On March 5, 2012 – I was able to visit Ragamuffin Project’s Arts Therapy Clinic in Phnom Penh Cambodia and meet with Carrie and project staff. Immediately upon entering the Arts Therapy Clinic, I felt calm and at ease. Beyond the white building where therapy is done, there is a relaxing pond with fish and a back office. I was told that the participants are able to relax at the pond between sessions.
Carrie and the staff were open to discuss the programs, challenges, goals, and how the monitoring and evaluation is built into the program. After this we toured the space and a group therapy session was going on beyond the windows in the main room. Kids were smiling, playing, drawing, and interacting with two staff. The upstairs therapy room was designed as a “ship.” When you walk in – the area is supposed to represent taking a journey through a storm towards “the light on shore”. This journey is depicted in beautiful paintings around the space designed by a friend of Carrie’s.
Finally, I was able to sit with Sam and Dyla, two staff therapists, on the giant colorful main-room pillows to discuss their background and the Ragamuffin art therapy program. This area was for children and adults to use as a peaceful and creative safe space after severe trauma. Creative therapy includes toys, art, music.. anything to allow participants’ to express what they cannot say, understand, or immediately confront. Dyla also told me that because some children cannot travel to Ragamuffin’s clinic – the staff will go to them to support and care via art therapy.
Overall Ragamuffin Project is providing an innovative and positive response to a need for trauma therapy via art, music, and creative outlets for children. Their success stories include breakthroughs in ability to communicate, reflect, and destress – as well as behavioral changes and a decrease in opting in for violence. The Ragamuffin Project, clinic, and even staff eminated care, expertise, creativity, and peace.