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  • Writer's pictureBuildaBridge Int'l


A simple act of art-making is all it takes to bring out the hero in a child.

Resilience shows up in all sorts of places and BuildaBridge participants tend to be some of the most resilient. At any time, a BuildaBridge participant could have faced forced displacement as a refugee; escaped domestic abuse; or just trying to grow up amid the all-too-pervasive gun violence in Philadelphia. Everyone who steps through BuildaBridge's threshold has a story of survival; of victory and loss; and one to unfold still. 

"When I smile, I'm brave too! I'm drawing a flashlight. In my country, the electricity can go out and you have to wait five minutes for it to come back on. I'm going to draw a carrot too. Carrots make me brave!"  

This summer resilience appeared in Z's artwork (we've changed M's name to protect her identity). "Z" took part in BuildaBridge's Yoga & Visual Arts Summer Program hosted by the University of Pennsylvania Netter Center for Community Partnerships. For seven weeks, M participated in trauma-informed art-making facilitated by BuildaBridge Restorative Teaching Artists Jahwula Seapoe and Frances Quinlan. Jah and Frances's programming gravitated towards heroes found in our surroundings and also the hero that lives in us. The drawing above captures creativity and imagination's essence that magnified M's strength and gave a space for it to manifest through an act of self-expression. We do not know what M endured before she came to the United States and in the moment of her drawing, a bit of her story unfolds. She is seen, she is heard and she is appreciated. 

The environment surrounding the emergence of Z's drawing begins with Z feeling comfortable and confident within BuildaBridge's pedagogical framework, the Safe Space Model. BaB Teaching Artists use music, affirmation and mutual understanding to support a child's growth and development. In this case, Z answers the questions of what makes her brave and through her visual and written answer, we get a glimpse of Z and how Z feels about herself. For a brief moment, Z transforms from a mild-mannered Philadelphia kiddo to a hero finding her way through the darkness with no more than a flashlight and carrot at her side. 

It's not a given that these experiences happen regularly for children in Philadelphia. Direct, vicarious and generational trauma weave through Philadelphia on an equal level, if not more, than the ubiquitous Philadelphia professional sports fandom. EVERY child deserves a safe space to explore and discover their voice through art-making. A simple creative act changes the brain and body, relieving stress, increasing joy and providing a ripple of positivity for the child, the facilitator and those within and beyond the perimeter of the learning space.  

BuildaBridge tireless advocates for more art-making. Art-making is a healing salve and catalyst for hope.

You need it. I need it.  We need art-making and hope more than ever before. 

So let me ask you again, "Could you be a " flashlight, a carrot or something more for BuildaBridge in 2024?!" 

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