Hope and healing happens when you learn a new skill, see yourself as you are, and envision applying that skill to your life.  Mural-Making, Photography, Dance and Arts for Trauma were all part of the Diaspora of Hope Congo in November where artists from the United States and Kenya made their way to the Congo to work with women who suffer from the ongoing war.  For most, if not all, of the women, this was the first time to paint or draw, to know how to mix colors, to hold a camera or take a picture, or to create a dance.  Most importantly is that they expressed hope for their future in having jobs, educating their children, and having safe places to live.  This expression is amidst tremendous physical suffering because of the war and recognizing that peace in the Congo is requisite for reality.

Celebration and CertificatesBuildaBridge was invited by Women in War Zones (USA) to provide arts-based psych-social intervention with their WAMU Project in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo November 19-24, 2011.  The focus of the project was to 1) train social workers related to WAMU and Panzi Hospital in arts-based trauma intervention; and, 2) provide arts-based therapeutic experiences[1] to women with HIV/AIDS, those recovering from fistula surgery and from sexual violence of rape.

The project was held on the grounds of Panzi Hospital Monday through Thursday with art-making classes for the women two-hours per day.  Classes were planned for 10 women in each class for 30 total women. Due to interest and a local decision to include all women interested the total number of women participating were over 100 women. Classes were offered in visual arts-mural making, dance, and photography.  Each class had its own arts skills outcomes based on a theme of the journey of life and focused on hope, healing and resilience (a common theme for BuildaBridge).

Arts for Trauma ClassTraining in Arts for Trauma was provided for social workers related to WAMU and Panzi Hospital lasted two hours per day.   Nineteen (19) attended the training with 15 receiving a certificate.  Certificates of participation were given to all women who attended all four sessions.  A number of the social workers assisted in the art-making classes for women.

All classes were conducted in Kiswahili with a mixture of both French and English.  Translators were provided for each class and training for two English-speaking teachers.  Two teachers spoke Swahili, as well as the project director.  Materials for the training of social workers were provided in French.


Overall Goals:

  1. Model and lend support to women and social workers
  2. Promote resilience through art
  3. Promote healing of emotional wounds
  4. To provide additional training to para-professional staff

Project Objectives:

  1. Social workers will gain at least 2 methods/skills to put into practice
  2. Women will have one concrete output (work of art) that they can be proud of
  3. Women will increase in their awareness and appreciation of the need for healing (open to art therapy)
  4. Review the WAMU curriculum used to train social workers for how to make it more creative
  5. Have women have fun—a sense of play
  6. Promote cooperation and community among the women

A Team of five Artists on Call were assembled including:

  1. Julia Crawford, Dance Educator, USA
  2. Kaylie Sauter, Visual Art Educator, Kenya
  3. Shem Akinyi, Videographer and Social Worker, Kenya
  4. Dr. Vivian Nix-Early, Psychologist and Music Therapist, USA
  5. Dr. J. Nathan Corbitt, Educator and Musicologist, USA


Scores in the pretest range from 30-70 on a scale of 100. Scores on the post ranged from 50-76 that is a 66.6% change at the bottom of the range and 7.9% at the top.  The average score of the pretest was 55.7. Median score was 53, average sore on the posttest was 62.7 which is a 12.6% change.  The median on the post-test was 60 a 13.2% change.  Overall for the 13 people taking the pre and post test they evidenced an average increase in knowledge of 53.8%.

Asked what new knowledge they gained in the class, the students responded with the following items:

  1. Active listening/recognizing emotions
  2. Music/art as an intervention method
  3. The motto (providing a good life)
  4. Guided imagery
  5. Mantras
  6. Compassion fatigue
  7. Depression as a symptom of trauma
  8. Rope of Life

In the art-making classes three specific works were produced that give evidence of outcomes:

  1. A collaborative and portable mural for the offices of WAMU. Collabarative Mural
  2. An collection of photographs taken by the women with HIV/AIDS (permission was given by the group to post in an online photo album–see below)
  3. The group composed dances that demonstrated the 1) metaphor of resilience; 2) the hard work that goes into growing and; 3) emotional responses to difficult life experiences.

[1] BuildaBridge makes a distinction between arts-based psycho-social support in the community context and creative arts therapy.  The former provides opportunities for creative art-making that are healing, supportive and through which one can teach metaphor for life: social skills, provide experiences for success and give a vision for one’s future.  This is often offered in the community and group context.  Art-making is therapeutic or healing in and of itself.  Creative arts therapies provide treatment for clinically diagnosed conditions in the context of a contractual relationship between client and a properly credentialed therapist.


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