About 2 years ago, a friend introduced me to Tanya Gupta, co-founder of here there and EVERYwhere, at an event we were both attending. I am endlessly grateful for my time working with htE. In these past two years, htE has helped to confirm and re-affirm my goal of pursuing a career in Drama Therapy. When I first started with htE I was a recent graduate from Montclair State University’s Theatre program. I thought I wanted to be an actor and director though I was interested in helping others and toying with the idea of doing arts based non-profit work. While I still enjoy acting and directing and want to act and direct to some degree; my primary goals have shifted largely due to my experience with htE and the self-reflection it sparked.
My experience with htE has been extremely impactful on my life. Every cycle I am amazed by the strength displayed by all of the survivors we work with. The strength of these women and the courage they express is inspiring and powerful to witness. Over the course of the workshops, I’ve seen the participants develop self-expression, find community with each other, develop greater and greater independence, and find a safe space for openness. Through each art exercise the women support and encourage one another, help each other depending on their strengths and weaknesses, express preferences and their personal style, and create art pieces they are proud of.
In addition to this, participants learn skills in sewing, jewelry making, and entrepreneurship they can carry with them beyond the scope of the sessions. I had the opportunity to teach some of these skills. It was exciting to watch as the participants mastered the skills and felt a sense of ownership over what they learned.
For the first half of this summer’s cycle, I had the opportunity to lead the sessions. This cycle was the first time we were at the Manhattan Family Justice Center (MFJC). Leading the workshops was a different experience than helping facilitate them. During this cycle, the participants talked about issues they were facing more than I had heard in the past. Perhaps I heard more leading the workshop or perhaps the location and the events going on in the world over the past year facilitated greater openness.
We talked about body image, immigration, and our families. It was amazing listening to each of the women encourage each other when someone was going through a difficult time with immigration or was feeling depressed. Each of the participants and volunteers all shared their experiences with one another and bonded deeply.
Regretfully, I moved back to South Carolina at the end of August. I am so grateful for the time I spent with htE and for the opportunity to meet and get to know such truly beautiful people.
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." - Martin Luther King, Jr.