“I was bullied as a child, many, many times while I was growing up. There was a lot of verbal and emotional bullying that went on. I did not feel safe or protected at all.”
“However, there was one thing that gave me a sense of joy and strength, and even safety as a child, which was singing and music,” Illani, co-founder of CreaTee Kit, shared with Vulcan Post.
As a firm believer in the power of arts in healing, Illani was passionate about creating an artistic outlet for children to find the same joy and security she did in arts.
Hence, she and her sister, Masliza, founded CreaTee Kit, a social enterprise that produces t-shirt DIY kits for children ages 5 to 12. They’re meant to build emotional intelligence and be a fun activity for children and their parents to make art together.
What Do T-Shirts Have To Do With Bullying?
One CreaTee Kit includes a t-shirt or bag along with art materials like stencils, googly eyes, glue, paint, batik, felt-tip markers, 3D paint, and fabric markers.
There’s a variety of animal stencils to choose from like a rabbit, giraffe, cat, etc. Their t-shirt and canvas kits retail at RM68 per kit each, and they also have a subscription box that costs RM220 for 3 months. They also organise workshops on how to create these DIY kits for children as well.
For those of us who aren’t too well-versed in early childhood education, it may not be as easy to understand the link between creating these tees and how they help with bullying in the bigger picture.
“Bullying happens because of the lack of confidence in both parties, the bully and the bullied. Our mission is about sowing the seeds of confidence and self-esteem through the process of creation at a young age, to build their emotional intelligence so that things do not progress negatively as they grow,” Illani explained.
Illani added that the pillars of emotional intelligence include having self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, social skills, and empathy.
How their DIY kits catalyses emotional intelligence is that when a child uses their kit, it encourages deliberate thinking and decision-making during the creation process, which helps build self-awareness.
And since their creation process requires a lot of concentration, it allows kids to be able to complete the work and in return feel accomplished for finishing their art, which ultimately adds to their self-confidence and emotional intelligence.
Moreover, since their parents can work together with their children on this craft, parents can get to know their child better and are able to identify any behavioural problems in their child.
Giving Back To Underprivileged Children
As a social enterprise, they donate part of their profits to organise free t-shirt workshops for underprivileged children, such as those in PPR flats, refugee groups like the Rohingya people, Orang Asli schools, and more.
Speaking of which, during one of their workshops with children living in PPR flats, they met a girl who could only speak Tamil and was quite terrified when she first walked into the workshop full of strangers.
“There was a lot of hand gesturing and coaxing for her to do the activity, and she eventually managed to pull through with flying colours. By the end of the session, she put her t-shirt on and hung out with other kids. She even helped clean up the whole space when everybody left. That girl left with a smile proud of her achievement, and this is the impact of our work on one’s esteem-building and emotional intelligence,” Illani shared.
One of the main challenges that Illani and Masliza face with this social enterprise is helping people understand the impact they’re trying to make with these DIY kits.
“We’ve had comments where parents say that the end product might not be beautiful. There lies the misunderstanding. The beauty of CreaTee lies in the process, not the final product. No matter how the t-shirt comes out, the kids are more than happy because it’s theirs,” Illani affirmed.
They also found that there are parents who don’t take their startup seriously because the use of arts in the impact they’re trying to make is frivolous to some.
“Parents would rather buy new clothing items or electrical gadgets. Some cannot get past the fact that they have to design the t-shirt themselves instead of buying a ready-made one.”
“Again, we think this is all about educating Malaysians about alternative learning. And parents need to want to spend time with their children,” the sisters shared with Vulcan Post.
Since they’ve helped join the dots for me on how DIY t-shirts can help with emotional intelligence, it’s clearer now how they’re trying to achieve the impact they want through arts.
However, this was a process that they had to share with me extensively for me to see the bigger picture of it all. For parents with only a few minutes of their time to spare, it may still be hard to grasp the importance of what they’re doing. However, making art as a means of achieving emotional intelligence has been studied with positive results.
CreaTee Kit can take the opportunity to reach out to more educators as well to spread their reach and impact, and perhaps may one day be involved in national anti-bullying campaigns through their work too.
Featured Image Credit: Illani and Masliza, co-founders of CreaTee Kit