Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Talking Turtle and Why It Matters

“Look at my box!”

A young girl in BuildaBridge’s Refugee Project enthusiastically placed her newly painted inside-out box directly in front of me on the table from where I was observing the class.  The project of the month was about recycling and repurposing. The children, with the help of the teachers, had carefully taken discarded boxes, turned them inside out, glued them back into a box shape, and and were intently painting something they imagined.

“Oh, that is very interesting!” I encouraged.  “I looks just like a turtle.”

She smiled and nodded with pride.

“Does your turtle have a name?” I asked.

“This is Talkie the Turtle.”  She picked it up and held it toward my face.

“And what does the turtle do?” I asked.

“He talks.” She answered.

“And what does he say?”

“Talkie stuff!” She replied and quickly carried Talkie the Turtle back to the group to continue her painting.

Later in the evening I shared my conversation with Natalie Hoffman, Art Therapist and BuildaBridge Artist-on-Call Lead Teacher for the class. According to Natalie, the turtle is a theme for children in transition. She agreed to share her research conducted with children in foster care. Enjoy this informative piece.


by Natalie Hoffman (see footnote)

A major finding of [my] research was that for [some] children the turtle emerged as a symbol that adequately embodied many of the qualities of their experiences of insecure attachment and placement into foster care. As a symbol, turtles have several note-worthy connotations that are relevant to understanding the experiences of these children.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Japanese Shoji Lanterns

A discussion surrounding the word “rebuild” emerged. Is it to build again with new materials or does it suggest rebuilding again from the pieces that have fallen? On a quiet Sunday afternoon five individuals gathered around a table from four different countries, representing three different languages (4 if you’re counting dialect), and spanning three different generations.

Through our partnership with the Nationalities Service Center/Philadelphia Partnership for Resilience (NSC/PPR) collaborative, art therapists have facilitated groups for about nine months that explore the past, present, and future for individuals who are immigrants. The past few weeks have been devoted to constructing Japanese Shoji lanterns, with a culminating tea ceremony. Patience, focus, and creative problem solving were just a few virtues challenged by this 3 dimensional project that prompted a lively discussion about selfless rebuilding for the sake of younger generations.

The question initially posed about the word “rebuild” soon became clear as every group member, including the facilitators, experienced their lantern crumble at some point. Maybe a piece was damaged in the wreckage but ultimately, the pieces were joined back together, oftentimes with a creative approach, reflecting a resilient structure.   -- Rebecca Asch, Assistant Creative Arts Therapist

Donate Now to support the Refugee Project.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Refugee Project by the Numbers, April 2014

Natalie Hoffmann & Bethany Stiltner show students the art experience

Artist on Call Liz Green assists students with their paint supplies
Since October 2013, 21 Philadelphia Partnership for Resilience clients have attended BuildaBridge art groups. 

BuildaBridge held focus groups in March 2014 with a new refugee population to determine if art-making experiences and groups are of interest to this population. 
18 attended the groups and voiced their interest in attending BuildaBridge groups this summer.

Out of the 10 total groups offered to Bhutanese children this year to date:
2 children have had perfect attendance
8 children attended at least 6 groups
3 new children joined this group last Fall

During the Fall 2013 6-week term offered to Burmese children:
2 children had perfect attendance
12 children attended four or more groups
The Spring term just re-started on April 10 and 6 new children joined this group!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Hello, Hello, so happy to see you!

Ms. Julia Crawford engaging in the welcome song with children during a recent group.

The BuildaBridge Classroom model utilizes rituals, clear boundaries and structure to provide children a safe and creative space in which they can express themselves.  

One of the rituals the Bhutanese children's group does at the beginning of each group is a Welcome Song.  This ritual is predictable, and is done the same way each group.  Children expect and rely on this ritual.  It makes them feel safe.  It gives them an opportunity to focus on a task and on the teamwork of singing together.  This provides children an opportunity to focus on something immediately upon entering the group, putting aside anything else that may have been distracting from outside of the classroom.  

Check out the video of children singing this song.  

"Hello, hello, so happy to see you;
hello, hello, how do you do?;
Hello, hello, my name is Danielle;
Hello, hello and how about you?!"

See if you can sing along with the kids using the lyrics above!
Will you help us continue this ritual by considering an online donation to our Refugee Project?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Cocoons of Paper Mache

Check out photos from our latest Bhutanese children's group this past Sunday.  Children started working on their cocoons out of paper extension of the lesson on Monarch butterflies, their transitions from a caterpillar to a butterfly and how we go through changes in life just like the butterflies.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Bridging the Cultural Divide

After politely asking if he could say just one more thing during a Client Advisory Council meeting this morning, A.K, a participant in our therapeutic art groups offered through our partnership with the Nationalities Service Center/Philadelphia Partnership for Resilience (NSC/PPR) collaborative, turned and reached back behind his chair. What came back up with his hand astounded us all.

Smiling, Mr. A.K presented our Director of Community Programs, Jamaine Smith with the above beautiful, meaningful work of Art. Mr. A.K, the creator of the piece, stated that the piece was a gift from all of the refugees served by BuildaBridge and the NSC/PPR and acts as a “thank you” for the work we are doing with not only his family (who were seated with him), but the countless other refugee, immigrant, and asylum seeking families we are honored to serve.

Living up to our name, Mr. A.K. stated BuildaBridge helped build a bridge between aspects of American culture and language, and that of his native country, Iraq. The green corner adornments represent Hope, one of the key components of BuildaBridge’s mission. The blue represents continued wishes for success and a bright future.

We honor Mr. A.K’s kindness, creativity, and recognition of the very essence of BuildaBridge-to bring hope healing to children, families, and communities living in contexts of crisis; as well as our commitment to foster community within a safe, creative space. We are grateful for and share this gift with the Nationalities Service Center and Philadelphia Partnership for Resilience collaborative, a team of passionate, committed individuals making a positive, practical impact on those they serve.
From L to R:  Mr. A.K.; Jamaine Smith, BuildaBridge Director of Community Programs; and Ms. Elisabeth McIntee, Nationalities Service Center

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Today is the day!

Today is the day that you can start helping refugees process their ROOTS through art-making experiences towards ROUTES full of hope and resiliency.  

Today marks the first day of BuildaBridge's Roots to Routes - a month long campaign to raise funding for the Refugee Project.  Since August 2011, BuildaBridge has served nearly 100 refugees through art therapy and therapeutic art-making groups as part of the Philadelphia Refugee Mental Health Collaborative (PRMHC).  In that time, we have helped individuals blossom in their creative expression, helped facilitate an increase in group cohesion within specific ethnic groups, and joined a new collaborative, the Philadelphia Partnership for Resilience, through which BuildaBridge served an additional 50 participants.  Originally funded by the Department of Behavioral Health and DisAbility Services, BuildaBridge and the PRMHC's member partners have secured additional funding to sustain the project until the end of Year 3 (June 30, 2014).  Funding from Roots to Routes will allow BuildaBridge and both collaboratives to continue to serve another 100 refugees through art-making experiences.

What will the funds support?

  • The opportunity for nearly 150 refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers to attend art therapy and therapeutic art-making groups in the community context in order to process their traumas and find hope, healing and resiliency. *
  • Seven paid personnel including five art therapists, the project manager and the supervising psychologist
  • Quality art supplies used in the four art therapy groups
  • Space - the locations where groups are held require rent
  • Reporting and assessment - art therapists complete attendance and an online assessment for each group which require monthly fees
  • Start-up funds for groups with a newly arrived refugee population
  • Administration of the project

*Children and clients of BuildaBridge's art therapy groups attend these at no cost to them. 

How can you help?

  • Donate now online - designation:  Roots to Routes
  • Write a check and mail to:  BuildaBridge International, 205 W. Tulpehocken St, Philadelphia, PA 19144   Memo section:  Roots to Routes
  • Ask your friends and family to donate

What if you can't make a donation?
Spread the word!  Use your social media platforms and email to share information about the campaign. Every day, BuildaBridge will post a new piece of information about the project on the blog.  Copy and paste this text with the provided links to your platforms.

How else can you get involved?
Volunteer with us!  BuildaBridge engages creative people and the transformative power of the arts to bring hope and healing to children, families, and communities in the contexts of crisis and poverty.

Will you join us in helping refugees find new routes towards hope, healing and resiliency?