Erick Hasengimana is a third year Fine Art major at Kenyatta University in Nairobi. He joined the Harambee Arts team in April 2009, after inspiring Gloria to tears at a university event. He is incredibly natural with children and adds a calm, loving and encouraging presence to Harambee's work in City Primary School. All of the children of the Special Unit immediately opened up to him in an unprecedented way and it is a true inspiration to see him work and connect with the children!
On June 1st and 2nd, Gloria travelled to Eldoret (Northern Kenya) to facilitate a 2-day workshop in 'Expressive Art and Play Therapy for Children' at the Kenya Association of Professional Counselors (KAPC) Eldoret branch.
As part of Gloria’s Fulbright affiliation with KAPC she was asked to design a 150-hour certificate course for counselors in Expressive Arts and Play Therapy. The course was held between May and June and was attended by 8 professional counselors. It was designed to introduce the theories and techniques of expressive arts and play therapy with children that can be used alongside traditional counseling skills. Most of the trainees had very little or no prior experience with art and were amazed at the power of art as a tool for expression, particularly in accessing the subconscious. One of the participants said, “This art is tricky, it can make you tell what you did not want to tell.” The course was designed with an emphasis on experiencing one’s own childhood. Another trainee expressed, “This class has made me grow and grow. That childhood that I missed I found it in this group. You have made my day.”
A second certificated course will be held in September and October, 2009.
Within the slums of Kenya, dense populations and intense poverty compound to create a volatile environment where conflict can erupt at any moment. In April, a dispute erupted between Uganda and Kenya, over Migingo Island in Western Kenya. Uganda declared that the island was Kenyan but the water around it was Ugandan. The effects of the diplomatic dispute were seen mainly in Kibera. For days the streets of Kibera were littered with tire fires, riots, bloody violence and chaos as Ugandan residents were targeted and beaten. The railroad tracks that run around Kibera were torn out by angry mobs, houses were burnt and people attacked with machetes and stones. The children from Kibera Kids4Peace witnessed all of these events. In May we returned to Kibera to continue painting with the children. They decided as a group to paint about the Migingo Island riots they experienced. As they finished their paintings we wrote down some of their haunting stories. Their paintings showed the railroad tracks, figures holding machetes and throwing stones and fires in the streets. Despite this horrible reality, Kibera children constantly think about peace, probably because of all of the violence that they have experienced.
Over the past couple of months the Special Unit at City Primary School has grown as several fantastic children have joined the group. All of them excitedly continue their journey of expression through paint. Their concentration is extraordinary and their growth as artists is unexpected and phenomenal. The children are commonly seen as having nothing to offer and yet we have experienced just the opposite. Some of them are treated cruelly and exploited at home. We have heard stories of several of them being tethered to a table. Many are trained as house help. Since January we have observed major transformations in many of the children. One of the most striking changes is in Fahima, previously a withdrawn, miserable looking girl who rarely smiled or painted. Six months later her eyes are sparkling and she reaches out to others with a big smile. Fahima is thrilled with her creations and regularly screams, "Ona! Ona! Ona!" which means, "Look! Look! Look!" in Swahili. We were warned that the children don’t like to be touched, yet our experience is open arms and big hugs.