The Ragamuffin Project

The Ragamuffin Project is committed to the relief of emotional pain and psychological damage in children, adults and communities through Creative Arts Therapy. We work together with those who bring such relief to people who suffer around the world.
May 26, 2015

Working with children living with HIV in Cambodia

"You have helped me find my light in my heart again" (Young woman recieving Arts Therapy)

'Throughout my therapeutic work this year, I have been working with young orphans who have had HIV since they were born. They were referred to Ragamuffin to receiving our arts therapy service as they are individuals with complex family backgrounds. They have experienced many problems and have challenges with attachments, depression, behavioral issues, social stigmatization, unprocessed grief, and poor quality of life. Some were abandoned by relatives or rejected by friends, teachers at schools or by some people in their communities even though there have been a lot of media and health programs to promote awareness on HIV transmission. Apparently, for most people with HIV they still struggle with both social and self-stigma and these young people feel like they are holding a deep shame with an invisible emotional wound throughout their lives. As the result, they feel their world is "small, dark, and chaotic in which no one could understand and see them”. So our work is about creating a safe therapeutic relationship in which these young people can learn to feel safe again, to feel valued, and deeply heard. 

During the arts therapy process, the young people found the process like a sacred, personal and healing journey to their heart, and soul which enabled them to find their truth, there deep selves, new courage, and hope in order to move on in life or to navigate a way to discover loving kindness and compassion toward themselves and others. The art forms and other creative processes were used as therapeutic tools to support them emotionally and spiritually which provided a gentle flowing and natural way to express and reflect on difficulties and life experiences. Ultimately, they found their lives getting better, they were able to feel braver and more able to cope with the challenges of their illness and share their deeper pain and distress in side through their art and with me as a therapist. On behalf of these young people I would like to express my gratitude to all the supporters from and through Global Giving that help to make these life changing experiences possible' It is so important young people on the edges of life can recieve this therapeutic support'. (Serey Samchet – Director of Ragamuffin Cambodia and Senior Arts Therapist

Young people living in Cambodia experience so many challenges and demonstrate such a degree of resilience. Ragamuffin Cambodia continues to support those who are in crisis, are marginalised and are in need of expressive and creative outlets for their pain and distress. We also support those who self harm or live with very destructive family and social contexts, creative arts therapy is a powerful process to support a young person to express violent or destructive energies safelyas a result of their own feelings and experiences inside and also  what they witness and experience around them. We continue to support staff teams and organisations who work with the most vulnerable through training, staff care and supervision programmes. We believe the vital resource of those who care for, nurture, protect and support others, especially needs support, encouragement and opportunity to reflect and be strengthened. Ragamuffin Cambodia are providing a series of intensive staff care programmes in partnership with the Chab Dai coalition Cambodia and will also be running its next professional development training in June on Arts therapy and conflict transformation as part of our on-going services.

Thank you again for your continued support of this important work in Cambodia and the beneficiaries its serves.

Feb 20, 2015

On the day of love in Cambodia

“On Valentine's day, we tend to look for love from our loved ones and other people, but we always forget ourselves. For me, Valentine's day is the day that reminds all of us of universal love and the day that enables us to reflect on what we can do to express love, gratitude, and forgiveness to one's self, our beloved persons, and other beings”. Bouyheak Lim, Arts Therapist Ragamuffin Cambodia.

Cambodia was recently described by the Washington Post as being “The country where Valentine’s Day is the most dangerous day of the year” for its high incidence of rape and non-consensual sex. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/02/12/the-country-where-valentines-day-is-the-most-dangerous-day-of-the-year/

In a rapidly evolving city culture where traditional values and an emergent youth culture are trying to navigate the complexity of change. Finding positive creative channels for expression, self-awareness and choice becomes so important for young people.

Bouyheak Lim from Ragamuffin's ‘Be yourself’ - Arts Therapy Team created and ran a workshop to celebrate love in a different way on St Valentine's Day. “I wanted to provide an opportunity for young adults to use creativity to discover more about who they are and how they really want to live their lives. Discovering strengths, qualities and positive decision making through engaging in an in-depth creative and therapeutic process. This resulted in participants discovering more about who they are and what they can be in the world from the inside out. Creativity naturally empowered them, building esteem, confidence and fostering the skills to cope with the complexity of life decisions. It was such a success we are going to meet on a regular basis“.

In the Be-Yourself Arts Therapy Clinic – children and young people referred to a therapist face a myriad of complex problems from living with HIV, or having suffered abuse or the loss of a significant person, through to managing challenging family and social circumstances. Behaviour is so often a symptom of underlying distress and is so easily misunderstood. Giving these young people the opportunity to explore safely and gently through creativity the disturbing and distressing feelings they have helps to mediate destructive symptoms from challenging behavior acted out to self-harm.

“The arts therapy clinic is a critically important service to both prevent more problems whilst provide specialist treatment and support for those with more severe problems” Serey Samchet Senior Arts Therapist.

Ragamuffin’s music programme Songkites is working on an awareness raising campaign in collaboration with the Be-yourself project to promote positive messages about mental health and well-being for young people in Cambodia. A collective song is being written, recorded and a short film created by young people voicing their thoughts about what it means to ‘Be Yourself’ as a young person in Cambodia. This programme aims to raise confidence self-esteem and awareness.

Ragamuffin continues to also provide training and support for professionals who work with those who suffer. In March we will be providing a training course exploring loss and grief called Bitter Sweet Sorrow.

Learning how (and what) to grieve. Discovering what it is we deeply value and the impact and meaning of loss in our lives

Every loss is to be acknowledged. Every investment made matters. To lose someone or something dear to us is to lose something at the very heart of us, part of what makes our lives meaningful and fulfilled.

Grieving is so important. When the process of grief is blocked we too can become blocked; our pain is then displaced into a range of symptoms both physical and emotional/psychological. It impacts our confidence, our relationships, our personal sense of purpose, vitality and vision.

Grief is as complex as the experience. The loss of an elderly parent in a peaceful death is one we may have had time to prepare for. Sudden tragedy such as, for example, the collapsing of a bridge at the Cambodian water festival in 2010, leaves no time to prepare; nor does assault, suicide or a tragic accident. From wars and natural disasters to the loss of livelihood, every loss and grief, both individual and collective is unique and rarely follows a linear trajectory.

Learning to grieve and to value grief is crucial to psychological and physical well-being.

This is the subject of our training course. We will be using the gentle, powerful art of creativity to guide us in our explorations through an individual and collective reflective process. We will also consider how such insights and therapeutic techniques will apply to our work with others who are in the midst of grief.

Therapeutic training builds capacity of those working in the psychological sector in Cambodia and continues to strengthen the network of partners and multi-disciplinary responses to caring for those who suffer.

On behalf of our clients and the team here, Ragamuffin Cambodia would like to take the opportunity to deeply thank the generosity of supporters donating through Global Giving who are enabling this service to continue to benefit children and young people in Cambodia.

Nov 18, 2014

Ragamuffin's Arts Therapy Service responding to endemic trauma and violence in Cambodia

Ragamuffin's Arts Therapy Service - Be-yourself - responding to endemic trauma and violence in Cambodia's young people.

Violence against children in Cambodia: breaking the silence

“When we arrive at school and it is early and we are alone, it is quiet and we are afraid…”, admits a 13-year-old Cambodian girl. School should be a familiar and welcoming place; however, findings from the first-of-its-kind Cambodia's Violence Against Children Survey, coordinated by UNICEF Cambodia, reveal that many children are subjected to violence at the hands of people they know and should trust in places that should feel safe.

More than half of children experience physical violence before 18 years of age, with more than 20% facing emotional violence, and 5% sexual abuse. Parents, neighbours, family members, and friends are responsible, and many children remain silent, with 40% of girls and less than 6% of boys seeking help after sexual abuse. One 16—17-year-old girl explained that she did not tell anyone because the abuse was “embarrassing and shameful”, adding that “we are afraid that others will stop being our friends, or liking us; they will hate us, criticise and scorn us”.

The violence affects the children's health, causing mental distress and suicidal thoughts, and increases the likelihood of contracting sexually transmitted infections through later unsafe sexual behaviour.

What can be done about this appalling situation? The report provides recommendations in four key areas: prevention, response, laws and policies, and monitoring and evaluation.

(Above article cited from: The Lancet, Volume 384, Issue 9954, Page 1550, 1 November 2014 doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61971-1)

How are we responding to this?

For many young people in Cambodia facing such complex psychological trauma healing takes time and begins with a young person finding a person they feel safe enough to begin to share their experiences.

The Be-Yourself Arts Therapy team working at Ragamuffin provide therapeutic support for young people in crisis, so many of whom have never had the opportunity to feel safe enough so as to begin to trust again – to be listened to and heard. Enabling a young person to feel safe, respected and valued are fundamental principles and foundational in the team’s approach to psychological care. The creative arts provide a safe, gentle and empowering approach to enabling young people to share their story. They don’t have to talk directly about their experiences unless they want to and so their creative code serves to create a sense of safety and emotional distance from experiences that would otherwise overwhelm them. The process engages the young person’s inner creative resource and naturally begins to restore and build their sense of value, self-confidence and self-esteem. This enables a young person to begin to acknowledge and realise their own sense of worth and resilience, and this becomes the first step in them being enabled to journey towards looking at deeper issues of trauma and violence.

Eight young people came for an initial assessment session at Ragamuffin Boathouse in partnership with M’Lop Russey an NGO working to enable young adult orphans to transition into community living from institutionalised care that is gradually being phased out in Cambodia in favour of more community based responses to supporting vulnerable young people. Through a creative therapeutic process the therapist worked with the group to enable them to feel safe to begin to share their experiences. Here is some of their feedback:

 

‘The first time in my life at Ragamuffin Boathouse

“It was inspirational today being at Ragamuffin.”

“It was the first time in my life I have felt supported and heard”

“I made a different kind of friend through this picture making … we are the same age and after all we have been through …. they understood me… I felt so understood by everyone today … I feel so relieved”

“I have never had the chance to look at good things in my life… everything has been bad, really bad, so I feel bad too about me its like all the flowers were torn apart until there was nothing growing anymore – I could only see what was lost and destroyed… nothing had any hope or life and I … didn’t want to live too….”

So far, when he thought of himself, he could only see the problems and what he has lost in his life. This morning, in the group was the first time for him to begin to reflect on who he is and what he is really worth. Sharing this in the group through creativity became so empowering and supportive. Everyone in the group began to recognize themselves for who they really are and also begin to see each other. “It made me feel not on my own anymore”. The group began to report feeling less isolated, more understood and respected. (Ragamuffin Arts Therapist)

“I have never thought that you would feel the same way too… I always felt so alone”

The process enabled them to begin to restore a sense of well-being, inner confidence and resilience that will enable them to draw nearer to deeper issues of challenge in sessions to follow. Together, through the healing power of creativity and relationship - hope breathes hope.

Thank you for your ongoing support of Ragamuffin’s Arts Therapy Service for vulnerable young people and children in crisis.

Please contact us if you would like to know more information about our services at projectmanager@ragamuffinboathouse.com

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