By Wayne Doyle
Sherlyn Hu, MSW, RSW, CNP, is a compassionate change agent with a multidisciplinary background in art, social work (mental/health, gerontology, community development), education, research, and holistic nutrition.
Sherlyn co-founded a non-profit organization, BETWEEN Arts and Human Services. Her artwork has been featured in juried exhibitions in Toronto and Winnipeg, including Toronto Transit Commission vehicles. She illustrated and co-authored a published self-help book, The Break UP Book.
Sherlyn is a York Region Arts Council 2021 Microgrant recipient who is using her funding to complete a project called ‘Our Moments’.
Experienceyorkregion.com caught up with Sherlyn to discuss her project.
Tell us about your book – what’s it called and what’s it about?
My book is called “Our Moments.” It is a picture book capturing the day-to-day caring encounters and relationship between personal support workers and people living with dementia in our community, from the eyes of a young boy. The story follows a young boy narrator who accompanies his mother, a personal support worker, on her regular day caring for different people living with dementia in the community. The narrator describes some of the challenges of these folks, including wandering and reluctance to receive help, and the compassionate response of the support worker. Also, the boy narrator does all he can to help his mother. The story highlights the importance of compassionate care, mutual help in the community, diversity and humanity of people living with dementia, and the importance of self care and mutual age across generations.
Where did the idea to do this project come from?
I proposed this project for a couple reasons:
- To pay tribute to personal support workers who are unsung heroes caring for our community, often without proper recognition
- To raise awareness of the challenges facing people living with dementia and their family
- To enhance representation of Asian community in children’s literature. The main characters of this book are mostly from Asian background.
What was the process you followed?
I am the author and illustrator of this book. I gathered my inspirations from my professional experience serving the community as a social worker, teaching and working with personal support workers, and also from interviewing experts in the field of dementia care. I also enlisted the help of a Canadian publishing service to help with book publication.
What were some of the moments that affected you the most? What did you personally learn/gain from doing this project?
I tried my best to capture the caring in our community, the human side of dementia, and love between the caregiver and care recipients. I tried to select scenes of care that are realistic but lesser known for the wider public. I’m quite deliberate in enhancing the visual representation of ethnic minority in my art and story. My personal gain from doing this project:
- More reflection on the act and process of caring
- Importance of self care and mutual support to build a resilient community
- Technical knowledge of creating digital art work and working with publishing service
- Project management
What do you hope others will gain/learn/discover by engaging with your book?
My hope for others is:
- Evoke sense of community care starting from the very young, especially in male where traditionally have less of a social expectation to provide care
- Enhance Asian representation in children’s literature
- Connect emotionally with carers, both professional and informal ones
- Showcase every day, unsung heroes in our community, i.e. personal support workers.
- Provide some education on dementia and how to connect with people living with dementia
How did the YRAC Microgrant help you finish this project?
The YRAC microgrant is an essential support in realizing my project. My goal is to publish my picture book and make it available for readers in Canada and abroad. YRAC funding allows me to work with a Canadian-based publishing service. Meanwhile, YRAC enabled me to connect with local artists who are working on diverse projects.