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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

yoga and crayons= integrated disaster relief?




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Who would EVER think about donating yoga or crayons after a disaster?

Well, we would of course! We are a collective and a movement, and there is always a space and talent for everyone. So of course, when my mom came to visit, she had to give a yoga class in santa maria! above is my beautifully young looking and in shape mother (above right) and above left is a classic pictures of mercedes, giggling and nearly toppling over with glee. Mental health is EXTREMELY important after a disaster, and even one yoga session that can give women tools to relax and relieve stress goes really, really far.

Trauma therapy is seriously needed. In Joya Grande, we began our workshops February 25, after working hard to organize a large community meetings Feb 22. Joya Grande is the community most affected by the disaster in our area, and we organized there first. We are working with 28 farmers to rebuild crops, 20 women and men to work on community organization, 20 children in a youth formation/mental health project, and 20 children in a painting/therapy school. Above pictures show Don Pedro announcing our visit, as well as children signing up for painting classes.

There are over 1,000 people in joya grande, but we prioritized the most affected families for our programs. We let the community board of directors decide who would benefit most; and this was verified as I gave a tour of Joya Grande to Nancy and David (two volunteer missionary movement volunteers who decided to retire in el salvador...REALLY rad people). Mary Cruz (13) and her brother Anderson (8) gave us a tour. We passed the shelters, the temporary housing, the broken houses, and I recognized the children in most. I could name them. I could talk about what they drew as thier favorite secret place.

I want to hilite Mary Cruz. The freckly girl above is shown with her family. and with the place her house used to be. Her father is a fisherman and a farmer, and they lost their entire house, forced to squeeze their family of 4 into one room they rented from her older sister. Last weekend, the mennonites built them a temporary shelter made out of tin. Totally better than no house right? well...

Anderson (8yrs) gave us his version. The house is too small. My stuff doesnt fit. I dont have any toys. we have to sleep on the floor cuz its so small. we even rented two rooms, paying 36 dollars a month to put our clothes in. i dont like my new house. i miss my old house. it was big and i could play there. when it rained i got so scared. i could move my legs. my brother went to my neighbors house and we found 3 dead bodies. My brother saw my neighbor-friend who is 4 in the mud-river and my brother saved him. That is when my legs stopped working. I thought he was going to die. My legs still hurt sometimes when I think about it.....
*my translation from Norma, a childhood psychologist, who listened to Anderson's story, crying crouched on the ground as he whispered into her ear...

The pictures above show Mary Cruz with her family, with her picture of her favorite place (lago de ilopango), what she wants to learn in the workshop (she hopes to learn animation like theatre and to draw and many more animation like stuff), and the picture where her house used to be.

Mary Cruz LOVED the art-animation therapy class. She is TOTALLY bringing her 18 year old sister next week. She also told me that her little brother, Anderson, really needs help. He is sad a lot now.....

Finally, thanks to Norma, there is something for Anderson too.
Norma is shown above with a camara. She is one of those amazing salvadoran women with a revolutionary spirit so strong you can't believe she's real. Norma is a psychologist, and decided that instead of applying for money for psychologist to do trauma therapy, why don't salvadoran youth do trauma therapy? She wrote a project through CIPJES (coordination group for salvadoran youth organizations) and got the funding to train 20 youth across in the country in trauma therapy, and then send them out to shelters across the country giving psychological attention to children ages 6-12. We sent a member of our group, Jonathan Velasquez (22) who is fresh outta law school and aspiring poet, to Norma's training.

Norma tried to go to the mayor office in Santiago Texacuangos to ask for information about Joya Grande. She was turned away. Thus, our collective (amigos de santiago texacuangos) has become the coordinating group for children's trauma therapy in joya grande.

Thanks to your funding, we are arranging the transportation for the young therapist to Joya Grande every saturday for the next few months. I am so proud to work with Salvadorans like Norma, and support her amazing ideas and work.

Crayons. Most of the work of children's therapy is done with crayons. Anderson will draw his story- he wont ever have to speak. Art is a way of liberating pain without sending the child back into shock. Its fascinating.

Last week Jonathan and I skyped Jenna Knapp's peacebuilding class at Notre Dame about Trauma Therapy and Integrated Disaster Relief. I was amazed at the depth of the questions from the students. I am amazed at Jenna for organizing them. But most of all, I was struck by the final questions from the professor. Do you take time for reflection?

I blog of course, I do yoga. But what REALLY makes me pause and reflect are people. Mary Cruz and her freckles stop me in my tracks- when we ask her to draw the place that she liked the most- where she felt good and safe and warm, she drew the lake. The lake is her home. She doesn't want to move to gang-filled shangallo (where the mayor's office proposed her family to move). She loves her home.

Thanks so much for supporting our version of "integrated" disaster relief. Crayons. Reconstruction then, mean we no longer feed bodies. We feed creativity. We cannot teach broken spirits to fly again, but we can give them the space and time in which to practice, and perhaps a few tips along the way....

1 comment:

  1. that was beautiful. "art is a way of liberating pain" truly beautiful, beth. i continue to be inspired and proud of all the work, you and so many are doing. i am with you in spirit.

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