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Results & Testimonials

DAREarts has empowered over 200,000 youth across Canada. Here are some of their stories.

  • Shamin, 21; "DAREarts taught me survival skills in a way I would never have expected."

    June, 2009 -- Ten years ago, I was fortunate to be selected to attend the DAREarts All-the-Arts programs and later, in 2003 received the DAREarts Leadership Award.  I want people to know: It changed my life.

    Once it even saved my life. I should probably explain that my physique as a child was not large. In dangerous environments I probably looked like an easy pick:  Until I was lucky enough to learn from the discipline, action, responsibility and education that came with DAREarts.  After I joined DAREarts, my life was threatened at gunpoint by two neighborhood gang members. I literally drew on my new confidence to evade the challenge. I remember thinking “I am DAREarts, I can do this as I told them to back off and began making as much noise as I possible.  It worked. They ran away. Regrettably, the two gang members shot another teen later that day.

     As a teen growing up in urban Toronto, I know firsthand of the need for survival skills in the struggle against drugs, gangs and ghettos.  DAREarts taught me those survival skills in a way I would never have expected.  It pulled me up into the international community of Toronto and the world beyond my neighborhood.  Once I saw the light by learning about many cultures, art, music, dance, etc. as expressions of self, my vision and friendships have become global.

    Today, at 21, I am in my 3rd year at the University of Ottawa in the honours baccalaureate of Health Sciences and have founded my own charity, Children’s AIDS Health Program, to reach children with HIV and AIDS in third world countries.  After graduating from the DAREarts grade eight programs I continued to volunteer with the younger children and I was the president of the TDSB Student SuperCouncil. DAREarts gave me the confidence not only to expand my own ambitions and to succeed, but to want to and learn how to establish an effective charity (www.LetsStopAIDS.org) in my personal field of interest where there is great need.

  • Crisy, 22; "I exercised my discipline, action, responsibility and excellence, finished high school as a young teen mother and got a college degree."

    With DAREarts, I went from being an abused girl surrounded by people determined to tear her down, who were poverty stricken, mentally ill, or addicted to drugs and alcohol, to a mother who refuses to let her daughter fall victim to the same plights of her childhood.

    I didn’t know my father, my mother was bipolar and extremely abusive, and I spent a good portion of my childhood in the foster care system. When I was in grade four, my brother was being suspended from school a lot and the School Principal knew our family was having a hard time. She did me the greatest favour of my life and recommended that I enroll in DAREarts, where I met the woman who I still consider my mother – Marilyn Field.

    Marilyn taught me that I could not control my surroundings. I could only control how I responded to them. I remember stuffing envelopes with fundraising letters, talking with her about how we could make lives better for so many others. I was part of something. I had purpose.

    Interestingly enough, even after DAREarts, I fell prey to someone else’s lies and deception. I was sixteen and my boyfriend told me that he loved me and wanted to be with me forever. I wanted love so badly, and he promised it to me. After I had my daughter, I realized that he would never deliver on the love and life he promised me and my daughter. He was an abusive, crystal meth addict, and once again, I had to pull myself out from under someone’s abusive, addictive personality.

    This is where the DAREarts lessons really came in, as my bond with Marilyn remained as strong as it had ever been. DAREArts taught me to take responsibility for my actions and to have the strength to endure my life challenges. The arts taught me creativity to problem solve throughout life and also gave me an outlet to pour out my feelings of helplessness when I needed it. I exercised my discipline, action, responsibility and excellence, finished high school as a young teen mother and got a college degree. Today, I have a full time job with a pension and benefits at the BC Pension Corporation and I have been a in a committed partnership for eight years. He is my daughter’s father. Making life better for her is a true team effort. We both work very hard.

    My largest accomplishment - one could say, made possible through DAREarts - is my thirteen year old daughter, who is a true leader who is capable of anything. She has known limited poverty and has never had to witness abuse, been called a name or thrown across a room. She has gone from living with me on welfare while I was in school to having a private Montessori education. Today, she volunteers at a local seniors' home, is a leader in her leadership class, loves debating, and is a graphic designer for an Instagram Taylor Swift fan page. Her dream is to earn a doctorate in Psychology at Stanford University. We have even toured the campus as she really wanted to see it while we were in California for Disneyland.

    Kids who have been given a rough hand in life need and deserve the lessons taught by and the creativity inspired by DARE Arts to reach their full potential and to give back to society. When vulnerable youth are in DAREarts, and I know because I was one, they bloom like flowers. They go from being these isolated kids who are bullies or timid and don’t want to do anything to being kids who are eager to take on just about any new task. By the end, they are painting, acting, performing, problem solving – and they are part of the DAREarts team.

    Thank you, DARE Arts for inspiring me to be a better person for myself as a child, teenager, adult and mother, and enabling me to break the cycle of poverty for my child. You taught me I could do it and I did.

  • Liz, 15; "What DAREarts has done for me is given me a second chance at life."

    Hello, my name is Liz Ward and I’m 15 years old and a proud member of the DAREarts team. Many of the children that come to DAREarts are orphans like me. I was nine years old. My mother died from substance abuse, drank almost every night.  Smoked in the house sometimes at 4:00 in the morning. she would be screaming for my brother and her boyfriend to get out for she was too drunk to realize what she was doing. Because of her addictions, there was not always food in the house. I remember this one time I was given two dollars by a neighbor and my mom pressured me into giving it to her for her smokes, saying she would give it back, she never did give it back. After my mother’s death, her boyfriend would not leave our apartment because he did not want to lose his “spot” because my mother had put him on the lease. For three months, I could not go home and I had to travel with my Aunt June on TTC for two and a half hours a day sometimes. The reason I was not to go home was: he is a drug addict, a smoker and an alcoholic like my mother.

    My father was a drug addict, a man that never kept his word to me.  When I was 6 years old, he stole my bike.  He had also taken our movies and our DVD player on two occasions - first time it was my brother’s and second time my mother’s - so he could buy his drugs.  He left me. He abandoned me when I was seven years old. There was no more of his drop-in visits.  He was gone forever as he let his addiction consume him.  He died when I was of 12.  After that, I didn’t know how to socialize. I was angry and just plain timid.

    This is what DAREarts has done for me for I have gained my socialization skills back. They helped me deal with my anger problems. Because they pushed me, and I’m not saying this in a bad way, it made me realize that the world won’t stop for a timid or angry person. It will just move on.  I won’t get an interview because of the things I have been through, not to mention a job. Through the arts, DAREarts has taught me that there is so much more to art than just painting a picture or making a sculpture. That art is everywhere. In buildings and shoes and even the way we move. It’s in the way we look at things, not the way it “should” be.  What DAREarts has done for me is given me a second chance at life.  It’s like this poem I wrote:

    What a mess, what a mess 
    all the blood and smell
    what a mess, what a mess as the bones turn to hell
    What a mess what a mess as he eyes go dry

    What a mess, what a mess as my tears turn to dye
    What a mess, what a mess as I start to cry
    What a mess, what a mess as I die

    What a story, what a story as I fly
    What light, what light as I sigh? 
    What love, what love as I see her again
    What laughter, what laughter as I turn the bend 

    What excitement what excitement 
    O how we dance through the snow 
    What life what life as we are reborn again
    What sorrow what sorrow as I leave that place again

    This shows the conflict that was once in my life and what DAREarts has done to fix it. But there is something for sure I have to say: I will not turn out like my parents and those that once surrounded me. Because of DAREarts and how they changed my life forever, I have a dream of going to university; I have a plan on doing something that will impact the world positively. Because of DAREarts, I have a dream.

  • Leslie, 17; "I became aware of the positive qualities that I already have and also those leadership qualities that I very much would like to develop."

    In accepting this ‘Leadership Award’, I would like to thank DAREarts for giving me the opportunity to participate in the workshop last fall.  This was made possible through your visit to Webequie.  I was one of the many high school students who got involved in a week-long session of very active and hands on Leadership learning Activities. 

    I found during the week of activities that I became more focused on who I am as an individual and the strengths that I would like to develop as a teenager that will help me to achieve my future goals.
    I had time that week to reflect on how the decisions I make now can affect my future achievements and also how important my family is to me in supporting the choices I make.  I became aware of the positive qualities that I already have and also those leadership qualities that I very much would like to develop.

    In closing, once again, I would like to thank DAREarts for visiting Webequie, and to thank my friends, family, and peers who encourage me to do my best, and my Mom who is my role model and hero. Meegwich.

  • Akaiya, 14; "The more it storms and rains, the stronger I grow. I remain deeply rooted and true to myself. "

    My name is Akaiya Melting Tallow. My name is Siksikan for ''Black sheep lost in the woods.''  
    Actually, that's not true. I wish it was though.   It would fit my whole life story a little bit better than the true translation.

    The real meaning of Akaiya is ''Joyful Celebration,'' which is ironic, considering the fact that 'Joyful Celebrations' were few and far between during my childhood growing up in the inner city of Vancouver. I was bullied from Kindergarten even up until today.  I've faced minor issues such as name-calling, but also had to endure physical violence. The name calling eventually took a toll and chipped away at my confidence, just like a wave erodes the shoreline. The brutal physical violence from my peers was actually easier to deal with, because eventually, the cuts and bruises healed.

    Unfortunately, there is no ice or band aid for a broken spirit.  My family didn't offer much support and my friends were not an option, well, because I didn't have any. Thus, these issues were mine alone, and they continued to build throughout my elementary school years.

    By the time I reached grade 7, I had pretty much quit at life. I attended school only about 40 percent of the time in sixth grade and I suspected grade 7 would be much the same. It wasn't.

    September was not as bad as I thought it would be, and in October, I was introduced to DAREarts. And that’s when things became interesting. I remember their first visit to my classroom, where a little ball of fire and energy named Ms. G introduced herself.  Her enthusiasm was so overwhelming, it became contagious. My curiosity overcame my hesitation and I slowly began buying in. Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence. Activity by activity, game by game, and dare by dare, I started to come out of my shell and reveal the real Akaiya. I remember Ms. G stating that negativity was not an option and that being yourself wasn't a bad thing. "Being yourself wasn't a bad thing." Over the week as her confidence grew in me, I began to actually believe it. I started to believe in myself. 

    Now that I'm in high school, I still get bullied. However, I don't see it in the same light. Now, it doesn't chip away at me. In fact, I no longer feel like an eroding shoreline, instead, I feel more like a great cedar. The more it storms and rains, the stronger I grow. I remain deeply rooted and true to myself. As of now, my future is quite clear. My goal is to be the first person from my family to graduate from high school. And the best part is, once I've graduated, I know I can do anything, as I am the only one who can determine my own destiny. 

    Again, I'd like to thank DAREarts for being the catalyst which showed me that my life could truly reflect my name, "Joyful Celebration." Thank you, DAREarts, for believing in me, because you made me believe in myself.
  • Ryan, 18; "I now have many friends and am a different person than I thought I was going to be four years ago."

    There was a time in my life when I didn’t have anything, or much.  I had moved multiple times by the age of twelve, I had been the darkest kid in a town, picked on everyday, and, on top of that, money was non-existent. I started becoming violent and getting involved with criminal activities. I wanted to be like everyone else and I wanted to fit in.  By the age of 14, life at home was not easy and I didn’t really have enough money to leave the house and do anything; but fortunately my aunt got me involved with DAREarts and here I am now.  

    I spent the summer before grade nine chilling in my room until I attended the DAREarts summer camp.  That first summer I was involved,  really changed me and made me a better person.  I now have many friends and am a different person than I thought I was going to be four years ago.  I have attended the DAREarts summer camp several times, and last summer I was a camp counselor;  that was, honestly, such a great experience. I learned a lot of things about myself along with tons of leadership skills.

    A few days ago, I turned 18 and I am happy to say I made it.  A long time ago, I did not think I was going to make it to see myself graduate high school and start my adult life. It sounds scary, being an adult and all; but for some reason I am not scared, I welcome the challenge with positivity. I plan on going to Centennial college for police foundations.  I want to be a detective, I want to help people, and I want to bring justice and peace to the city I love so much. The only part about becoming a detective that I am not looking forward to is the fact that it's not easy to become one. It takes years of work and dedication, work and dedication that I'm willing to put in, that I'm willing to bleed, sweat and die for. In this day and age, I feel like everybody wants to be somebody else and people believe that things will just happen.  I do not agree with that at all; you have to work for everything in this world. I am working on being the best me I can be.

    My whole life I've been what some people would say is odd: I read and collect comic books, I collect soda bottles, I even collect the tickets I have received from going on the DAREarts summer camp.  I keep them in my wallet. I have an extreme passion for music, music is everything, music helps me get through the bad times and makes the good times even better. I don't want much from life: I don't want to be rich, I don't want to own a mansion or have a pool bigger than Kanye's. I just want to be a dad.  Growing up, I never really had a dad and I just want to be there for kids and give them everything I never had.  

    I have gone through so much in my life, challenges, trials and tribulations. But I stand here today and say  that I am on the right track.  I honestly believe that DAREarts has helped me make it to where I am today, and I feel  as if more people could benefit from the loving family that is DAREarts. I thank you all for listening and I hope all of you have a wonderful night.

  • Trenton, 17; "I started over on my muks from the mistakes I made but I told myself I was going to finish them."

    DAREarts and Traditional culture: these two keep me going to school.  When DAREarts came to Webequie this past year, I didn't know what to expect.  I didn't even know if I wanted to attend the program; also I didn't think DAREarts was for me. In the morning, when the DAREarts instructors came to the class, I sat there quietly to listen to what they had to say. One of the instructors talked about what activities they were going do for the students for the next two weeks like doing a show for the people, b-boying and moccasin making. What stood out to me the most was moccasin making. It got me curious and made me wonder if it's the same way webequie makes moccasins so I stayed a little longer at class. When the instructors passed around the designs there were all kinds of designs like beaded moccasins, plain moccasins, and mukluks. So I came the next day to school and i decided to make mukluks. I thought I was going to finish them in three days. But I made mistakes the first two days. I didn't know there were steps to follow like measurement of my foot and what to sew first.

    During the darearts program, I kept looking out the window watching the leaves turn yellow so i knew that fall was here so that made me feel happy. I wanted to go hunting. I wasn't sure if I was going to finish my mukluks if I went hunting that final week of DAREarts so i decided to stay because i wanted to finish my mukluks. I was behind on my sewing so i wanted to quit and when the instructor said that he'll be here in the evenings so I went there every evenings to catch up on some sowing and the two weeks was up. I didn't finish my muks in two weeks and the following week the teacher asked me what do i want to do and I replied "I want to finish my muks."

    During that week is when I realized that anything is possible if you put your mind to it and it became easy. Finally I finished my mukluks which took me almost a month to finish. I don't know how many times I started over on my muks from the mistakes I made but I told myself I was going to finish them. Discipline, Action, Respect and Excellence: remembering these teachings from this experience from DAREarts taught me a new lesson in life. "If you fall down you can always get back up stronger".

  • Molly, 16; "I was born into a world where, rather than having an identity, I was labeled as a statistic."

    Before I go on about myself, I want everyone to take a moment and think about how it feels to be born into a world where your days alive are being counted down on. I want you to think about how it feels to wake up every morning only to look in the mirror and ask yourself, "How will I make it?"

    I asked myself that question everyday: how will I make it?  The voice within my mind told me that I won't, that's how. I was told that I would either end up in jail or get murdered; but do I deserve it? All I'm trying to do is live the one life that I got. Because I thought that I had to steal just to get a nice meal.

    BUT THAT'S NOT IT. I was born into a world where, rather than having an identity, I was labeled as a statistic. A statistic of young woman and men that have crossed onto to the wrong paths of their lives because programs like DAREarts and people like Ms. Field were not there to save them.

    My name is Molly Sarker, and I have been saved by the DAREarts foundation. I was raised in a neighbourhood where death is a ritual, witnessing my first shooting at the age of seven, guns were toys because that was all I saw and drugs were our only escape because it took the pain away, temporarily. I would describe my life like a book.

    Every day is a new chapter and DAREarts helped me to take my story and run with. Graduating the DAREarts programs has helped me to realize that I should not use my story to play victim, but as proof that no matter what situation comes my way, with the right help, much like DAREarts there was no situation that I couldn't overcome. DAREarts does not only give the once in a life time opportunity to expand in the arts, but it also helps you to realize self-purpose, and helps us to understand why we are the leaders of our future generation.

    On behalf of the 2010 graduated members, I would like the thank the entire DAREarts for not only saving myself, but hundreds of young woman and men, year after year, granting us a bright future.
    My only wish for you all tonight is that if you leave with anything tonight, I want you leave here knowing that DAREarts holds more power than you can ever imagine. 

  • Delenn, 15; "I was in the moment, not worrying.  It was like for the first time, I could just be."

    DAREarts has affected me in so many ways.  For one, my life is less stressful because you and your team taught me how to express my feelings and thoughts through art--whether it be happy, angry or sad feelings.  This helps me express myself, especially because I struggle with a mental health issue:  depression.  Having depression makes my daily life harder, filled with anxiety and panic attacks.  It's harder to go to school, wake up in the morning and even daily tasks such as eating and sleeping are affected.  Panic attacks and anxiety make tests and school overall extremely challenging and scary.  Art helps me to deal with these personal problems.  Art helps me to find myself.  

    At first, starting the DAREarts Program, I was nervous and I had anxiety.  Then, when I was more familiar with the teachers, the students and the Program, an entirely new door opened.  I was introduced to art I have never done before.  I was in the moment, not worrying.  It was like for the first time, I could just be.

    You and your team taught me the DAREarts Hand:
    D for Discipline
    A for Action
    R for Respect, especially for myself
    E for Excellence

    When the final show called "Promenade" came around, I was so excited to show my family and friends what I had learned about myself through the arts.  Promenade was amazing and our DAREarts class was awarded medallions for graduating from the Program.  It left me with such a good feeling about myself and our group.  I was proud of each and every participant of different ages, especially myself.  Now, I treasure and keep that sacred medallion safe under my pillow to remind me of all the great memories, and of how our creativity and hard work paid off.

    It's been almost a year since I was in the DAREarts Program.  Now I've noticed a big change in my attitude, and my overall quality of life.  Currently, I attend a program for DAREarts graduates (D2As), so it's like I never really left DAREarts.  

    If anything, we need more DAREarts programs across this big country, especially on the Aboriginal reserves where young people taking their lives is the greatest.  If words have power and meaning, I ask that DAREarts be available to all young people across Canada and in the Territories, so that they don't turn to a life of crime or hurt themselves.  I hope my letter helps to save lives.


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