When bad things happen, it can take a while to get over the pain and feel safe again. But with the art therapy and support, children can speed up recovery. Emotional and psychological trauma has left children struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away. It also leaves children feeling, disconnected, and unable to trust other people.
When her parents separated Grace was just 7 years this made her feel depressed, lose interest in hobbies and interests. This was a very traumatic experience that left her feeling overwhelmed and isolated. The separation became overwhelmingly stressful for Grace. She had to live through the disturbing event itself, witnessed it, that brought in confusing, and frightening emotions.
“My mother said we had to move house which might mean changing schools. Them splitting up didn’t just mean that my father doesn’t live with us anymore; our whole lives are different. This was hard for me.”
The unpleasant symptoms of living with one parent in a single room in Kibera slums on the outskirts of Nairobi became difficult for me and my mother. Through the [Healthy Household] program, one of the programs at TICAH which my mother is part of, my mother decided to bring me to the art program to support and reassure me. I was really a traumatized child. It was really difficult because my parents no longer loved each other and were now living apart, I felt as if my world had been turned upside down. I was upset and with little support to help me understand the whole situation.” She narrates
For Grace to heal and regain her self-esteem, the art program used coping tips, to help her manage symptoms of traumatic stress, rebuild her sense of safety, and move on from the event. She joined the program in 2014 and since then, her life has tremendously improved. Compared to when she enrolled, a timid child who preferred staying away from people and shied from speaking to people, she is now a jovial and playful girl who is preparing to do her final primary school exam this year.
TICAH’s Children’s Art program uses art as a therapeutic tool to engage children. It is a creative and engaging approach that helped Grace identify inner conflicts, engender self-esteem and self-awareness, reduced stress, and rebuild an overall physical, emotional, and social sense of well-being. The journey has been valuable for treating children, who often lack the social or verbal capabilities to express their thoughts and emotions, particularly when they have experienced trauma.
“I have been able to heal from that painful experience and with the help of my mentors and facilitators, I am a TICAH champion, now able to share my journey with other children and support them to heal. I have learned to be honest, care for others, and to be responsible for myself. I have reached many children with information and values that I learned from calendar discussions. I thank TICAH for where I am today and teaching me things I did not know. I will continue supporting TICAH forever” She adds, smiling.