At AWBW, we are honored to train staff from a variety of human service agencies representing diverse populations of trauma survivors. Susan Lee attended our Adult Windows Leadership Training in March 2013 on behalf of United American Indian Involvement (UAII) with the intention of using our art curriculum as part of a journey to affect change.
She shares that many of her participants don’t realize the multigenerational trauma they carry, and the “art becomes a creative way to explore. It becomes part of how we repair relationships. Art projects shared at community gatherings enable us to connect with our visions and with each other to create a community voice and strength.”
“Art becomes a creative way to explore. It becomes part of how we repair relationships. Art projects shared at community gatherings enable us to connect with our visions and with each other to create a community voice and strength.”
We often refer to our AWBW Leaders as Compassionate Witnesses who recognize that the survivors are the experts of their own experience. Susan truly embodies what it means to be a Compassionate Witness, creating safety and openness for all of those she works with to communicate without judgment. In one instance, she utilized our Touchstones workshop as an art intervention with a father and daughter looking to heal their relationship after being separated for seven years. Susan created the space for them to make two Touchstones for each other: one to reflect the trauma and loss for their past, and one to share what they wanted in order to move forward.
“Once each had created their two Touchstones, they were given the opportunity to discuss what they represented. The Touchstones were then exchanged and the father and daughter were given specific instructions to carry the touchstones with them each day for the next week. They were to greet the touchstones each morning as a representation of the other person and their feelings and hopes. During the day, the touchstones would travel with them. At the end of the day, they were to spend a few minutes holding and looking at the touchstones, thinking again about the other person’s feelings and hopes.”
This experience proved to be a significant moment in the father and daughter’s relationships, and for the first time they both felt heard and validated. It’s thanks to Susan’s leadership that this breakthrough was possible — and it’s one of the many reasons why we are thrilled to honor her with our Compassionate Witness Award at the 2017 heART Awards!