Art Therapy for Child Soldiers

11/20/2013 04:45:00 AM sendtheroths 0 Comments

We launched an art therapy project with the Peacemakers in our reintegration program for former child soldiers this month with the help and guidance of Sam and Ellee Best, a newlywed couple (our age) with a multi-facetted art background.

Each kid in the program created their own book, which walked
them through positive and negative memories, heroes in their
life, obstacles in their life and goals for their future.
Each of the 100 boys in our program wrote and illustrated their own book while we walked them through the following principles.

Heroism. What is a hero? What makes a hero?

Memories. What are some of your favorite memories? What are some memories you don’t like?

Vision/Dreams. What would you like to see in the future? How do you want to interact with other people in your community?

Sam and Ellee Best, business entrepreneurs and artists
volunteered for two months to help us get the art therapy
program off the ground and to train our GOF-C team on
how to use art for healing. Ibrahim, one of our staff
began instructing the children by himself by following
their example. 
Obstacles. What is an obstacle? What is an obstacle you’ve overcome? What are some obstacles that you are facing?

Planning. Where would you like to see yourself in 1 years, 5 years and even 10 years?

Despite our teams obstacles such as logistics, contextualization, and limited supplies—we saw that this project was worth its weight in gold.

At one point while we were teaching in a small wooden room, rebels began to fight with each other and began shooting. It was a small incident that reminded all of us (the boys included) of the bad memories and upcoming obstacles they face, which many visualized by drawing pictures of AK-47’s in their books.

It was the first time for some of the boys in our program to
ever hold a writing utensil in their entire lives. 
It was the first time for some of the boys in our program to ever hold a pencil/marker/pen in their hands. Their caretakers helped them learn how to hold the writing tool as their hands shook and wobbled around the page.

Again, this reminded of us of how important it is to build the Training Center quickly. We sent half of the boys to school this year, but we hope to offer basic literacy and mathematics to the others who are not able enter into school because they are too far behind.
Just under his 'bad memory' where he wrote "they me to shoot
the guns," one boy drew a picture of his family, that is no longer
together due to death, disease and war. He wrote for his good
memory, "I'm in my family's home. My parents are there
and we were all happy."

The team returns to Masisi this week to begin ‘processing’ through the books with the boys. It’s an opportunity for the boys to gather in very small groups and share their book with peers and their caretakers. This exercise is completely voluntarily. We always tell the boys that they don’t have to share if they don’t want to.

This 10-year-old Peacemaker drew a school under the goals
section of the book. He wrote "I will build schools in my
village called Bukombo and when I am old, people will come
to me for advice.
We also hope to share the Gospel with them personally and give them an opportunity to accept Christ. We feel that the one-on-one time will be a good time to be intentional about directing their past, present and future to the only One who can really heal and make life whole. We aren’t twisting arms. We are praying that through a steady love and acceptance, they will find Christ and learn to walk with the Holy Spirit.

We need your prayers.

Most of what we are doing is a completely new concept in the areas that we work. They aren’t used to foreigners (from Goma or from other countries) doing mentorship, discipleship and relationship-building. They are used to instant relief, because of how long the war has continued in this area. This creates a mentality of ‘get as much as I can when I can out of them’. This can be emotionally draining on us and our staff, as we empty not only our pockets but our hearts and lives.

Our work is fragile, because the people we serve are fragile and our ability to relate to them can also be fragile. Here are some things to keep lifted up as the team goes to Masisi for ‘processing’.

  • Pray that every child will come into a personal relationship with Jesus.
  • Pray for the souls of the caretakers and for grace to train them well.
  • Pray for our vehicle and safety on the road.
  • Pray for peace and love to abide in the heart of every child we work with.
  • Pray for the Masisi Training Center to be built. We still need an extra $3,500 for it.
"We were worried that the older boys would think that this
project was stupid and not want to participate. But in fact,
they were the most attentive," said Ellee Best.