Art helps us understand our world and makes sense of our lives. For people with a mental illness, artistic expression can be helpful in learning social communication and healing emotionally and mentally.
Kama Berman, actress and theater teacher, shares some insights on the healing power of art on herself and others.
What brought you to volunteering?
"The first time I experienced that kind of volunteer work was during my acting studies. I got an opportunity to teach theater to mentally challenged people. It was in the second year of
acting school when we studied 10-13 hours a day! I thought I'm making my life difficult by taking another project while I hardly find time to eat and sleep. To my big surprise,
It was the opposite. It made more space in my life because I had one, only one thing that I do for others. I know it sounds like a cliche, but it's true. It opened space in my life."
Why did you decide to volunteer with mentally disabled people?
"After my studies, I felt more than ever that I was 'stuck in my own ass.'
When I was just starting out as an actress, I had to fight my own fears. Fears that I was nothing in an attempt to become 'something.'
I did photoshoots, signed up for an agency, went to auditions, and dealt mostly with myself and myself.
I felt I needed to change the angle. Expand my perspective. And I contacted Enosh Association at their other branch. I wanted to continue what I started to develop as a giving skill project from my studies."
What does routine volunteering look like?
"Once a week, an hour and a half class."
Have you had a previous experience?
"I had my life experience. Personally, I have felt for quite a few years that I have a hard time lifting my head above the water. Acting helped me leap into a world of colors, fun, release. Clear the dust of life. Dip in cold water.
My personal experience motivates me to be exposed to people, to this world, and what it has to offer. It's a kind of magic. It's unbelievable what comes out of people in a space that allows for expression beyond everyday life's limited expressions. Behind what is usually considered 'normative' expressions."
What are the challenges you had?
"The travels. Each direction was more than one hour on a pretty crappy bus. It helps for a moment to think and prepare myself, but it mostly dries up."
What do you enjoy most about volunteering?
"The best thing is the satisfaction of getting out of myself! Thinking about other people, being open to listening. It's so rare. It's the opposite direction. It's like coming to the opposite of the automation of life. Every time I would come to class, I would motivate them up and myself. It was amazing! Creating a space that we are all allowed to be "imperfect" and much more present than usual. Because we decide between ourselves that here it's allowed. Here we release. And we commit to it."
Has volunteering changed you?
"Completely! Simply put - made me realize that there are miracles.
At the end of the year, we did an original show of the group, and my heart opened up on a level that was hard to contain. I was overwhelmed for a few days, not believing what happened there. Yes, it changed me."
Tell about a special event that happened while volunteering
"Each lesson, we would open with a group round of catching up. At first, they complained it was boring, but after a few times, they wouldn't give it up. The opportunity to open things, good and bad. Simply having the option to put everything in the center of the circle - where I am, what is happening to me - made people open up. Some more than others, but, something in the intimate space created in the group felt comfortable, that they had their place, and it really moved me.
The funniest moments happen in the first lessons. Everything is still awkward, and I bring my craziness and theater group exercises. Exercises that, until you get into it and practice, can be super awkward. Someone in the group said - 'what will anyone who enters the room and sees us think?! We look entirely crazy.'
And someone from the group answered her - 'good thing we have certificates' (:
Deliberately going crazy with them and making laughs are the most incredible moments."