Coping through Art

“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”

-Friedrich Nietzsche

The Realities of Trauma

What does it mean to be broken? For inanimate objects, broken often equates to beyond repair. A piece of broken glass is very evidently broken, visible to the human eye. For human beings, however, brokenness is not as visible. The pain resides in the inner recesses of the heart and mind. At times, the pain begins seeping outward, like a labyrinth of dark clouds slowly enveloping the sun.

Pain is a universal language. Like any language, there are different dialects…in the context of pain, dialects are variations of pain. Just like a language, though there are various “dialects,” the language is always understood, when you really get to the bottom of what is expressed.

Imagine being struck by a rapidly moving vehicle. Your body is engraved with bruises, your limbs are crushed. The tow truck lugs your vehicle away, the cars around you begin moving at their normal pace. You stare around, paralyzed and immobile, aware of the juxtaposition of the world’s normalcy and your mangled self. You are damaged, physically pained, and you can’t just pick up and go on. This is trauma.

The Nonprofit World, Art Therapy, and Psychosocial Resilience

Many from all over the globe cope with the realities of war, conflict, and discrimination—the harsh realities and unjust consequences that come from real-world demons. In the nonprofit relief and development sector, aid in the form of basic necessities and emergency relief is indeed much needed. There is another form of relief, however, that does not have an outward form—a form of relief that is also desperately needed.

The psychological community has made strides with victims of trauma served by nonprofit organizations, and the future paints an optimistic picture, as different forms of therapy are brought to the forefront. At Islamic Relief USA, art therapy is just one of the various forms of therapy incorporated into worldwide psychosocial resilience projects.

IRUSA and Psychosocial Resilience

Islamic Relief USA has implemented art therapy in various projects in recent years. From 2015 to 2017, IRUSA launched a project for Syrian refugee children living in vulnerable conditions in refugee camps in Lebanon. The project incorporated psychosocial support and art therapy to help the children learn, participate in recreational activities, and express their feelings.

Mustafa was one of the children who benefited from this project. At the young age of 11, he saw the horrors of the Syrian conflict and had to flee to Lebanon with his family. His two older brothers were the only breadwinners, and his family couldn’t afford to pay for his education. Mustafa’s pain echoes through the many voices of Syria’s displaced children. Through this project, Mustafa was able to express himself.

“I want to sleep and wake up in Syria, in my bedroom since childhood, in my home where our pictures hang on the walls.”

As a global humanitarian organization with a notable presence in vulnerable communities, IRUSA consistently implements projects that touch on all forms of relief.

How Art Heals

Harvard health recently explored the many benefits of art therapy and the role it plays in easing pain. Art therapy helps people dealing with trauma or psychological issues move their mental focus away from the stimuli at times, and simultaneously create art that reflects that pain.

At Islamic Relief USA, creative voices help shape the authenticity of the organization’s voice. Jahanara, an illustrator and graphic designer at IRUSA, says, “There is a reason they say a picture is worth a thousand words. Had a bad day? Write about it. Paint something. Make something. No matter what you are feeling, you can find a way to direct that emotion creatively.”

In addition to art healing within, art also serves to heal the world. Fareeha, a photographer and graphics videographer at IRUSA, says, “I think art impacts our emotions in the strongest way. It can move people to make tremendous change. It can bring awareness to situations that are unknown to the world.”

Learn more about programs like these and more at irusa.org

Article written by:

Rula is a Content Developer at Islamic Relief USA. Want to feature your voice on our blog? We'd love to hear from you! Send us a message at relieflab@irusa.org.

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