, Adam found, was to let the children take the lead. Helium Arts isn’t about teaching people to create masterpieces (although he’d witnessed a few, he thought, as he added the final diamonds to a custom green and pink guitar). It was about respecting the agency of children. This was their time, and their space. His job was to guide and support them through it.

“Helium taught me how to lead. I was working with the children, rather than telling them what to do. They’re learning that their voice is worth something.”

It was an important lesson to learn. Before he started at Helium, Adam imagined himself working in the world of musical theatre. But Helium has opened his eyes to other possible career paths – and he loves the idea of using drama and the arts as a tool to help people shine.

With one year of study left, Adam doesn’t know where his career will take him. But as he reflects on his time with Helium Arts, he knows that whatever direction he chooses – he’s got the CV, confidence, and hands-on experience he needs to get started.

If reading Adam’s story has made you curious about volunteering at a Helium Arts workshop, click here to start your adventure.

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Adam's Experience with Helium Arts