Lefika la Phodiso: The Art Therapy Centre in South Africa

Last week I began my internship in Lefika La Phodiso: The Art Therapy Centre. It is a non-profit organization in Johannesburg, South Africa that focuses on aiding individuals affected by racism, abuse, trauma, and violence through art therapy. Lefika’s mission is to reduce violence, dependence, and poverty, and whatever else comes their way.

Securing this internship is a story on its own. My search criteria focused on diverse locations that could incorporate my passion for foreign cultures and working with children. I knew I wanted to work in the field of art therapy; however, most organizations did not offer internships or summer employment opportunities. Eventually, I found Lefika La Phodiso: The Art Therapy Centre, an organization that encompassed everything I was looking for. After sending my resume, cover letter, and speaking over Skype; I was offered a summer intern position beginning in May.

There is so much that can be done at Lefika, that I have the opportunity to work in many different sections. Every week I will be receiving weekly trainings with other art counselors. Each counselor runs their own group and I will be helping them with their projects as needed. My main focus though, will be running and managing the School Holiday Program. This is a two-week-long program that runs daily from 8 am to 4 pm while schools are on vacation. It addresses a time when children are out of school and receive less adult supervision, and they are as the center states, “most vulnerable and at risk.” The children who attend this program are living in a condemned building and come from environments where issues of racism, HIV and AIDS, violence, and abuse are present. This Holiday Program will not only give them adult supervision, but also allow them to express themselves through the medium of art, an important outlet when facing difficult times. I will also be working with the guardians and siblings of these children throughout my stay.

Mural from a Previous Holiday Program

My first week was an amazing experience. I arrived and immediately began training with therapists and psychologists who came to Johannesburg especially for this course. It was an intensive five day all day course, in which as a group we explored the possibilities of art therapy. We connected theory and practice in an experiential learning environment (very Brandeisian). Being in a new country alone, it also introduced me to local South Africans. I have found Joburg (as they say here) to be a very friendly place. In the group, almost everyone offered to take me out and show me around the city, and the other day as I walked to the supermarket to buy food for the week, everyone in the streets waved and said hi.

Art Therapy Training Workshop

I tried to come without many expectations and only an open mind. I do however hope to have fun, explore Johannesburg, meet new people and learn about the range of art therapy and how it can affect others. I look forward to the experience that awaits.

– Nicole Bortnik ’14

3 thoughts on “Lefika la Phodiso: The Art Therapy Centre in South Africa”

  1. This sounds incredible! I’m just getting started on my art endeavors here in Thailand, but I’m mostly on my own in terms of therapeutic methods, I would love to hear about some of the topics you discussed in your training program! Also, VERY awesome that you had the chance to meet so many locals also interested in art and therapy practices. sounds like you’re all set up for an incredible summer experience!

    if you could shoot me an email when you have the chance, it would be AWESOME and I’m just getting my own curriculum together now 🙂


  2. Hey Zoey,

    I have a bunch of readings and projects we did that I could send you. How is Thailand going so far? What are you working on? I don’t have your e-mail but if you send me one, I can forward you everything and talk more!


  3. I am blown away by this experience!! I am a senior in highschool, and I am looking for what i want to do with my life. I love Art, and I love speaking with people and helping others. I am looking into art therapy in other countries. Could you please let me know about your experiences and what you do as an Art Therapist?

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