“Happy Garden”

By Alexa Pinsker


This past Friday, May 31st, I led the final art intervention for the CWCC (Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center) staff and clients.  I originally intended to have participants make “treasure boxes” from matchboxes.  These “treasure boxes” made from matchboxes could hold special objects, representations of their hobbies (my sample had a mini disco-ball), and other items that were close to their hearts.  I wanted to share the matchbox art project with them because it has been so integral in both the fundraising and spreading awareness of our service-learning trip.  As I worked with the staff and clients throughout the week I realized that I wanted to offer a second option as an art intervention which seemed more appropriate for the final day.  I presented them with the idea of making a “happy or special garden” from matchboxes and various remaining materials from the other art interventions and the matchbox gala. The directive was to make a garden using matchsticks and beads to make flowers  and to utilize the moss/grass.  The flowers represented dreams, wishes, prayers, hopes, and memories.

The combination of it being  the last day we would all be together making art,  and the simplicity and ease of making gardens created a very serene and calm atmosphere where people were speaking quietly and creating their magical little garden worlds.   After three days of intensive art making it seems   we had all settled into a comfortable routine of making art as a community.  The clients and staff exceeded any creative expectations I had for this project.  There were gardens with fences and stones, gardens with trellises covered with flowers, gardens that looked covered and private, and gardens that were lush and inviting.

As this was the closing activity I wanted the metaphor to extend to the closing circle.  When we were finished creating our gardens we all gathered in the shade outside in a large circle.  There were babies and children, and dogs included in this circle, as well as the clients, staff and NCAS-I members.  We made enough matchstick flowers so that each person would have one for their garden.  I explained that each person could choose a flower and add it to their garden and we would all share a memory, hope, dream, prayer or thought about our experience working together at CWCC.


It took time as about 40 people shared and we waited for the language to be translated from Khmer into English or vice versa, and it was hot and humid in the late afternoon.  Some people’s words were short and sweet, others more poetic and eloquent, but everyone took time to share even those that appeared painfully shy.  For me the moment that touched my heart was when a girl around the age of 12 shared that the last 3 days of art therapy had helped her to forget her troubles  temporarily while creating art, and for that she was grateful.  I am so grateful for the experience of working with CWCC. The clients continued to inspire me with their resilience, their lightness and humor,  their creative expression, and their strong sense of community.ImageImage

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.

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