As part of The Red Pencil Philippines STEP 3 humanitarian mission, The Red Pencil collaborated with Tiwala kids & Communities, working closely with children from underprivileged backgrounds who were displaced because of Typhoon Haiyan. J is one of the children who was offered Art Therapy sessions as part of the mission.
Every morning, for two hours, over the course of a week, a session took place. J is an 8 year old boy from Victoria Village whose Mother works in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. J’s grandmother is the one who takes care of him and his cousin. Due to there being so many children to look after, J is at a disadvantage and is neglected. The lack of support at home meant that J, at the age of 8, is only able to write his name. After seeing J’s various moods, from running around and wrestling to being tired and lethargic, he diagnosed with hyperactive and attention seeking behaviour. When he was allowed to draw and paint, the paper would not be the only colourful art piece, his body would be covered as well. (figure 1)
The second session focused on creating a story, where each group member took turns drawing something on a sheet of paper and then silently passed it around. J managed to remain silent, but this was not easy, he tapped his feet and table, painted his nails with art material, and drew on the table. When it was his turn to draw on the paper, he put his head on the table and refused to participate. Finally, as the paper made several rounds, J eventually added a drawing. He was very private about his work, and would hide it with his arms from other group members.
In the third session, the group members were given an image of an animal, and told to re-create their environments. J couldn’t help himself but draw on his face with permanent marker rather than on his paper. When the individuals were asked to switch their papers among the group and adapt their animal to the new environment, J switched his background with another child’s when no one was watching. J’s need to switch his background may be related to his upbringing – switching caregivers. Figure 2 shows J’s monkey in its environment. He has drawn a little figure for his monkey to look after and care for.
In session 4, the children were provided with material to build their city, Legazpi. J was more interested in covering his hand with glue and chasing the other children around. The group was then instructed to create an image of themselves, but once again J seemed more intrigued by the foam stickers than the task at hand. However, the final artwork appears lively, energetic, colourful and hectic, an accurate representation of who J is as a person (figure 3).
The fifth session consisted mostly of J wrestling and running around, but he was able to settle down when he needed to present his construction. Figure 4 shows the city with different elements that the group constructed. Towards the end of the session, after being instructed that they could take their work a part, J and a few other children took joy in ripping it up. There seemed to be a common emotion of anger where these children lived. Some of the children’s villages were often hit by typhoons, and they were often relocated temporarily.This safe space gave them an environment to release their aggression.
The opportunity to be creative in the group, as well as many of the other outcomes, there was a clear understanding of J’s behaviour. Thanks to a group dynamic and him finding ways to relate to the group, J had created a safe space where he felt accepted, even for his negative feelings. J also managed to discover a way of expressing his frustrations and anger, helping him heal and create a path rid of positive emotions rather than negative ones.