“Creativity takes courage” – Artist Henri Matisse. Matisse’s words are a way of life at Save a Child’s Heart, where I see courage every day. The children at Save a Child’s Heart come from foreign countries to undergo intensive cardiac procedures and during their time in Israel, they live at the SACH house.
My name is Michal and I am an art therapy intern at Save a Child’s Heart. My role is to help these children and their mothers through art materials to make a connection with one another and with themselves. While many of these children do not come from the same place, share a verbal language, or culture, art has a way of shedding differences and forming a creative conversation. I will be working with these children and mothers one-on-one and in group sessions.
Coming into this house, I did not know what to expect. I did not expect to see children playing and smiling, children with funny personalities, and most of all, children that long to creatively and playfully do what they do the best: be themselves.
One of the first group art activities I worked on was with natural materials. I cut leaves from trees and dipped them in a primer gesso, so that each leaf could serve as a surface for the children to paint on. I was nervous about setting up the activity because I did not know if the activity would suit the different age ranges and cultures in the house. I gave each child a brush and paint and stood back to observe. The children started painting excitedly. They took their time painting and were eager to share with one another. Some of the mothers came over to see the works of art and to give the children praise.
I watched how the usually noisy and active house became quiet and concentrated with a different energy. Each child was slowly painting his/her leaf and even asking for more leaves. This was one of the first times I saw the majority of the children interact in one activity and praise one another on their leaves. Art has a power of bringing these children together and still emphasizing the therapeutic differences between the children. Each leaf reflects the different personalities and feelings of each child. As a whole these leaves together come as a colorful array of experience that these children feel being here.
Next week, I plan on hanging up the children’s creations from a tree in the yard with them. It is my hope that each week after “Kulala” (nap) time, we will do a group art activity that will bring the children together, while still celebrating their individuality. With each leaf, it is clear to me that while creativity takes courage, the courage of these children is unmeasured and to be learned from.
The journey these children are going through is extremely hard. They face many difficulties not only physically, but emotionally; being far from their homes, in a foreign country with languages and people they are not familiar with, brings up a lot of feelings. It is my hope to individually connect to them through a creative process; to share their hardships but to also celebrate their courage.