I Can Dance (Puedo Bailar) By Greta Bro

 

Voces Arts and Healing

Voces Arts and Healing is a self-organized, volunteer group of expressive arts therapists, psychotherapists and educators who have all worked with complex trauma, We are dedicated to addressing the growing humanitarian crisis facing immigrant children and their families. We believe that the arts can be a powerful tool to give voice to and address the short and long-term effects of trauma.

We are working toward supporting the mental health of immigrants and addressing the complex needs of children and families currently experiencing detention, custody, incarceration and confinement through arts-based trauma informed therapeutic experiences. We are creating opportunities for amplifying the narratives of these marginalized communities though offering ongoing creative projects, assessment, evaluation, support and documentation. 

Our approach is based on integrative methods and current research on trauma informed approaches that utilize the arts. Current literature emerging in the field of trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSS) is pointing to the fact that engagement in the arts (music, dance, visual art, poetry, drama) can bring balance to the nervous system where trauma is most affected and can lead to a deepening sense of focus, and calm through neurological balance and a felt sense of embodied unity.

The application of creative and expressive arts used in trauma treatment demonstrates that the arts have the capacity to bring about changes in outlook, mood, attitudes and emotions in order to bring a stronger sense of resiliency and hope while reducing the effects of long-term stress.

The original vision for Voces began with Greta Bro in June 2019, when she became deeply distressed upon hearing and reading news coverage of the brutal treatment of asylum seekers and their children by the US government. She contacted her friend and colleague Dr. Mitchell Kossak, the former president of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association and current professor at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA.

They began an extensive conversation about the key role expressive arts therapies can play in helping mitigate the short and long term effects of compounded trauma, especially in children. Mitchell then launched an inspired networking campaign to see who among the national expressive arts therapy community, would be willing to volunteer trauma informed care to refugees living in shelters in the US and Mexico. Greta teamed up with Sarah Mendelsohn and began to build this website.

A core team evolved in July, and after meeting weekly for two months on Zoom calls, team member Dr. Kelvin Ramirez, who is also a core faculty member of the Expressive Therapies Division of Lesley University, began making inquiries about bringing a group of us down to work with asylum seekers in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Kelvin had already made several trips to the region himself and made a connection with Enrique Valenzuela, head of COESPO, the civil protection services in Chihuahua State which promotes and coordinates the city population, the right to health protection, education, work, housing, the equality of men and women, and the protection and economic and social well-being of families. 

Enrique is also the director of Ciudad Juarez’s Centro de Atención a Migrantes, a migrant transition agency operated by the Chihuahua state government. Kelvin also contacted Lucca De Alva who works for Organización Mundial por la Paz (World Peace Organization) and the Servicios Educativos del Estado de Chihuahua (Educational Services of the State of Chihuahua), that currently provide services to refugees/asylum seekers in Juarez shelters.

In December 2019 Voces Arts and Healing practitioners began traveling to Mexico in teams of as many as ten practitioners, to work with refugees in nine shelters in Juarez and begin training programs in the region. Even during COVID we have continued to offer creative projects and therapeutic support to the staff who are working with asylum seekers and their families. 

The You Tube video of my song, I Can Dance (Puedo Bailar) on the page to the right, is a video I made long distance during the pandemic, with immigrant children at the shelters in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. I made it with the help of Sarah Mendelsohn, sound engineer Sergio Mendoza and musicians from Brazil and the United States. It is an example of our ongoing projects at Voces Arts and Healing.