Transferring Knowledge: Reflections from Volunteer Coach Linda Williams
“I want to transfer my knowledge.” ~Linda Williams, CoachArt volunteer coach
Linda Williams of Los Angeles spoke with us about her experience as a volunteer coach with CoachArt. Following are her comments, condensed and edited for clarity.
A way to expand myself
I was born in Los Angeles, and I was poor. So I used to go out in the backyard and take leaves and twigs to make dolls. I took my time with my one coloring book, so I didn’t fill it up too fast.
I met my husband when I was a teenager, 55 years ago. I became a wife and a mother, but I never quit making things. I enjoy every form of collaging.
And I think making art is a way to expand myself in several ways. For one thing, women born in the 1950s were taught to kind of minimize themselves. For another thing, my husband and I didn’t have enough money to travel. And even though we’re in good shape, we have limitations. But art has no limits!
I make industrial modern art with rusty items I’ve collected, and I draw faces, and I do crafts, and digital photography. I was the little girl with nothing, but now I have grandchildren and I’m making art, so I’m the grandma with everything.
The flying fickle finger of fate
I felt led to become a volunteer coach with Coachart. You know how sometimes things happen in your life that have a lot of synchronicity?
I volunteered at a local homeless shelter run by Quakers, to fill in for another volunteer who was ill. Several days a week I went in early when people who had slept in the shelter overnight were just waking up, and I made coffee, set up a self-serve breakfast, and inventoried the supplies. They called me the “den mother.” But the woman I was filling in for had loved her job, and had been doing it for a long time, so when she came back I gave it up.
But I still felt like I needed to do something. I wanted to give. I prayed about it. I went online and the “flying fickle finger of fate” landed me on CoachArt. I called, got called back. I ended up being matched with a CoachArt kid and helped him create crafts for his mother and grandmother.
(L) Khadija, 14, of Woodland Hills; (R) Poetry written by Khadija with CoachArt volunteer coach Linda Williams
This will serve them for life
When I work with chronically ill children I start by finding out what their limitations are, if any, and what their likes and dislikes are. Sometimes they act like they already know how to do something, or they’re not interested. Maybe at first they think I’m going to judge them, or I’m going to think I’m superior. Maybe they just want to protect their pride, because they think they might not be able to do the activity.
But I have a natural way of getting the kids to lower their defenses. I pull them along quietly. If they say they don’t like an activity, I’ll write that down, but I’ll go back to it later because sometimes they’ll change their mind and they’ll end up really loving it.
I don’t want it to feel like school, but I do want to transfer my knowledge to the kids, because some of this will serve them for life. I teach them something, then I review ’em on it, until they know it.
A little angel on my shoulder
I teach the kids a lot of crafts and DIY stuff. CoachArt provides a generous budget, and I go to a dollar store and spend $50 on stuff that would cost $300 elsewhere. Because we’re doing lessons online, I get two sets of supplies, one for me and one for the student, which is a big perk for me! And when I ship supplies to the student, I wrap them in crazy paper and make it like a gift.
Kids love rock painting, so we do a lot of that. Some kids can’t go out rock hunting, such as an immune deficient kid I coach. So I go out, and I feel like I have a little angel sitting on my shoulder saying “look over there,” and I find the rocks and I send them to the students.
We paint mandalas, or flowers, or someone’s name, or their favorite thing — butterflies or trains or trucks or whatever. These painted rocks make beautiful gifts and paperweights.
I coach Khadija, a 14-year-old girl who is pretty housebound. We did some drawing, and rock painting, and baking. My intuition picked up, and I said what about writing? She said she’s interested in poetry, so I talked with her about verses that rhyme and verses that flow, and I gave her an assignment. Oh my God, the poems she wrote are so good.
I am blessed.
We are grateful to CoachArt volunteer coach Linda Williams for sharing her experience with our community!
MAKING A DIFFERENCE FOR FAMILIES IMPACTED BY CHILDHOOD CHRONIC ILLNESS
CoachArt’s mission is to create a transformative arts and athletics community for families impacted by childhood chronic illness. Our vision is that one day every family impacted by chronic illness will be connected to a community of support and an opportunity to learn and grow together.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, CoachArt is providing lessons online for all group activities and one-on-one lessons. Learn more about CoachArt’s online programming for kids and teens impacted by chronic illness.
CoachArt offers free art and athletic lessons to chronically ill children and their siblings between the ages of 5-18. We currently serve the Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco Bay Areas, with more cities coming soon. If your child has been diagnosed with a chronic condition, we invite you to fill out a student eligibility form to learn if CoachArt is right for your child.
WAYS TO HELP
Do you have an artistic or athletic skill to share virtually with a child impacted by chronic illness? Become a CoachArt Volunteer.
Learn how you can get involved with CoachArt to help kids impacted by chronic illness.