Since the early 1990’s, over 100,000 ethnic Nepalese refugees from southern Bhutan have fled to Nepal as a result of racially-motivated forced eviction. Over 35% of these are children under the age of 18. Many have lived in overcrowded refugee camps for 15+ years, and are arriving to the Philadelphia region with significant physical and mental health needs. They are experiencing high rates of depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorders. A recent surge in suicides among recent Bhutanese arrivals demonstrates the need for culturally appropriate prevention and treatment options include creative art therapies.
The Bhutanese population recognizes the positive impact of creative arts therapy as evidenced by the responses of parents when asked about the importance of this class (translated into English from Nepali):
My child needs to know many things. In this group he learns how to treat a friend and communicate with friends, respectfully.
My child learns many things at this group, how to paint and he makes many friends.
My son is very interested in drawing and I think of my son's future so I keep sending him to this group.
In this group the children learn how to treat a teacher/adult with respect.BuildaBridge has offered art therapy and therapeutic art-making groups to Bhutanese children since August 2011 led by Lead Therapeutic Movement Instructor Julia Crawford. Since that time, the group has served over 75 children, some of whom attended groups for nearly three years.