The Penguin Project ® has had a significant impact on the young artists with special needs and on everyone else who has been involved. It has become a special place, a “comfort zone”, where vulnerable children are encouraged to explore their creativity and are supported in everything they do. Hidden, untapped talents have emerged and bloomed. The program has also provided many of the artists with an opportunity to make friends for the first time as they have developed relationships that extend beyond the stage. The end result is a tremendous improvement in communication skills, socialization, self-confidence, and assertiveness.
The program has given the mentors an opportunity to help others by being a teacher and a friend. They learn to support their partners, and to encourage them to be as independent as possible. Through the process, they have also learned that their peers with special challenges are “just plain kids”, no different from themselves. Interestingly, many of our mentors have gone on to explore careers in special education and rehabilitation therapy.
Finally, the program has had a special impact on the parents. For the first time, many of them have experienced the joy of sitting in an audience and watching their children perform and succeed in ways they never thought possible. They have an opportunity to “network” with other parents, not to lobby for rights and services, but to share something encouraging and uplifting. The program has created a sense of “family”, linking all of the participants to each other.