This first month in Johannesburg, South Africa has flown. I feel as if I just got here, yet I am already half way done with my internship at Lefika La Phodiso, The Art Therapy Center. Lefika is involved in so many different projects that it is hard to keep track of everything that is being done.
Each week, I meet with a group of community counselors training to be art therapists. Each of them then leads her own art therapy group, which I have been fortunate enough to visit. Each visit gave me the opportunity to witness a variety of techniques they use to lead their group. For one of the projects, I went to help teach art classes to three and four year old children living in a township. Another group I observed were the adolescents, living in a condemned building. Some of these children do not have parents living with them and there are others who do, but have never emotionally attached to them. These adolescents are going though so much hardship; they are basically taking care of themselves and looking after younger children who live in the building. For this group, art was an extension of their voice. They would go and create images and then discuss what the images meant to them in a group setting. Safety and a hygienic living environment were the two major issues that kept re-emerging. As a result of these meetings, another facilitator and I, have begun a new project to help empower these children to renovate where thir building.
One more project, which completely amazed me, was the work being done at the boarding School for Visually Impaired children. The therapist explained that many of the students’ fine motor skills and senses had never been fully developed, and most of the families were not even aware of their child’s disability or how to take came of him/her. This was very different to the type of art therapy I had seen before where art acted as an expression of one’s feelings; for this project the art therapy consisted of playing and using one’s hands to develop the senses.
These are only a few of the projects I have been a part of so far; each is completely different environment and the facilitator leads the group accordingly. This has allowed me to see the possibilities of how art therapy approaches can be applied, one of my main goals for the summer. As I work and participate with these groups, I have come to realize the immense growth that has come from learning from these amazing therapists and the work they do.
As of right now, we are in the middle of the Holiday Program, a three-week-long program that involves helping children during the time when they are most at risk, school vacation. I have organized meetings, planned the schedules for different age groups, prepared activates and materials, and was in charge of organizing and finding different volunteers for the duration of it. It has been quite a handful of work, even before the program began. For the first week we worked with a group of 2-5 year olds, and one of 5-11 year olds, as well as adolescents and some of the guardians, all living in the condemned building I wrote about earlier. The second week will be an open studio where the children can come in and create and will be ensured a proper meal. The third week will consist of a week for adolescents only. They will be coming from the condemned building, an orphanage, an HIV+ clinic, and a children’s home. The theme will be taken from Gauguin’s famous image, Where do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? I greatly anticipate the projects and working with these adolescents.
– Nicole Bortnik ’14