Converse art therapy faculty and students traveled to Haiti during spring break to put their learning into practice. Geri Hurlbut, Coordinator of Converse’s Art Therapy program, and art therapy students were invited by the founders of Kings Hospital in Port au Prince, and Lumiere Ministries, a medical mission program, to train their medical staff in the use of art therapy to reduce suffering and enhance wellness. The group also had the opportunity to work with children at local orphanages during the trip. Converse is partnering with art therapy professor Gaelynn Wolf-Bordonaro and students from Emporia State University in this initiative.
It is the kind of hands-on experience that makes an incredible difference not only to those receiving support through the service project but also to students as they see the difference they make in the lives of others by applying their classroom learning.
Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) continue to be reported even months after the initial earthquake. The Converse team is modeling a sustainable program in which existing caregivers can use non-interpretive art therapy to reduce symptoms of trauma and foster hope.
“Research has shown that art therapy can reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety frequently experienced by survivors of natural disasters,” said Hurlbut. “Images give us a way to express the inexpressible and help us tell our stories without the limitations of language. Often images created by survivors provide evidence of the resilience of humankind and illustrate hope for survivors in their respective situations. Art Therapy is a resource that is not readily available to Haitians, as there are no known training programs in Haiti. In the wake of the earthquake, many educational institutions have struggled to regain their presence.”
The team’s goals for this trip were to assess specific needs, identify available resources, and provide initial education and development of sustainable skills. Converse hopes to arrange subsequent trips to offer continued support, additional training, and assess the progress and success of the initial training efforts.