By Emily Wilson
My preparation for any project is generally quite extensive. Often, I over prepare as a way to quell anxiety. After the preparation is over, I am better able to let go and be in the flow without a sense of anxiety. It was the same for this intervention, but I had to wait until we arrived in Cambodia to purchase many supplies and fully prepare. I was nervous about things like the process of bargaining for fabric, assuring that there was enough rice, and prepping for any unknown. My intervention was to create a sewed “Healing Heart”. The purpose was to make a comforting safe place to put personal thoughts and hopes, as well as to serve as a soothing sensory object. When working with survivors of trauma, providing choices and control is vital (Malchiodi and Steele, 2012). I met this need by offering choices of cloth, stencils, and a variety of decorations, along with acknowledging the client’s choice to participate at all. Successfully completing an art project can help to build ego-strength (Kramer, 2000), and recognizing hopes, wishes and dreams after trauma is part of resilience (Malchiodi and Steele, 2012). This intervention provided an opportunity for the women and girls served at the CWCC to build resilience. It was also an opportunity for the staff to see an art intervention led in a big group as well as to create a soothing object for their own self-care.
So, after all of the preparation, rationale, practice, and groundwork, the day came to facilitate. What an amazing and fun experience. I enjoyed being a part of the flow when leading the group. Even more, I enjoyed seeing clients, staff, and NCAS-I students interacting without needing to speak the same language, because they all had the language of art. I was floored by the skill level for sewing and the immense creativity in each person. The heart is a strong, powerful, living metaphor. The heart is a tender, personal space; it can be broken and it can be healed. Love comes from it, and it can be an emotional and raw place. Creating healing hearts can set intentions, hopes, and dreams. It can serve as a metaphor of mending ones’ own heart. My own heart has been broken open, knowing some of the stories of the clients’ unimaginable trauma, wanting to hold and help, knowing that my presence although authentic, is temporary, hoping that I do no harm. My heart is holding amazing memories of the work we did in a community, sharing joy. My heart feels the fear, sorrow, and anguish of those around me, and it also feels the happiness, excitement. My heart swells when I hear that a young woman did not think about her trauma in the last three days while creating art. My heart breaks when I hear the ages of the clients, some as young as two years old. My heart is continually broken open, filled up, healed, broken open, filled up and healed, again and again on this journey. For this I am grateful.
”Stop the flow of your words, open the window of your heart and let the spirit speak” –RUMI.
Please note that while individual members have varying views on topics discussed in our blog, NCAS-I as a whole honors multiple perspectives, within respectful reason, and does not aim to censor material shared in our blog writings. So please keep this in mind while reading our blogs. And please feel free to add your perspective too.
Please note that photographs are of CWCC staff, NCAS-I or of unidentified clients only, to assure the protection of the women and girls served at CWCC.
Steele, W., & Malchiodi, C. A. (2012). Trauma-informed practices with children and adolescents. New York, NY US: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.
Kramer, E. (2000). Art as Therapy: Collected Papers. London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Heart. (2010). In A. Ronnberg & K. Martin (Eds.), The book of symbols: reflections on archetypal images. (p. 392) Cologne, Germany: Taschen.