Friday, August 15, 2014

Telling their story through art
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Bhutanese elders are telling their story through art.  Using a variety of art mediums, including painting as shown in these photos, the elders are working towards the creation of two permanent pieces that will communicate their journey and message to the next generation.  As part of BuildaBridge's contracted partnership with Nationalities Services Center for the Philadelphia Partnership for Resilience, BuildaBridge artists provide twice monthly art classes for the elders in South Philadelphia. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Making connections through a Hopeful City

      The Philadelphia Partnership for Resilience (PPR) has been pleased to partner with BuildaBridge International since July 2013 in the provision of therapeutic arts groups for immigrant and refugee survivors of torture for the past year.  Through this partnership, we have been able to utilize the healing power of the arts to serve new Americans migrating from Iraq, Sudan, Eritrea, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, and others.

       Many of our clients arrive in Philadelphia without family or friends in the region.  They balance the demands of learning English, searching for and starting their first jobs in the United States, attending to medical needs, acculturating, and raising children.  Many of them are struggling with the emotional impact of their torture and trauma history, and the grief and loss associated with forced migration and fleeing persecution.  Torture survivors may experience isolation stemming from feeling as though others cannot understand the experiences they survived, a decreased sense of safety and trust in their environment, or depression.    Others are eager to begin forming new relationships, but as newcomers don’t know where to begin meeting people or how to start engagement with their new community.  PPR’s partnership with BuildaBridge International has allowed us to open doors for immigrant survivors of torture to begin developing meaningful, lasting, and healthy relationships with others and their broader community.

The impact of BuildaBridge International’s interventions was clearly evident on a recent trip taken by PPR’s Women’s Group to view the “Defining a Hopeful City through Art” exhibit at City Hall.  A.R. and S.D. stand beside the amazing artwork of another PPR client (image above), depicting the joining of Iraqi and American cultures and on display as part of this fantastic exhibit. During our trip, A.R. and S.D. discussed their visions of a hopeful Philadelphia and the importance of bridging cultural divides as they build new lives here.  A.R. and S.D. had attended some of the same events, but had never really had an opportunity to connect.  This exhibit, and the fundamental question posed of what defines a hopeful city and subsequently what their own hopes were, allowed A.R. and S.D. to share and laugh with each other.  

     We were made profoundly aware of the impact BuildaBridge’s interventions have had in the lives of PPR participants when a former client who had relocated to another city made outreach to his PPR case manager when he was visiting Philadelphia.  He had called to inquire if there were BuildaBridge groups on the weekend of his visit, and if he could attend.  He shared that he wanted to come back because PPR and BuildaBridge were like family, and while he liked his life in his new city, it was important for him to reconnect with his family while he was in Philadelphia.

When talking about services available to survivors of torture and war related trauma, it is all too easy to focus solely on the traumatic event.  BuildaBridge and PPR’s partnership helps to shift the dialogue to highlight the resilience so prevalent in the survivors we work with.  Through BuildaBridge, we are able to able to observe the process of recovery and healing as it happens – phone numbers exchanged between clients as new friendships are formed, parents and children dancing together, smiles that are widely given upon greeting, and people returning week after week to share in the art-making experience together.  We see a community of support and resilience develop, nurtured by the therapeutic arts.  

--Kerenza Reid, Philadelphia Partnership for Resilience, Project Coordinator 
Nationalities Services Center