Reminiscing and Looking Forward and a big THANK YOU!

Blog by Sue Wallingford


Almost a year ago today the NCAS-I team only had about $500, a partnership with Tranisitons and a HUGE dream of going to Cambodia and working with girls who had been rescued from the sex trafficking industry.  With great enthusiasm, unbridled passion and a strong will to make our dream come true we had our first fundraiser, the first Painting Marathon Relay in October of 2011.  Quickly we were to realize that others in our community were also eager to take up the cause to fight against the trafficking of girls for sex, and by the end of our fundraiser we had engaged over 300 people and raised enough money to say, “Yes, we are going to Cambodia!”

From the moment we birthed the idea to now we have experienced such an outpouring of support for this cause, that I want to take a moment to say THANK YOU to all the seen and unseen supporters and to let you know how well your efforts paid off.

After the Painting Marathon in October of 2011, we had a few other successful fundraisers that helped to not only support the travel of 7 students to Cambodia, but also provided enough for us to buy needed art supplies for the organizations with which we worked.  We received a prestigious grant from the Jenzabar Foundation while we were in Cambodia and so are well situated to begin the seeding process of future fundraising events and trips abroad.

As stated in an earlier blog about the mission of NCAS-I and our intended work in Cambodia:

NCAS-I expands the boundaries of the Naropa University Community Art Studio from local to global. Rooted in the principle of collaboration and a belief in the innate wisdom, creativity, and interdependence of all, we, the art therapy graduate students and faculty, seek active engagement with social justice organizations around the world. We will use art therapy practices to help relieve suffering and maintain a vision of unity, as guests and learners in the communities we serve.

I marvel at the foresight we had in the very beginning when we wrote this statement. I feel proud and deeply satisfied that we have been able to accomplish what we set out to do and that our mission was fulfilled.  Our plan to bring healing through art to the people of Cambodia was wrought with active engagement (external and internal), and collaboration.  Our aim to bring relief to suffering through the practice of art making was realized and became our own practice as we struggled to work with the harsh realities of this country.

While our intention in the beginning was to work with one NGO, Transitions Global, we found ourselves being asked to join forces with other human rights organizations.  In the three short weeks we were there we also worked with Anjali House, an organization that takes children off the streets and provides free healthcare, food, clean drinking water and education.  We talked with Ragamuffin, a grass roots NGO committed to bringing the expressive arts to relieve emotional pain and psychological damage in children and adults, about how we might collaborate in the future.  We spent some time volunteering at an orphanage in Phnom Penh that takes in abandoned and disabled babies and young children.  There we held babies, painted, danced and played with the children.  They asked us to come back next year.  We visited Arn Chorn Pond’s country home and learned from him first hand about the atrocities that happened to the Kymer people during the rule of Pol Pot.  We visited his Cambodian Living Arts Center and played music with students committed to bringing the traditional arts back to the people of Cambodia.  We had long conversations with the hotel staff, our tuk tuk driver, NGO workers, ex-pats and many other Cambodian people about politics, religion, art and culture.  Assumptions and personal values were constantly challenged, transformed, sometimes dropped and sometimes deepened.


Now, a year later, we are preparing for the 2nd Annual Painting Marathon, and ways to bring awareness to the issue of sexual trafficking and other devastating issues that plague the Cambodian people. We are forming new partnerships with other NGO’s in Cambodia and have widened our trainings there to include more populations in need. We are no less enthusiastic or driven.  The work we have done so far has only made us stronger and more focused on our mission.   This year’s team is bigger and strongly dedicated to what we began a year ago.  I am as proud of this team as I was the first.  It is such a blessing to be a part of this incredible journey with them and with you who continue to support us.

THANK YOU for your continued love and support, we could not do without it!

Become Part of The Restoration Movement!

It’s not too late to sign up for “Restoring The Lives of Survivors Symposium” presented by Transitions!  And it’s easy…simply follow this link!

A few weeks ago we posted about the event, which you can read about HERE.  The symposium will feature a number of speakers and experts in the field of human trafficking, aftercare, and restoration, covering such issues as shelters, safe homes, aftercare programs, and other responses to serving victims of the sex trafficking industry.

General Information:
8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Greenwood Community Church
5600 E. Belleview Avenue
Greenwood Village, CO 80111

***The Naropa Community Art Studio-International will be represented by some of its 2nd year Art Therapy students along with Sue Wallingford.  We hope to see you there!  

All information gathered from… P.S. Did you now Transitions has a really informative blog?  Check it here!

Photo Credit:  The Naropa Community Art Studio-International, Cambodia, 2012

Symposium Presented by Transitions: Restoring the Lives of Survivors

A symposium on shelters, safe homes, aftercare programs,
and other responses to serving victims of the sex trafficking industry, presented by Transitions on September 29, 2012 in Greenwood Village, CO.  The symposium will specifically cover what key issues are at stake and what is needed to provide successful aftercare and restoration to the survivors of sex trafficking.

Featured speakers and experts in the field of human trafficking, aftercare, and restoration will include:  Tovah Means, who serves on Transitions’ Advisory board (, Stacia Freeman, Executive Director of Abolition International and director of Abolition International Trafficking Shelter Association (, Katherine Chon, Co-Founder and Director Emeritus of Polaris Project in Washington, D.C. (, Helen Sworn, Founder and International Director of Chab Dai (, and James Pond, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Transitions (

Topics will include:  “Trauma Informed Care for Sex Trafficking Survivors,” “The State of Shelters, Accountability, and the Trafficking Shelter Association,” “Strategic Planning for Shelters, Safe Homes, and Aftercare,” “What Excellence Looks Like,” “How Do We Know We Are Effective?,” “Faith in Practice.”

Are you wondering if you should attend?  This symposium is intended for: Those who currently provide domestic or international aftercare; Those interested in creating an aftercare facility or program; Those who desire to work in the aftercare arena; Those concerned about the critical need for successful restoration.



If you have any questions about the Symposium, please contact Pam Harvey at

***Transitions is an organization that provides holistic and innovative long-term aftercare for adolescent girls who have been rescued from sex trafficking.  The Naropa Community Art Studio – International (NCAS-I) formed a partnership with Transitions in 2011 and traveled to Cambodia to work with the organization in May of 2012.  The NCAS-I looks forward to a continued partnership with Transitions and fully supports their mission.  

All information gathered from

Work and Play

by: Katie Markley

Today began with a spark of energy.  We had agreed to create a mural at Transitions and today was the day.  Up early, out the door, and into a Tuk Tuk.  Weaving through a sea of motos, bicycles, pedestrians and cars we began to discuss our plans.  A draft had been created for the painting to offer guidance yet if there is one thing we have learned, it is to adapt.  We planned for potential hangups and altered the design to suit the space.

The mural’s design reflects the mission of Transitions.  A butterfly was selected to be the central image as we have noticed this symbol arising in the art created through our work in Cambodia. When inquiring about the meaning of the butterfly we were told that it represents peace to many Khmer people.  At the tips of the butterfly’s wings you can see the profile of young women, a simplified representation of the girls at Transitions.  Lotus flowers are incorporated throughout, depicted in various stages of blooming.  The piece is surrounded by the Transitions logo, “Freedom Begins with a Dream,” written in both English and Khmer.

We worked wholeheartedly and focused for nearly five hours to cultivate the final product you see here.  While standing back and taking in our efforts we were amazed at what can be accomplished in such a short amount of time.  Marissa offered that it felt like we had participated in a “mural flashmob” and I would agree.

The second half of the day was spent with the girls.  They greeted us warmly, beaming smiles our way and quizzing us on the Khmer words they had taught us in our last meeting.  We sat on the floor in a large circle and settled into the dance of our two languages being spoken one after the other, English translated into Khmer and Khmer back to English.  It is a practice in patience and quiet listening.

We offered the girls the dream flags that were created by the Naropa community during our Small Resources=Big Possibilities art auction.  A girl next to me held one of the flags, rubbing her fingers over the green and gold paint, and said “suh-aht” (beautiful). Then, we guided the group in making charm necklaces as a way to both build relationship between our merging groups and offer an opportunity to make something special for oneself, an act of self-love if you will.  The girls all completed necklaces reflecting their personal style.  We concluded our meeting by sharing some of our talents with each other.  Meg and Emma offered a duet of Amazing Grace and the girls performed a traditional dance.  We left feeling full.

There is more to come…thank you following!

Creativity and Cambodia

by, Aimee Palladino

As we transition from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s largest city and the country’s capitol, we are excitedly starting our work with Transitions, the organization with whom we are partnered. Yesterday, NCAS-I attended an orientation with Athena Pond, founder and director of Transitions, to learn more about our collaboration with them. This meeting was the culmination of several months of laborious planning, fundraising, and anticipation. After so many hours devoted to making this collaboration a reality, the actual moment of sitting and engaging with Athena was inspirational and affirming. All our aspirations about this organization were confirmed — Transitions, and the people who run it, are phenomenal. Their work in providing after-care and rehabilitation for young girls who have been sex trafficked is informed, heart-centered, effective and culturally sensitive. They offer holistic rehabilitation services that focus on successful and sustainable reintegration. At the foundation of this process is shifting from approaching the girls’ future based on survival to potential — as Athena said, freedom for these girls “begins with a dream”.

I approached this meeting full of questions and wonderings. Through my past week in Cambodia, I have found myself churning and swirling with all of the layers of this experience — the personal (and transpersonal), educational, and professional. I am at once a traveler, an artist, a student and an emerging therapist. As NCAS-I’s mission statement says, I am a “guest and learner” here. As a result, I entered our meeting with Transitions replete with thoughts — how does Cambodia’s traumatic past inform their collective psychology? How can opportunities for creative expression empower individuals within a country where artistic expression has been so arrested? How is sex trafficking embedded with cultural gender norms and socioeconomic factors? Our meeting with Transitions helped me sink more deeply into the complex, shadowy and nuanced aspects of this work. It clarified and contextualized the role we will play over the next few weeks here. 

As art therapists, we offer the unique ability to offer ‘art as therapy’. Staying true to NCAS-I’s roots as a community art studio model, our art projects with the girls will provide opportunities for them to deepen their relationship with the creative process and manifest imagination, emotion and unique expression through various art materials. This model becomes particularly effective given the trauma of sex trafficking and perhaps even the collective trauma that Cambodia experienced under the control of the Khmer Rouge (artistic engagement was nearly eliminated under their leadership). Cultural openings for unique artistic expression seem to just now be reemerging in Cambodia. As a result, NCAS-I’s work with Transitions crosses an interesting intersection of art, culture, history, and trauma.

Over the next few weeks, we will be offering six arts-based experientials, staff trainings in arts-based therapeutic work and self-care, and a mural project. Tomorrow is our first meeting with the girls where we will be making handmade journals! We are extremely excited to offer this opportunity to engage in creativity, community and relationship. In addition to facilitating this first art project, tomorrow NCAS-I will also be visiting The Raggamuffin Project, an INGO that has been introducing creative arts therapy to psycho-social organizations in Cambodia. As we further shape our global understanding of art therapy, this meeting will certainly contribute to our knowledge about arts-based healing in Cambodia. We imagine tomorrow will bring rich and amazing experiences and we hope you check back to hear stories from the day! 

Be A Voice. Shine A Light.

In three days the NCAS-I will begin its journey to Cambodia.  Our main partnership with Transitions Global will give us the opportunity to help in supporting and empowering survivors of sex trafficking in a place where the trafficking industry is so prevalent.  We also hope to be a voice for survivors and shine a light on the trafficking industry as a way to combat human trafficking of the future.  Below are statistics from UN.GIFT (United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking) regarding Human Trafficking worldwide.  They are staggering.

Human Trafficking Statistics from UN.GIFT

  • 161 countries are involved in or affected by human trafficking in some way
  • Approximately 2.5 million people are forced into labor as a result of human trafficking
  • 1.2 million children are trafficked each year
  • 43% of human trafficking victims – over 1 million – are forced into commercial sexual exploitation, AND 98% of these victims are women and girls
We have posted a number of times about Patricia McCormick’s new book, ‘Never Fall Down,’ Arn Chorn Pond’s story of brutality and survival in Cambodia.  McCormick also published a book in 2006 called, ‘Sold,’ a harrowing account of sexual slavery.  This fall filmmaker Jane Charles will begin filming a moving based on the book ‘Sold.’  Expected to release in the spring of 2013, Charles has released this 60 second preview to build momentum for the project, be a voice and shine a light:

Charles’ Inspiration:  “I feel like these are all our children, whether Cambodia, India, Russia they are all our children we cannot turn a blind eye to it anymore we have to create change,” Charles said.  “These girls could be my daughter, they could be your daughter or they could have been one of us.”

We hope the information provided here on our blog is educational.  Thank you for following us!  Stay with us as we journey to Cambodia – your support is so appreciated!

(Statistics from:

(Original 60 second preview and Charles’ quote from:

Dream Catchers: My Dream Is To…

“My dream is to open my own restaurant someday.”  “I hope to own a small hotel in the future.”  “I dream of marrying a good man, owning a home and having children.”  “Someday I would like to ride my very own motorbike.”  “I would like to own a home so my mother can live with me and not have to work collecting recycling anymore.”  “I would like to have a good job, so I can have an income for food and support my own family.”  “I dream of having a good job to save enough money to build a house where my sister and I could live together.”  “I dream of attending a university after high school to become a nurse or social worker.” – From the girls at Transitions, an organization that shelters and rehabilitates girls survivors of the sex trafficking industry

Art Activity:  Dream Catcher

~Capturing both your dreams and creativity~

A Dream Catcher by Voyle Graham

A Dream Catcher by Voyle Graham, from

That Artist Woman offers thorough step-by-step instructions on how to make a dream catcher in a blog post titled, “How to Make a Dreamcatcher” at the link below.  Check it out!

Pinterest has some beautiful and inspiring images of dream catchers, too!  Take a look here:

Remember these Dream Flags from the Matchbox Art Auction?  They offered a great way for everyone at the event to send wishes to the children and families in Cambodia at Transitions, Raggamuffin Project, and Anjali House!  NCAS-I will be delivering them soon.

(Quotes from

Art Activity: Making Worry Dolls

“The young artist told me with great confidence that she didn’t need to tell the worry doll her worries anymore, because the doll just knows them now.”
— Marlene von Friederichs-Fitzwater

Traditional Guatemalan Worry Doll

Handmade Worry Doll Created in Art Therapy Session

Traditional worry dolls are made in Guatemala and are thought to date back to Mayan times.  They are also sometimes referred to as trouble dolls.  Worry dolls or trouble dolls are believed to have the power to hold our worries.  For example, before bedtime, we might confide our worries in the worry doll, tuck him or her under our pillow, and get a goodnight’s rest as the doll holds all of our worries.  Even more, a worry doll can be a friend with whom we can share emotional pain.

What about worry dolls and art therapy?  The UC Davis Cancer Center suggests in art therapy sessions that children make worry dolls in the shape of their fears.  The doll is then slipped under each child’s pillow in the middle of the night, instilling in each child the belief that the source of worry is gone.  This activity of creating and using a worry doll is great because it combines so many things:  creative expression, acknowledgment of worries, friendship, trust, letting go of worries, and the therapeutic process.

As we mentioned in a previous post, the NCAS-I will be making worry dolls with the girls at Transitions and a local orphanage in Cambodia.

(Quote and 2nd image from:; other information and 1st image from:                              

Meet Molika

Black, White, and Pink– The perfect color combination according to Molika!

Molika is one of many rescued girls at Transitions the NCAS-I looks forward to meeting in Cambodia.  Molika also loves karaoke with her friends, would love to develop her skills in art, dreams of raising a family, and aspires to become a social worker and help girls like her.  Read on below:

Molika was rescued and began her journey of restoration at the Transitions Dream Home in August of 2010.

Molika likes the taste of salty fish and vegetables. She believes black, white and pink to be perfect combination of colors, and loves her time with friends — especially singing karaoke!

Molika thinks traveling to the USA would be a great experience, seeing tall buildings and exploring new places. If she had the money to spend she would enjoy shopping for a handbag and a cute pair of little heels.

Molika enjoys art and would love to develop skills in this area. Her dreams include raising a family of her own and becoming a social worker so she can help other rescued girls. Molika studies rigorously to help these dreams come true.

We can’t wait to meet you, Molika! 

(Image and information from

A Better Way of Life

One of the 3rd year art therapy students shared this quote in her final oral presentation this week at Naropa University:

“The status of victim can never constitute a way of life.” – Patricia Hill Collins

The NCAS-I could not agree more, which is why we have partnered with Transitions to help rehabilitate and reintegrate girls who have been sex trafficked in Cambodia.  We truly believe these girls should have the opportunity to be survivors and world changers, not victims.

A moving short film by Transitions…