Aoife’s Story: Making memories with Helium Arts
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The moment she heard that Helium Arts was coming to Galway, Aoife signed up as a volunteer. It was the right choice, she thought, as she held each mandala-decorated plate up to the light. It’s the perfect escape. A chance for children to forget about health check-ups and hospital visits, get creative and enjoy being a kid.
“To see joy in a child, it’s amazing – and art brings it out in everyone, I think. That’s why I’m so glad Helium is here. It’s wonderful, watching children experience art and knowing they can do it in an environment that’s totally safe.”
It had all been planned so well. As a volunteer workshop assistant, Aoife had been briefed on the children’s health conditions and the warning signs to look out for. She’d also seen the workshop plans ahead of time, so she knew exactly what was coming, and how best she could help Ana, Helium’s lead artist, bring each session to life.
And what life there was!
From flying puppets to play-doh clowns, every week had a different theme and a host of activities to choose from. The medic was always close by, and if a child needed to take a break, they were free to explore the sights, sounds and textures of the group’s sensory tent. They even added shadow torches so that they could make up stories on its side!
“The most important thing is that they’re using their imagination. That they’re thinking and enjoying – creating in their own unique way.”
As a third-year student in Children’s Studies, Aoife knows just how important this creativity is, particularly for children living with long-term health conditions. She could see it immediately with Helium Arts, and was amazed at how much the children opened up in just a few short sessions.
“It was great hearing them talk about their experiences. It’s like they were taking ownership of it. They were little teachers in that way. Explaining everything, and telling you what they needed.”
It takes a lot of confidence to open up like that, and when Aoife returned from two weeks of self-isolation, the difference was even bigger. She could see the change. The friendships that had grown, the confidence that had built, and the fun that had been had. It was an amazing and eye-opening experience – for everyone.
“It’s good for the soul, working with children and art. I love it!”
If Aoife had any doubts about her study and career choices before, Helium has put them to rest. She knows without a doubt that she is on the right path, and what better way to prepare than doing everything she can with Helium Arts?
“I want to be that person. To help children make memories and do something they love. I’ll be going back to Helium for sure!”