Shiya Mohan; Volunteer and Get Talking Volunteer Evaluator
“I am the flower I cannot die. The art is with me.”
Shiya is a 26 year old who currently lives in Stoke-on-Trent with her mother, father and brothers. Shiya’s mobility is affected by her disability and she walks with the aid of a walker. Her disability was caused by a bomb blast which left her unconscious for 5 months. Since then she has had 4 major brain operations.
In 2013 Shiya completed an accredited Get Talking Community Consultation Course. It was during this time she heard that Appetite had just been awarded funding for a 3 year arts programme in Stoke-on-Trent. After gaining the qualification she began to evaluate Appetite events and has also been a proactive Appetite volunteer since.
In Sri Lanka Shiya led an active life, was a college graduate in English and a Barathanatyam dancer. Since becoming disabled Shiya has kept as active as possible, “when I sit down and do nothing I feel isolated”.
Shiya has some care provided for her by the Council. She states that this amounts to £30 per week.
“They come to my house and take me swimming. I have decided not to rely on carers,
with the help of Appetite I can do it myself. I have received more support from
Appetite than the council”.
Her journey with Appetite has opened up numerous opportunities for Shiya. One of the most recent and memorable experiences was performing in the choir in Extraordinary Bodies’ ‘Weighting’. This integrated circus company came to Stoke for The Big Feast and held a series of workshops in the run-up to the performance.
“Singing in the choir was a new experience. I heard from that audience that
We have changed their opinion ‘the disabled can achieve anything’.
Singing is good for my breathing and makes me happy. I don’t want to say bye.
I’m going to West End village (local resident’s assoc.) to join a singing group next week.”
Singing and performing with Extraordinary Bodies has increased Shiya’s confidence in her abilities. She truly believed that she would never be able to dance again, however this experience and getting to know the cast and directors has challenged these beliefs. One of the lead artists, Jamie Beddard, who has Cerebral Palsy, had a profound effect on Shiya.
“Since i’ve become disabled I cannot dance. When I saw Extraordinary Bodies that changed my mind. That show is in my eyes. The vibration of that show will always live with me. When Jamie walks up the steps, it’s amazing, I cannot tell you how I feel about that.”
Whilst talking to Shiya it was clearly evident through her enthusiasm and energy, the huge impact Appetite has had on her life, she comments “If it wasn’t for appetite my live would be dead. I would be nothing. I would have no voice”.
– Making a difference:
Through her continued volunteering and evaluation of Appetite she has witnessed first hand the impact that Appetite has had on the city.
“When I heard that Appetite was ending I was not just worried about me, but for Stoke.
Stoke is brighter for having the arts. Appetite has changed my live, and the lives of many others. I’m proud to say that”.
Shiya clearly feels that through Appetite she has been given the opportunity to make a difference to without being held back by her disability. Her pride for Appetite and her involvement in the programme is tangible and when discussing the impact of Appetite she ended many of her sentences with “i’m proud to say that”.
– Recognition of her abilities / increase in confidence:
As mentioned above, her involvement in ‘Weighting’ has changed Shiya’s personal beliefs in her ability. She also went on to say;
“I know my weaknesses but I don’t know my strengths.
Appetite has taught me what my strengths are”.
Her confidence has improved through learning new skills, meeting new people and having something to get involved in – proofing to herself and others that she is capable of more than she had previously believed.
– Inspiration to make change:
Throughout our meeting she discussed a need for her to continue to make a difference. Her relationship with Appetite has given her the inspiration that this is a realistic aspiration.“By arts we can change the world. I believe that.” Shiya’s life has been changed by Appetite now she feels that she has the confidence in her ability and experience that she can go on to impact other people’s lives, “If my life changes, I can change the lives of others”.
Shiya’s self-initiated project, ‘Rhythm of Life’ wants to give women of ethnic minorities an opportunity to voice their concerns and learn about their rights – ‘It will blend together practical, social strategies with the collaborative that will be brought forward and help reveal the hidden women’s world’ (except from information leaflet). She has recruited 3 volunteers and has started to form a board of members.
“Great actions make life worthwhile To make actions great, I need to pay special attention to what I am doing on a daily basis. I don’t have to do anything great or spectacular. Instead, my attention should not be more on what I do. Instead, it should be on how I do it. Adding quality to everything I do makes my actions special. Then I can really enjoy what life brings my way. Today I will remember my specialties before I start any work. I will make sure I will add that specialty into what I do. Even the way I sit or walk or see or talk can make a difference when I make my actions special using my specialty.”
What themes would you use to categorise this case study?
Challenging adversity; skills development; personal development; confidence; inspiration; creative action; cultural appetite; participation; social change, disability.