Students, faculty and alumnae from the Art Therapy and Counseling Department at Ursuline College are currently on a service trip in El Salvador. Read their blog below.
Final Blog: El Salvador Service Trip 2013 We began this service learning trip with the idea to immerse ourselves in another culture to see and be seen. It was our premise to experience the world as interconnected, and become more global citizens in the world. We hoped that this experience would be eye opening and that we could bring some joy to the children of Santo Domingo School in Chiltiupan, El Salvador. This experience did prove to be eye opening and more! The faculty, alumni and students were blessed with an “over the moon” reception of gratitude, made evident by multiple hugs, kisses and excitement in all the art and creative activities. The people we came in contact with were warm, authentic, and earnest in learning from all of us, as we were eager to learn from them.
The Ursuline students, alumni and staff quickly picked up Spanish phrases that made communication more viable. At times it was a comedic play of crazy charades in hopes of being understood. Nevertheless, love is a universal language, and it was felt in the students outreach and the heartfelt response. We successfully worked with approximately 150 children, from ages 5-17, painting, drawing, and creating all manner of craft projects. In addition, 6 murals were painted on the school walls with the support of the teens at Santo Domingo School, and this left a lasting mark for the children to remember our time together.
Adding to the art making and work at the school, we visited extreme rural areas around Chiltiupan to get a better world view of the grim reality of poverty and its effects on individuals. We even went to a very small school on another mountain top and made a surprise visit. We went about entertaining these shocked children with the “hokie pokie” and then proceeded to teach an art therapy lesson of feeling expression. These particular children indicated to us how grateful they were for our “drop in” visit letting us know that they were honored because they are often forgotten about because of their remote location.
Toward the end of our trip, we toured the capital and were able to see the mural and memorial wall honoring the 75,000 people killed in the civil war. Sister Dorothy Kazel and the 3 other church women were listed on this wall, along with countless others who lost their lives fighting for freedom.
At the end of the day, we have been given a bigger gift than we could ever have brought. The gift was one of gratitude. No matter how poor any of the native El Salvadoran people were, there was always enough joy for a smile and an invitation to sit and talk, or come into their home, no matter how humble. Surely our time was well spent in the service of humanity, and as we helped, we received tenfold.
Saturday April 20 We just finished a beautiful breakfast while looking at the ocean. Heading to the airport soon. We all have mixed feelings of joy and sadness. Our hearts have been opened in new ways and we will forever be grateful for this experience.
Friday April 19 Our last day in El Salvador today. We are heading to the city of San Salvador to go to the art museum and the market; then some time at the beach!
Thursday April 18 Our last day at the school. Bittersweet. The children and the students have been enriched by this experience. A 5th grader in Cleveland had donated all her stuffed animals for our trip. We gave them out yesterday and it was axing to witness the excitement and joy!
Our students are a marvel and have taken the voice, vision and values ideals into practice. They have been so generous of heart and spirit, truly amazing.
Wednesday April 17 Monday was an exciting day. Children at Santo Domingo School were overjoyed with our presence and art materials. We worked hard at practicing Spanish phrases and giving out lots of hugs! Students really seemed to gain experience in multicultural awareness and communication. We are off again this morning for a 9 hour day! Adios!
Sunday April 14 Arrived Saturday. After the memorial, Sr. Rose pulled to the side of the road for some cool refreshing coconut juice. The woman at the stand whacked the coconuts with a machete. She put straws into the top of the coconut so we could drink the juice. Later she sliced them open and we ate the coconut meat! Delicious!
At the start of every endeavor it is important to ask, “Why are we doing this, and why do we want to do this?” We as students and faculty at Ursuline College wish to come to El Salvador to help those in need. After searching for different locations to provide Art Therapy and Counseling for people of the world who need help, it appeared that El Salvador was one of the best choices due to Ursuline College and Ursuline Sisters connection to El Salvador in providing service work and help over the last 30+ years.
Because we are Art Therapists, we also know that art has no barriers and a common language is not needed for the expressive healing of art making and art psychotherapy to be of benefit. As faculty and members of the department of Graduate Art Therapy and Counseling, we also wanted to find a way for our students to become global helpers and healers, and to be able to see the world in a more realistic light. This reality will help to create a mature and seasoned therapist in the world, wherever the student ultimately chooses to practice counseling and art therapy. To see and be seen are core needs in every human beings life, we are at the very least hoping to provide a lens of understanding and deep compassion for those in El Salvador who we work with by really “seeing” the essence of human suffering, courage, and resilience.
We wish to serve the children in El Salvador who feel disenfranchised and unempowered. Those who have experienced loss, grief, trauma, stress, depression, hopelessness and despair are our target group; however, all are welcome to experience art therapy and counseling groups, sessions, and projects as Sr. Rose and Sr. Irma see fit. Those who are attending from the U.S. include students Mari Ballentine, Stephanie Ferenc, Diane Fleisch-Hughes, Rachel Lyman, Steve Macek, Emma Pitchford, Nema Saleem, Brittany Spaulding, Sharon Stupp, Ashley Tilberg, Nicole Topp, UC alum Areka Foster, and faculty Megan Seaman, Katherine Jackson and Sister Kathleen Burke.