Beautiful Me - Eating Disorders, The Image Complex and Notions of Beauty and Attraction for Men and Women.
“If we can only look at each person’s natural inner beauty, before looking at the physical beauty, it’s hope, like finding the light to light the darkness. Ragamuffin’s training course has made me feel valued again. It makes me want to continue my life., It has given me hope – a hope that I know I will now give this same degree of care and compassion to the young people in my care” (Course participant, social worker & educator)
Professional development training and development of clinical therapy services for young people
Young people in Cambodia, like young people anywhere in the world, are trying to make sense of who they are, and how to be who they are. In a rapidly changing urban climate, where development is in constant change, young people are facing the complex challenges of being increasingly exposed to international and Asian media’s notions and images of external beauty. Young people are having to navigate and quickly learn to manage the transition from a more traditional cultures’ notion of beauty towards a more contemporary context. There is no let-up from the pressures of materialism and a socially imbibed construct of self-image. This exists alongside ongoing challenges of poverty and societal challenges that impact well-being and resilience.
Almost every young person who is referred to our Arts Therapy service faces issues of self-esteem, confidence, self-image along with deeper stressors and troubles that have a more long lasting impact.It is these very issues of domestic violence, abuse, trafficking and chronic poverty that are compounding the very real challenge of transition in a changing climate for young people.
Ragamuffin seeks to design continuing professional development programmes (CPD) for our Clinical Arts Therapy team, organisational partners and the wider psychosocial community in Cambodia to support, equip and raise awareness of such pertinent issues. The aim is to enable Cambodian professionals to become more aware of the underlying issues and the range of coping strategies a young person may utilize to manage life. Such ongoing training increases the capacity of therapists and caregivers to effectively and compassionate respond to the needs of young people in distress. It also enables them to ask for help and gain support when they feel out of their depth or at the limits of their competence.
In response to these issues Ragamuffin provide a rolling programme fo CPD training workshops. One example is Beautiful Me, a 5-day Professional Development Course for Clinicians and Carers on Eating Disorders, The Image Complex and Notions of Beauty and Attraction for Men and Women.
The course was attended by therapists, educators, social workers and professionals including those who work in beauty industry in Cambodia.
On the course we explored:
Our weight, and whether we see ourselves, and others see us as attractive or not, which matters to so many of us. We know that both genders are affected by this pressure, but perhaps women suffer the greater demand to look the part.
There is growing anecdotal evidence that suggests that young Cambodian women are developing traits of what was once thought to be a Western disease; Eating Disorders: Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia are on the rise.
The workshop flyer asked, “What gives rise to this distorted perception of the self - A ‘Hall of Mirrors’ conspiracy where the mind attacks the body? What deep sorrow, or unmet need would lead someone to such obsession?” and further stated, “
Reassurance that, “you are beautiful just the way you are”, will unlikely be enough to put the mind at peace and ease the growing distress”.
In a country where understanding of this is at present limted we aimed to address, “What is an Eating Disorder? What causes it? What can be done to help prevent young women, and sometimes men, from developing the symptoms, or treat those who have full-blown Bulimia or Anorexia Nervosa?”
In this training workshop we worked toward a deepening understanding of what motivates those with eating disorders, and considered our reactions to those who suffer from them. We worked together in experiential contextualised dramatic role plays to increase our capacity to respond to the underlying issues that can result in the development of a potentially life threatening illness.
The course combined a creative study of the subject with creative approaches to working with those we come into contact with, who are either already unwell, or showing signs of developing an eating disorder.
“This course is so important because this subject is invisible - people don't know about it. People have eating disorders but we can't identify it, there has been no education here, no research and nothing or little in the way of treatment programs. To be part of this course helped me to begin to consider the issue, and realise the number of people who aresuffering from this issue in Cambodia. As a therapist I am now more aware of what eating disorders are.,It has increased my capacity and confidence in being able to do assessments and how to help young people who are facing this crisis. It has also helped me to consider what support network is needed for anyone who has a severe eating disorder and how we can begin to find the appropriate resources to support such a person. It is such a gap in Cambodia to even consider these issues - it is so very important, many others need to learn about these issues.” Serey Samchet – Senior Arts Therapist – Be-yourself Project, Ragamuffin Cambodia.
“Throughout out the course I have learnt that there is so much more to eating disorders than just the thought of being skinny. Now I have a much deeper understanding. When we talked about what's inside of us, and emphasized this more than just looking at what's on the outside, we found so much beauty and this began to shine through everyone on the course.
I have learnt that often, when people change their outside appearances drastically, they are trying to protect, control or hide something inside of them that is so painful or distressing.
After the course I'm much more aware. I will approach my clients differently after getting this knowledge. I also think that my eyes will be more open to the signs that people with lower self-esteem or the potential to develop an eating disorder show. I will try to help them right away instead of waiting for it to get worse and worse.
I need to see those invisible people and help them. I know how I can see them more clearly now and am much more ready and able to respond” (Course participant, Social Worker)
“As a Cambodian educator, I never knew what an Eating Disorder was. However, during the course we explored the cultural issues for young Cambodians and I remembered an old novel we were all familiar with. It's a tragedy about a young woman whose circumstances of family conflict and lost love resulted in her gradually stopping eating to a point at which she died. I never thought that it could be a sickness of the heart which could lead people to death.
I now have learnt so much more about what this really is, how it can develop, what causes it, and what can be done to help prevent young women and men from developing a very serious illness.
I see this issue in the young people in our care who experience so much pressure from the media and each other to look a certain way. Some of them weigh themselves 4, 5, 6 times a day. It’s a real a problem this issue of self-image and beauty.
I can now begin to help them to be more aware and develop a positive relationship to inner beauty and self-confidence. We can also begin to recognize the reaction or behaviour of those who have, or who might be at risk of developing a more serious issue or illness. For those where that is the case, we can take them to get professional help and support – everyone who cares for young people in Cambodia needs to understand these important issues”(Course Participant, Education Leader).
I. The Overview of Be-yourself Arts Therapy Project: by Serey Samchet (Be-Yourself Arts Therapist and Project Coordinator)
Be-yourself developed from Ragamuffin’s Arts Therapy Clinic as a Khmer led project in 2013. The aim of this project is to bring healing, nurture, honor, and celebration to the lives of the most vulnerable children and young people in Cambodia. The project is so passionate to offer creative arts therapy as a natural and powerful healing process to individuals and group of young people and adults who are suffered by psychological problems in order to discover their essence of who they are, their connectedness with others, their ability to heal from traumatic experiences and grow, and to lead a good quality of life. Our project strongly believes in the power of arts therapy in enabling people to be themselves, to transform and celebrate their life, other people, and their world.
II. Project’s outcome
Throughout this whole year, the project has worked in collaboration with both international and local partnership NGO’s such as M’Lop Russey, Domnok Tek, Cambodia Acid Survivors Charity, LICHADO, Chab Dia, International Justice of Mission and Citipoint in order to deliver arts therapy, supervision, training, and emergency de-briefing to key staff including: social workers and counselors, community leaders, profound disability children and adolescents, foster families, and other traumatized young orphanages . As the result of these services, there were remarkable positive impacts on people who we have been directly working with as well as people who received the services and support from them in various ways such as self- development, improvement of their personal and professional quality at work and home, improvement of stress management and self-care skill, and gaining knowledge of mental health and other beneficial learning related to their work.
III. Future Plan of the project
Thank you so much for your contributions to supporting this vitally important work in Cambodia.
Songkites 2014 (Euan Gray & Carrie Herbert)
“I really think my music and the music from Songkites can help young people in Cambodia to believe in who they are and believe in themselves”. Kan Pich (Songkites Season 1)
Songkites supports Cambodian songwriters to write, record and release original songs. www.songkites.com.
With a focus on encouraging creativity and originality through authentic expression and inspiration, songwriters participate in a series of workshops to explore and develop their creative process. Throughout the workshops they receive individual coaching from professional songwriters and therapeutic support from professional Arts Therapists. This helps them develop both technical skills and understand and express themselves assertively as they explore life experience in their songwriting.
They then prepare a demo of their original song which is recorded at Songkites Studio. This new song is mixed, mastered and then released internationally.
The experience culminates in a special live performance concert at one of Phnom Penh's best music venues. Each songwriter is then supported to create their own merchandise to accompany and promote their music, given further opportunities to perform and showcase their music and encouraged to be involved with future Songkites programs.
Ultimately, the aim of Songkites is to foster a community of Khmer songwriters who nurture and support each other, and help to promote the emergence of more creative, original, life-affirming music.
Cambodia’s most loved traditional kites are called Khleng Ek. Literally meaning 'unique kite', they are celebrated because they produce musical tones as they fly. Traditionally, they are flown to give thanks for bountiful harvests, however the practice was suppressed during the Khmer Rouge period until recently.
Kites are wonderful symbols of freedom and creating original music is about being free; free to be yourself and express yourself authentically through music. Creativity knows no boundaries, yet it too was suppressed in Cambodia's traumatic recent history. Songkites encourages emerging songwriters to take hold of the string, and let their musical kite fly free!
How It Came About
Songkites emerged in the inspiring environment of Ragamuffin Boathouse, an Arts Therapy and Creative Hub in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Ragamuffin Co-Directors Carrie Herbert and Kit Loring, both songwriters, have long professed the important role of music in creative and personal development. On the top floor of the building, songwriter, educator, and Ragamuffin’s therapeutic music facilitator, Euan Gray had been setting up a recording studio called Songkites Studio. With their shared passion for encouraging growth through songwriting, Carrie and Euan created the project with the generous assistance of seed funding from a private donor and match funding from BBC Loy 9.
The group workshops, rehearsals and performances take place in an inspiring multi-purpose space called 'The Boat Room'. Looking over the boat room is Songkites Studio, recording studio where the songs are created, recorded and mixed. Get in touch if you want to know about our first Album launch and Songkites Season2.
“Songkites is the place to discover who I am. I knew about music but didn’t know how to make a song from my heart. Jimmy Kiss (Songkites Participant, Season 1)
Ragamuffin Cambodia Projects Update
Ragamuffin International is supporting individuals and teams who work in a diverse cross-section of issues and needs in Cambodia from child protection, violence, abuse, trafficking and human rights issues. Continuing to capacity build, supervise and develop staff care and well-being in frontline organisations, teams and individuals. Ragamuffin International also supervises and overseas a number of projects including:
Be-Yourself Project is a Cambodian led service currently working with children and adolencents who have survived acid attacks, are caught up in domestic violence, abuse and land evictions. Here is a summary of our work with Acid Attack survivors:
‘I See You’ Creative Arts Therapy for Acid Attack Survivors, Staff Capacity Building and Therapeutic Support.
The areas of Psychological treatment, staff capacity and care have been identified as critical areas where there are gaps in services and capacity for survivors of acid attacks in Cambodia. Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity (CASC) and Ragamuffin have been exploring a project that will provide a therapeutic programme to aid the recovery of acid burn survivors and their families.
Acid attacks are a pre-meditated form of violence that leaves survivors physically, socially and emotionally and psychologically scarred. Through a process of group and individual creative arts therapy the impact on the children has been powerful as said in their own words below:
“I feel so happy to be here as it is my first time in life to feel loved and belong to the group. So far, I do not have friends to play with me as they said ‘my face is like a monster’ and this group makes me feel that I am a child who deserves to play and to be friends with other children” (Quote from one of the children in the group)
“Though I am just a thirteen year old child who found myself helpless to change problem in my family, I believe if I could be strong, my parents might begin to be strong too. ” (Quote from one of the children in the group)
The group found this journey full of profound learning and sharing experiences. They felt they could get support and discover strength from other children in the group. They began to see positive changes and reported a decrease of their feelings of distress and disturbance and began to report how they were better able to manage everyday life.
“Before I came to this workshop, I got a lot of nightmares. Now, I noticed that there is no nightmare after I found my inner helper in a session we did and a safe place with the therapist and at special Ragamuffin house” (Quote from one of the children in the group)
The group has begun to find the resilience through their time together. Being together has given the opportunity for each kid to be connected with each other, naturally learn and improve socialization skill, exchange positive communication, and receiving group support which resulted in self-healing and personal development.
“I feel so moved to see how much the children have bloomed and grown since they attended these sessions, the parents can't stop talking about it too” (Quote from CASC’s staff)
Songkites www.songkites.com - is a new programme to inspire creative songwriting and leadership in Cambodian young people. This exciting new initiative is the fist of its kind in Cambodia and is focusing on the themes of conflict transformation, relationships and forgiveness to help young people to express and communicate original songs to a broad audience in Cambodia. 13 partcipants have attended group and individual workshops and sessions, the programme has a strong therapeutic core to help channel the expression of their life experiences into songwriting and music. A professional recording studio now based at Ragamuffin run by Euan Gray means these songs have been recorded and musically developed to a high standard. The songkite participants are about to launch their new original music in early 2014 to be featured on a special BBC movie in Cambodia, amongst other excting live opportunities.
'Songkites if my first ever musical family, its an unbelievable experience!"
"I have realised how powerful music is to heal and to express myself make sense of all the hurt and making this music, it makes me feel different, stronger and more able to face life's challenges"
"Songkites has made me feel so much more confident and able to express who I really am, I'm not afriad to be myself anymore...I think so many young people in Cambodia need this kind of programme for the future of this country"
(Quotes from Songkite participants 2013)
We are hoping to run another season of Songkites in 2014 and continue to develop the leadership and mentoring skills of this years participants. Watch this space and please contact us if you want to be more involved.
As the end of year draws to a close there is much to celebrate as Ragamuffin continues to seek to make healing and creative opportunities for people to restore or bring back light into their lives and so impact those around them. Every week in Ragamuffin boathouse there are many examples of how this is happening with children and adults. To celebrate and honour this year we are holding a special event to close this season:
Life-Creative - Festival of Lights on the 14th December brings together Cambodian's and International guests in a collaborative creative experience on the theme of light and the impact that it makes in our lives, our families, communities and the world around us.
How you are making a difference?
You become part of creating this light too...as we continue to pioneer a new operational model, everything you contribute makes a difference to the services we provide. As mental health services remain still so very limited in Cambodia, there still exists such enormous need. If you would like to know more information on any of the above please contact us - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for being a part of this voyage and helping making a difference to so many people's lives who have come on board!
Carrie, Kit and The Ragamuffin Team Cambodia.
The Ragamuffin Boathouse is a HUB for Arts Therapy, Creativity & Social Action.
An inspiring sanctuary in the heart of Phnom Penh, Cambodia
www.facebook.com/RagamuffinBoathouseCambodia email@example.com Phone: +85512521032
The Boathouse is an inspiring sanctuary in the Heart of Phnom Penh. Its peaceful light filled spaces wrapped in nature provides a unique environment and the conditions in which we can take risks, create, build relationships, and develop personally professionally and spirituality.
Home of Ragamuffin International/Cambodia INGO, Cloudstring Studio and the Boathouse HUB for creative professionals and freelance businesses.
Our Vision is the development of a model of collaboration between NGO’s and professionals to foster, sustainability, creativity, relationships, community and spirituality.
Who’s on board?
Extracts of whats going on?
Ragamuffin International is supporting individuals and teams who work in a diverse cross-section of issues and needs in Cambodia from child protection, violence, abuse, trafficking and human rights issues. Continuing to capacity build, supervise and develop staff care and well-being in frontline organisations, teams and individuals.
Be-Yourself project is currently working with children and adolencents who have survived acid attacks, are caught up in domestic violence, abuse and land evictions. A programme in partnership with M'Lop Russey is helping young adult orphans to be transitioned out of residential care into a community style foster care programme as Cambodia begins its move to reduce insitutionalised care.
Cloudstring Studio has recently launched Songkites - a new programme to inspire creative songwriting in Cambodian young people. This exciting new initiative is the fist of its kind in Cambodia and will be focusing on the themes of conflict transformation, relationships and forgiveness to help young people to express and communicate original songs to a broad audience in Cambodia. www.songkites.com
Boathouse HUB - home to creative professionals, innovation in rural povery solutions lab, environmental politics and ethnic minority specialists. Bringing sustainability, networks and collaboration to the traditional NGO model.
Life-Creative - International Peace Day on the 21st September brings together Cambodian's and International guests in a collaborative creative experience on the theme of forgiveness and peace - a pertiant theme for Cambodia at this present time.
As we continue to pioneer a new operational model, everything you contribute makes a difference to the services we provide. As mental health services remain still so very limited in Cambodia, there still exists such enormous need. If you would like to know more information on any of the above please contact us - firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘I see you’ Creative Arts Therapy for Acid Attack Survivors
A Partnership between Ragamuffin Cambodia and the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity (CASC)
CASC was formed in March 2006 by its partner organization, the Children’s Surgical Centre (CSC). CSC is one of few health care facilities in Cambodia providing free medical care to acid burn patients. Because CSC is a centre for general rehabilitative surgery, their ability to meet the needs of survivors of acid attacks, beyond immediate medical treatment, is limited. The social stigma surrounding attacks often leaves survivors feeling isolated, abandoned and shunned by family members, communities and service providers. Consequently, CSC made a commitment to create an organization to address the long-term needs of survivors of acid attacks. CASC now provides holistic care to people bearing such scars in a secure, compassionate and non-judgmental environment.
Acid attacks are a pre-meditated form of violence that leaves survivors physically, socially and emotionally and psychologically scarred.
Innocent victims - Children are often caught up in acid attacks and not only are witness to the violence and severe injuries of a parent but suffer too physically, socially and emotionally.
'I see you' is an Arts Therapy programme designed to assess and support the psychological needs of children such as these.
Ragamuffin are providing an Individual and group Arts Therapy programme in collaboration with a CASC social worker in an intial pilot funded by The Kadoorie Foundation. The Arts Therapists are working closely with the CASC team in the ongoing support and care planning for clients to ensure continuity of care.
"The children come to Ragamuffin Boathouse and can play out all their energy and distress. Their behaviour changes when they feel safe in this sanctuary to be themselves without any judgement or expectation. They can channel their feelings through the Arts and begin to share their deep feelings with the Arts Therapist. The parents have noticed the difference already in their behaviour. Every behaviour a child shows communicates something they are trying to say. 'I see you' is a unique programme that gives these children the chance to be deeply seen, heard and given a voice to express all the locked up feelings and distress inside - in being deeply seen and valued they can begin to 'be themselves"
The programme is having the following benefits:
So much more is needed:
Long term Arts Therapy provision with both the children and their parents/ caregivers is needed to enable these children and their families to manage and live with complex injuries, social stigma and psychological suffering as a result of acid attacks. If you are interested in supporting this project please contact us at: email@example.com
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