Ever since Donald Trump’s executive order on refugees and immigration put the future plans of many of the refugees we serve in doubt, our psychosocial support programming has become more necessary than ever. On Sunday, January 29, we held the first session of our new arts workshop, which aims to encourage emotional expression through creativity.

The group was started by Pam Robertshaw, a nurse who works in CRP’s neighborhood, and her friend Sara Soudani, a Jordanian artist. Pam wanted to complement her medical work through providing women and children with a creative space. “I realized that many of the refugees, as well as medical care, need activities – emotional and social support,” Pam said.

Together, Pam and Sara developed the idea of the group and their plans for it going forward. “I am an artist, and I think art is very, very important for our emotions, and for us to let out any sadness or happiness, or for us to remember when we have the brush in our hands what we love the most,” Sara said. She added, “What I’m aiming for is for women to let out their emotions on the brush and through colors and paints.”

In the group’s first session, the women and children decorated cups and candleholders and painted pictures. One girl showed off her candleholder, saying that it was fun to have an opportunity to draw. The children were asked to think about which animal they would like to be and to paint that animal. One child drew a lion, because he wanted to be strong. Others drew birds, because they wanted to fly, or cats, because pet cats receive love and attention.

“Today was so messy,” Sara said after the workshop, “but I enjoyed seeing them being messy because they were laughing and letting out emotions.”

Besides the art component of the group, Sara plans to have sessions focused on cooking and on healthy lifestyles. When the weather is warm, she plans to help the children plant seedlings.

Though the food assistance and fuel vouchers CRP provides are essential, especially during the cold winter weather, psychosocial programming is a necessary complement, and we’re excited to see this new group progress.