Sept 11, 2023
Building Community Through Creativity
Building a sense of community is incredibly important for youth-in-care. These are young people who face numerous challenges that increase their vulnerability to negative outcomes such as academic failure, substance misuse, delinquency, and mental health issues. By creating a strong sense of community, we can offer support, guidance and resources to these young people, ultimately helping them navigate through difficult circumstances and improve their overall well-being.
The young people served in the HomeBridge Community have faced more than their share of challenges in their young lives. Their experiences often include poverty, abuse, neglect, abandonment, substance misuse and significant trauma. This is often compounded by the lack of a stable support network, which can lead to feelings isolation and despair. Youth-in-care often move to different homes, change schools frequently and experience a lot of loss as people come and go from their lives. A strong sense of community provides them with a support system of peers, mentors, and role models who understand their struggles and can offer encouragement and empathy. This is one of the many therapeutic benefits of the Expressions program. Young people who don’t feel like they fit in anywhere else, often find a sense of belonging through this program and it profoundly changes their experience. For this reason, this year’s theme for the Expressions Program of the Arts is Art Connects: Uniting Community Through Creativity.
The facilitators that make up the Expressions Team guide and support the young people through creative processes that challenge them to focus on their strengths and the qualities that make them unique and special. No matter how withdrawn or reluctant they are when they come to our care, the highly skilled facilitators of this program seem to be able to connect with the youth and draw them into the program. Art or Music Therapy are often the first programming options that young people will take part in when they come into care. As reluctant and uneasy as they may be, the “cool factor” often intrigues them and once they give it a try, their all in.
The facilitators lead them through activities that help them experience success and find a sense of belonging and connectedness with the group. This is where change happens. There are many life skills developed in this program and many other therapeutic benefits as you will learn throughout the details of this proposal, however, none of that can happen without the young person first buying into the program. It all starts with the Expressions facilitators making each participant feel welcome, accepted and like they belong. Once they realize they are in a safe place, free of judgement, where they are encouraged to be their authentic selves and express their unique creativity, anything is possible.
Increased self-esteem, a sense of belonging and engagement in extra-curricular activities are all protective factors when it comes to reducing substance misuse and other risk-taking behaviours. By helping the young people see their potential and worth, we will not only be boosting their self-worth, but also setting them up with the necessary foundation to make healthy choices, move from simply surviving to thriving. To further increase a sense of belonging and connection this year, we have also added another public event to help the young people really connect with the community that surrounds them and show them just how resilient and impressive they can be. Not only will all participants be encouraged to participate in our Holiday Coffee House, and Annual General Meeting and Expressions Celebration, but we have also partnered with Humanities in Medicine to put on an art show at Dalhousie University as well. These events that provide a venue for the young people to display their art of showcase their musical talents really help them take pride in what they are doing and build positive connections with the community members that surround them. By fostering a sense of community, vulnerable youth are more likely to develop resilience, the ability to bounce back from adversity. When they feel connected to others and have resources at their disposal, they are better equipped to cope with challenges and setbacks.
The Expressions program continues to offer Art Classes, Music Therapy, and Photography. Sessions run from September through June throughout the entire HomeBridge Community, including our on-site school program, Bridges for Learning. Art and Music sessions take place twice weekly, rotating through all programs and photography sessions will take place with youth who are interested on a one-on-one basis. This program is entirely funded through community organizations, foundations, corporate and private donors. Thank you to those who believe in the therapeutic power of this meaningful program and so generously make it possible.