Posts Tagged ‘Fulbright’

During 2011, Art Therapy Without Borders will be featuring members from the Advisory Council as an opportunity to learn more about their work and some of the art therapy initiatives they are involved in that speak to this community’s vision.  May’s spotlight includes Gloria Simoneaux:

Gloria Simoneaux, MA, REAT, EXA, is the founding director of Harambee Arts,  a program in sub-Saharan Africa. Gloria taught Expressive Arts to counselors in Nairobi as a Fulbright scholar, affiliated with the Kenya Association of Professional Counselors. She is the Founder of DrawBridge: An Arts Program for Homeless Children, has worked with pediatric oncology patients in San Francisco hospitals and is currently a consultant with Save the Children.

Tell readers a little about yourself and what your interests are in art therapy. I’ve worked with children using art since I was a 13 year old volunteer in a hospital in Brooklyn. My path has always been clear to me driven by my passionate love for children and my belief in art as a tool for healing. In 1980 I received a grant to work with pediatric oncology patients in two San Francisco bay area hospitals, using the arts for expression and healing. After eight years I needed a break from the overwhelming grief that surrounded me. In 1989, family homelessness was emerging as a big problem in America, with few safety nets. At that time, The Hamilton Family Center was the only emergency shelter in SF. I called the director and explained my interest in setting up a therapeutic arts program for homeless children. Within ten minutes, I was hired on the phone. Three months after that I was awarded a three-year grant to continue the work.  As the homeless problem grew, so did the numbers of shelters and transitional housing sites in SF. The new shelters also needed psycho-social support programs for the children, and so DrawBridge; An Arts Program for Homeless Children was born. Other staff joined the team and soon we were creating art with children in six shelters in three counties. After 20 years we were in seven counties; more than 25 shelters. I left DrawBridge in 2007 and it is still thriving. In 2008 I went to Nairobi, Kenya for a year and a half  as a Fulbright scholar to teach art therapy to psychologists and counselors throughout the country. Harambee Arts is the small non-profit organization that I started, also in 2007. We have three strong on-going community arts projects in Nairobi: 1- A support group for HIV+ women prisoners. 2- Arts programs for children with autism and Down’s syndrome and 3- Arts and leadership training for children in the slums of Kibera (Africa’s largest slum). Currently, I am a consultant for Save the Children (HEART Project), teaching trainers, and providing on-going support, in Nepal, Malawi and Haiti. I also oversee the Harambee Arts Project, directed by a young man from Rwanda.

What do you believe are important considerations or emerging issues for the international art therapy community to pay attention to? As art therapy becomes more accepted as an intervention world-wide, the issue that is foremost in my mind is acknowledging cultural differences. It is critical that people interested in sharing their skills internationally, learn to do so sensitively, without imposing our western ideas and standards.  I was recently asked to design and teach a course at CIIS (California Institute for Integral Studies) on Expressive Arts Internationally and how to work and teach in other cultures. It’s been a big challenge for me to be flexible and patient while working in cultures that are entirely different to the one I am accustomed to. I am still learning and practicing.

What are some special art therapy projects you are working on for/in 2011?  I’ve been a consultant with Save the Children since 2009 and I’m currently working on projects in Nepal, Malawi and Haiti. My burning interest at the moment is working with survivors of sexual trafficking and slavery. I had an opportunity to lead a training recently in Nepal for a miraculous group of 25 women survivors who have formed an organization called Shakti Samuha. After working with them, I became a bit obsessed and wanted to drop everything else to work side by side with the survivors. I’m trying to raise money to go back and do in depth therapy with the women and extensive training in expressive arts. I also worked (in Nepal) for the first time with hearing impaired children and I am excited to continue that work, as well. I’ll be making my first trip to Haiti soon and I’ve been preparing for the very different cultural experience (most of my experience has been in Africa and Asia). I have been told that children in Haiti are not recognized as human until after they join the workforce. 

4. How can people contact you or find out more about your work? My email address is: gloria@harambeearts.org and my website is www.hamrambeearts.org. I welcome communication from anyone who wants to find out more.

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During 2011, Art Therapy Without Borders will be featuring members from the Advisory Council as an opportunity to learn more about their work and some of the art therapy initiatives they are involved in that speak to this community’s vision.  April’s spotlight includes Rebekah Chilcote, MA, ATR, PC:

Registered Art Therapist, Professional Counselor, and Fulbright Scholar Rebekah Chilcote, MA, ATR, PC has worked with child survivors of the Sri Lanka tsunami, children in Africa orphaned by AIDS and Palestine youth impacted by violence and war in the West Bank. Rebekah also currently serves as an Assistant Program Coordinator for the International Child Art Foundation’s Haiti Healing Arts Team and  works with the African Heart Art project.

Tell readers a little about yourself and what your interests are in art therapy: I am passionate about international art therapy and helping traumatized children world-wide.  I grew up in Africa as a missionary kid and as a twelve-year-old, spent every waking moment at an orphanage in Zimbabwe where I helped care for forty-five infants and toddlers, including baby Aaron who died of AIDS. This experience changed my life forever and I later returned to Zimbabwe as a Fulbright scholar to carry out a study on the use of art with children orphaned by AIDS. The materials were basic; the art tasks simple; the results profound. Children who had watched their family members die of AIDS had no chance to express their grief and pain. Their emotional needs, left unaddressed, were overwhelming.  Through drawing and painting the orphans opened their hearts to me, pouring out stories of trauma, but also hope. This was my first experience with the power of art therapy and I have since completed a master’s degree with the hopes of moving back to Africa to establish long-term art therapy programs there. In recent years, I have continued my passion of traveling the world, providing art therapy for traumatized children on four continents. I have lived and worked with child tsunami survivors in Sri Lanka, street kids in Ethiopia, homeless children in Cleveland, genocide survivors in Rwanda and most recently children traumatized by war in the West Bank, Palestine. People often ask me, ‘how can you stand the suffering?’ To me, it is the greatest honor of my life to walk beside those in desperate need. It is my holy ground.

What do you believe are important considerations or emerging issues for the international art therapy community to pay attention to?  I believe that addressing cross-cultural issues is of the utmost importance when discussing international art therapy today. The need to offer healing to those in need, while, at the same time maintaining cultural sensitivity and awareness is critical.  I believe it is important to avoid imposing western standards or methodology without understanding the culture you are in. Some questions I ask myself when arriving in a new country for the first time are: “What are the needs of the people here and how can I work along-side them to bring healing?” How do they express grief culturally?” “What healing mechanisms are already in place within the culture, such as art expression, dance, or tribal rituals?”

I strongly emphasize working hand in hand with the local people as this impacts program success in the short-term and sustainability of the program in the long run.  It is always my primary aim to enter into a new culture with gentleness, sensitivity and openness, offering my skills, but not imposing them. As more and more art therapists begin to explore and travel our world, the need for this understanding is great.

What are some special art therapy projects you are working on in 2011?  My efforts right now are focused on supervising the children’s program at a residential homeless shelter in inner-city Cleveland. I find the work both challenging and exhilarating; the children some of the most remarkable I have known.

I am spending a lot of time writing and am working on preparing a book for publication which will include children’s drawings, paintings, art therapy sessions and personal stories from around the world. In addition, I am writing grant proposals and applying for funding to establish an ongoing art therapy/ grief center on the continent of Africa (hopefully in Zimbabwe). With over one million children orphaned by AIDS in the country of Zimbabwe alone, the need for art therapy and grief work is great. I am hoping to connect with partners, both locally and globally to join me in this venture.

How can people contact you or find out more about your work?  Feel free to email me at rebekahchilcote@gmail.com or connect with me on Facebook.