I was recently introduced to Project H.O.W. (Helping Others Worldwide), and was thrilled to see that they too have embraced the importance of art as a therapeutic and educational tool for kids dealing with intense struggles. Their Kidz Art Heart Therapy Program uses art therapy to help African orphans cope with the trauma they've experienced, while paving the road to a better future. As a performing arts therapy advocate, I work specifically with local kids living in poverty; an experience I can relate to personally- but the fundamental ideals and goals of Kidz Art Heart Therapy ring very true to the work that I strive to do right here in my borough and my state:
"Needless to say, these children are never given the opportunity to deal with the intense emotional trauma of their past tragedies. The universal language of the arts is a way to cross cultural and language barriers in order to give them a positive outlet to reflect on their past and cope with their present situation. Since these orphaned and abandoned children cannot care for themselves they need us to provide a healthy and positive space for education and creative self-expression, love and growth,"- Kidz Art Heart Program Description
Some would trivialize the arts by suggesting that they do not provide immediate, transparent, measurable benefit to participants; they'd be wrong though. For those of you who like statistics, try these on for size:
"Young people who participate in the arts for at least three hours on three days each week through at least one full year are:
-4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement
-3 times more likely to be elected to class office within their schools
-4 times more likely to participate in a math or science fair
-3 times more likely to win an award for school attendance
-4 times more likely to win an award for writing an essay or poemk
Young artist, as compared with their peers, are likely to
-Attend music, art and dance classes nearly 3 times as frequently
-Participate in youth groups nearly 4 times as frequently
-Read for pleasure nearly twice as often
-Perform community service more than 4 times as often"
("Living the Arts Through Language and Learning: A Report on Community-based Youth Organizations," Shirley Brice Heath, Stanford University and Carnegie Foundation For the Advancement of Teaching, Americans for the Arts Monograph, November 1998)
It's easy to generalize about the irrelevance of something when you've not yet seen the facts- now you have.