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  • Writer's pictureBuildaBridge Int'l

No one can build a bridge alone, will you lend a helping hand to BuildaBridge?

BuildaBridge is a small, nimble and impactful organization. When COVID-19 stopped the world in its tracks in 2020, BuildaBridge quickly pivoted from in-person to online programming in a matter of weeks. As our online workshops roared into action, it became harder to connect with the youth ordinarily participating in our program. Online school consumed them and while we kept in touch with our school-aged partnerships such as Rowan University, CAMcare and Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM), we connected to other human service providers and continued to run transformative art-making workshops with survivors of sex-trafficking, youth with housing insecurity, refugees and more. We ran professional development programming based on dance and bell hooks' seminal text, Teaching to Transgress and our most successful workshop to date, the Arts of Self-Care: Addressing Vicarious Trauma in Human Service Providers. The Arts of Self-Care reached around over 300 human service providers in the tri-county area. The Arts of Self-Care carried into 2021 and in its footsteps followed more powerful online programming steeped in self-exploration through imagery, word and musical improvisation. Through a grant from the Picasso Project, BuildaBridge worked with the South Philadelphia Elementary school, the Kirkbride school and provided a two-month songwriting program on social justice. The summer began with our first on-the-ground programming, an event to celebrate Make Music Day in the Point Breeze neighborhood and was followed by supporting World Refugee Day in person. The summer culminated with a songwriting boot camp for youth over two weeks that Rowan University sponsored. BuildaBridge also strengthened a longstanding relationship with HIAS, one of the largest refugee resettlement service provider, and began running a monthly music-based wellness program for refugee adults as well as piloted a movement and self-care workshop for refugee youth. As the leaves began to change, BuildaBridge participated in public programming sponsored by We Love Philly and Revolutionary Artists. Our BuildaBridge Restorative Artists helped plant seeds for more programming in North and Northeast Philadelphia. In late fall, BuildaBridge returned to working with sex-trafficking survivors and help provide therapeutic art-making to volunteers working with housing insecure Philadelphians. In addition to our work in Philadelphia, BuildaBridge also trained a Syrian Visual Artist to provide trauma-informed art-making to other Syrians seeking refuge in Gaziantep, Turkey. These are just a few of the many highlights of the last two years of BuildaBridge in action and there's so much more ahead! As the year comes to a close, we take in this moment to collect our thoughts and takeaways to once again rededicate BuildaBridge to enacting trauma-informed art-making to those in most need. But we could be doing better, much better.

Trauma is EVERYWHERE, especially in Philadelphia. Unrecognized generational, vicarious and direct trauma are manifesting in unprecedented gun-violence. Strengthen BuildaBridge's resolve to work with communities affected by violence.

COVID has scarred us, jeopardizing physical and mental health. BuildaBridge has the resources to profoundly affect how the arts benefit self-care. We can not take care of one another, if we do not take care of ourselves. BuildaBridge needs to scale-up its immensely successful, The Arts of Self-Care workshop.

More training for staff is necessary to meet emergency needs. BuildaBridge Restorative Teaching Artists have already begun to learn: Youth Mental Health First Aid, Skills for Psychological Recover and Psychological Aid. BuildaBridge's community-centered teaching artists need to become bastions of hope for communities recovering from disasters; this training is indispensable

While BuildaBridge manages to be effective with one full-time administrator, the organization desperately needs a staff member focused on communication, development and web design. Our growth depends on this. The current staffing situation is not sustainable.

The work of BuildaBridge cannot happen without you. Your gifts, words of encouragement and community connection situate BuildaBridge as an incredible force fostering and providing space and place for people to realize their resilience, strengthen their self-efficacy and validate the gifts of the present as harbingers of hope-infused futures. Now is the time to build bridges of peace and hope. Not tomorrow, today.

Help us to continue to touch the lives of Philadelphians, those around the region and beyond. Please make your end of year contribution to the future of BuildaBridge.

In hope,

Ami Yares Executive Director BuildaBridge International

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