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During a week of shocking gun violence, students from ICJA’s Interact Club were able to play a small part in making a difference in the lives of local youth affected by violence. Three local organizations, Urban Gateways, Chicago Survivors Network and Artists 4 Israel, collaborated to create healing art kits for local youth affected by exposure to gun violence, domestic abuse, sexual assault, substance abuse and other forms of violence and loss. Arts intervention can provide a tool for recovery and mitigate the impact of trauma.

Developed by ICJA alumni Rena Grosser (’03) and Ariela Robinson (’01) in their work with Artists 4 Israel, the healing art kits serve as a first response tool to bombing victims in Israel. The kits are emergency psychological first aid kits, designed to be administered immediately after an incident of trauma. The purpose of the kits is to slow or prevent the onset of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder by providing activities that interrupt the trauma, stimulate self-soothing, inspire creative thinking and otherwise use the elements of art therapy. The kits were developed by children’s psychology experts, psychiatrists, emergency medical technicians, first responders, art therapists, artists, teachers and parents, stemming from the latest research in health and art therapy practices.

The hope is to share this creation of Israeli resilience with those in need in the U.S.

Grosser says, “The Healing Arts Kits provide familiar materials that are intended to offer a sense of normalcy amidst a chaotic world–bubbles to regulate breathing, clay to mold new thoughts, shakers to entice motion and drone out the pending noise outside, finger puppets to keep kids interacting and a pen and pad for mindful exercises. Children open these kits with excitement, take ownership and naturally respond to the materials that offer comfort and supportive play. After witnessing the powerful value that these kits had for the children in Israel, we saw a new need, here in Chicago.”

ICJA student volunteers were able to assist in this important effort this week during a “packing party” February 12 that took place at Street Level in Chicago.

“This was an amazing opportunity to help people who need all the support they can get through their hard times,” says Liat Mott, a member of the Interact Club.

Siva Albom, president of the Interact Club, says, “This was a great way to connect with people in hardship that we may not understand.”

In its initial pilot, 200 Healing Arts Kits will be deployed for use by Chicago Survivors. Chicago Survivors provides citywide crisis intervention, supportive counseling, comprehensive resources, referral services, and case management to families following homicide in Chicago through trained Crisis Responders and Family Support Specialists; their services are free and open to all families who have lost a loved one to violence. Healing Arts Kits will serve as a tool for Chicago Survivors to reach youth in the aftermath of a shooting, death, or incidence of violence. The 200 pilot Kits will be available for distribution in February after the Packing Party, with further distributions rolling out as needed to reach Chicago’s young people.

“Chicago Survivors is grateful for this important creative tool,” says Susan Johnson, executive director. “Healing from personal exposure to violence is hard work, and the Healing Arts Kits bring respite and quiet hope in the midst of chaos and tragedy.”

This project has received support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pritzker Pucker Family Foundation to pilot this important initiative.



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