Marin Teens go to Haiti to Perform Art Therapy Outreach Program
While many of their peers were enjoying beach days and taking advantage of the opportunity to sleep in, 10 teenage volunteers from Marin, California, headed to Haiti for four weeks in June and July. Girls United, a collaboration from the Meridian Health Foundation, the United Nations Foundation, and Full-Circle Learning, dispatched the volunteers to start an art therapy program for Haitian girls and young women displaced by the earthquake last year. The seemingly simple act of kindness had a powerful impact on the females who survived the devastating natural disaster.
The Marin Independent Journal stated that the volunteers taught teens girls and young women four different forms of artistic expression: photography, printmaking, drama and creative writing. In addition to providing the girls a creative outlet to express their feelings, the volunteers also trained some of the girls and young women in peer-to-peer counseling (and it doesn’t take a psychology degree to see how necessary counseling is as the Haitian people piece their lives together again). Girls United hopes that the women will pass on their new found knowledge to other Haitian women.
The Marin teens worked with nearly 80 women between the ages of 12 and 24. The volunteers received support from writers, artists, and actors, including Rainn Wilson, better known as Dwight from the television show "The Office,” as well as by a United Nations grant of $10,000.
A spokeswoman for the United Nations who was raised in Haiti, Elisabeth Guilbaud-Cox, is quoted by The Marin Independent Journal as saying, "Haiti historically is known through its art — through our music, our dance, our paintings. Reviving if you will the artistic sense within the Haitian community...is something that gives us hope because this is a survival tool."
Haiti continues to need volunteers willing to sacrifice their time to aid in the healing process. There are a variety of resources for other groups interested in helping. For example, yoga, an ancient form of linking breath with movement to bring inner-peace and awareness, has long been a way to help disaster victims cope with the start of their new lives. Groups can join an organization such as Yoga Adventures, a group that not only practices the art and immerses themselves in local cultures, but will be heading to Haiti this autumn to build a Children’s Center and Home in Jacmel.
Another great organization for volunteer groups to consider is the BuildaBridge organization, a non-profit intervention and arts education organization. Groups are encouraged to apply for volunteer positions that suit their interests. The non-profit's GoodWill Tours are available for traveling performing arts group. Other groups can apply for their desired project, and the organization will accommodate the group depending on its current needs.
A simple Internet search will turn up a wealth of volunteer opportunities for individuals and groups. However, be sure to refer to GuideStar to ensure that you will be working with a valid non-profit. Like the Marin volunteers, you can share your knowledge with Haitian disaster victims and give back to the world community.