Heather Clark is a multi-talented advocate for justice. She gradually became aware of the issue of human trafficking through a variety of circumstances, but readily admits she doesn’t fully understand the magnitude of the problem. As she says, “I have statistics memorized, heard true stories of the horrors, and have played the character of a trafficked girl, but I don’t understand. How could I? I think it is something in which we can always be growing in our awareness.”
When her daughter Aliya was 2-years-old, she broke her leg and was incredibly traumatized from the event. To help her process her trauma, Heather created an imaginary club called the Girls of Courage. “The Girls of Courage had super powers and we would fly over the city and look for kids who were in need or hurt and we would help them. Through these imagination games, she grew in courage as she gave it to others. Once she came through her trauma, the Girls of Courage remained but as the months went by, the scenarios changed from helping a little boy who fell off a swing in a park to helping ‘da poor kids’ as she would say in her little 3-year-old accent.”
Heather soon realized this was no longer a game to Aliya and she was becoming quite serious about wanting to help the poor. “I realized that as her mom I would be the one to mentor her in her compassion and empathy. I wanted to do something that allowed her to be a part of helping, and not something that I did and told her about. I considered the fact that I had the ability to use the arts to make a difference, to educate, raise money etc. I put a dance show together called The Least of These and Aliya, my other daughter, Shekinah, and I, along with a cast of six, started to tour doing shows.”
The process was simple for Heather. She created a show, auditioned dancers, and set up a tour. The creative part, or the production part, was not difficult. “I have had wonderful casts of beautiful caring people who have volunteered their time and gifts for something bigger than themselves.”
While the creative part of the process wasn’t difficult, finding enough venues was! “There are only so many places I can go on my own. I wish we had more venues. Since we are essentially fundraising, I wish we could partner with more people.”
Finding the right venues for the show was one challenge, but an incredibly surprising issue created an even bigger obstacle—one that took years to sort out—finding an organization to receive the funds raised by the shows. “Yes! Actually! Organizations didn’t have the structure to partner with us. I approached one organization and said that we would be touring, promoting their organization, and giving the funds raised to them. But after so many attempts at communication with very little reply, we changed our minds and gave it elsewhere. Now we work with Patricia King and XP Ministries (now Patricia King Ministries and Extreme Love Ministries). They have been amazing to work with. They are exactly the kind of organization I want to partner with.”
Raising awareness about human trafficking is never without heartache and strong emotion. As Heather shares, “The thought of what these little children have lived through is what grieves my whole team the most. We have done our best to really look in to the details of a few true stories to gain perspective when playing the characters in our dances. A viewer came to me once and said, ‘Your daughter is a really good actress. Her crying was so believable.’ I replied, ‘She wasn’t acting.’” Heather admits she can become angry at the state of society that allows such a thing to exist, “That men who should be protectors and guardians have become predators and abusers. That angers me.”
On the flipside, there are great rewards as the cast impacts people on both an emotional and intellectual level—especially when people are moved to action. “When we have given a really great performance and the audience is deeply moved, we feel successful and it gives us a lot of joy.” But their impact goes far beyond the audience at their performances. “Part of what the Girls of Courage have done is raise money to get kids in Cambodia out of the slums and into school. We had the beautiful opportunity to go to Cambodia and meet the eleven kids that we helped give an education to. We went into the slums and met their families who were so thankful. That felt amazing!”
Heather has these words of advice for other creative people who want to use their gifts to advocate for justice: “Start small but start. The scripture that has been behind a lot of what we do is, ‘Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have I give it unto thee.’ We may not have money but we have talents, gifts and the ability to make a difference. Therefore, we use what we have. I would say to others the same thing, use what you have.”
In fact, that is Heather’s advice to anyone seeking to make a difference. She believes absolutely everyone can contribute in some way. “Homeless women from the other side of Canada made bracelets and sent them to us so that we could sell them for the education program. Homeless women! They could have said that they have nothing to give but when they heard about what we were doing, they got together and did that. If a group of homeless women can do something to help the kids in Cambodia, we all can.”
Heather believes that with a little effort, everyone can discover what they can do. Here are some of the examples she has seen personally:
- A high school student had a bake sale at lunch time to raise money.
- Kids got together and made purses from old jeans.
- A knitting club in a secular school, knit scarves to sell at their shows.
You can be sure that Heather and her Girls of Courage will continue to do what they can, too. “We currently have shows on human trafficking and the sex trade, child soldiers of war, and slave labour. We are very happy to work with people on a local level. For example, if a church has a missions’ project, we are happy to come in and be a fundraiser for their project. We are always looking for places that we can come to perform!”
Heather lives in Kamloops, B.C. with her 4 children. Heather is a singer/song writer, dancer/choreographer, painter and writer. She has her own professional dance company “Collective Productions” though which she brings out a message of mercy and compassion for those who are less fortunate and is also the owner of DNA Academy, a dance and arts school. She travels internationally singing, leading worship and speaking, calling people into a greater place of wholeness, healing and freedom in their lives and in their relationship with God.writer.
NOTE: This interview was originally published in our December 2017 issue.