Art Beyond Borders MX/AZ was truly a transformative week that spoke to the power art has to transcend cultures and life circumstances. Our team of seven traveled to Tucson, Arizona to bring drawchange’s art therapy-based programming to children seeking asylum from life-or-death situations at the border. We partnered with a Welcome Center and went with the goal of crafting a welcoming space of hope for families who have endured arduous journeys filled with stressful unknowns. Often arriving with physical wounds from their journey while experiencing one of the greatest disruptions of their lives, we were able to meet them where they were and provide a time to safely process and express their emotions.
A time to just be a child.
While the average family stays at the Welcome Center for a short period of time before traveling to their next destination, drawchange plays a unique and powerful role in fostering a renewed sense of hope as they embark on the next step of their journey.
One of the most inspiring illustrations of our work can be seen in the story of eight-year-old Victor*. When Victor approached our creation area, he hesitated to leave his parent’s side, repeating the word “peligro” ("danger"' in Spanish). His family encouraged him to go and one of our volunteers, Cindy, got down to his level reassuring him he was safe and he would have fun with us. He hesitantly agreed to sit and contribute to our Collaborative Mandala project and stay by the side of Cindy, who he now trusted.
After starting to draw and receiving attention and reassurance from our team, he visibly became more comfortable. He began participating in the day’s project, “Collaborative Mandalas”, which allows each child at the table to begin a pattern that the rest of the children follow. Victor began to beam as art materials were put at his disposal, and became happily engaged with the volunteers and other children as they created the mandala together. After finishing his mandala, Victor offered help to other team members with a project they were working on!
Towards the end of the session, Victor expressed particular interest in team member Francisco's guitar. He whispered in Cindy’s ear, asking permission to go near the guitar. Francisco gladly handed him the guitar teaching him to strum to a beat. Victor’s face lit up as he created his own unique song strumming away with joy. As Francisco taught him rhythms, he would enthusiastically play them for passersby and encouraged cheers from the crowd.
The child we met twenty minutes ago apprehensively repeating “peligro”, was now exhibiting confidence and glee. His transformation speaks to the incredible power of our art therapy-based programming. Victor is just one of the many children that we see come to life in our programs.
It is stories like Victor’s that inspire us to continue working towards reaching more children. To help sustain our program at the Arizona Mexico border, please donate to further establish the program or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are able to volunteer locally in Tucson, AZ.
*Name changed for anonymity