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Blessing Our World: Art Class at Project Hope

August 17, 2017
By Alyssa Hardy

Our mission statement reads, "As a ministry of Westminster Presbyterian Church, we exist to educate students to bless our world as disciples of Jesus Christ." Our faculty, staff, and students are answering the challenge and taking what they are learning and the talents with which they are blessed to go out and help those who are hurting. Read here what art teacher, Alyssa Hardy, has to say about her art class's trip to Project Hope:

The students and I went to serve at our local Hospice as our art class community service project this summer. We participated in Project Hope - an art therapy camp for children ages 5-19 that recently lost a loved one. Hospice informed us that young children will wire their brain to grieve the same way as the first time they lost a loved one in all future times of grief. That includes another loss of loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of a relationship, etc. Project Hope serves as a positive and loving environment where children can learn to grieve in a way that will benefit their emotional health and set them up to grieve and handle loss in a positive way in the future.

Twenty of our students led the camp two nights this summer. We started by having a pizza party and fellowship time to get to know the students. We read a children's story book that centered on the topic of grief management. The most touching book we read was a book called "Ida Always," where a polar bear that loses his best friend, Ida. The book walked the children through the grieving process by introducing the idea that the polar bear was very sick, Ida’s death, and finally the grieving stage of learning to live without her by remembering the good times they shared. The story time was an opportunity for the students to talk about death around counselors and peers, share stories of their loved ones, ask questions, and relate to the other students who had lost a loved one as well.

"I never want to forget that the people around me are going through things I don't know about, so I need to be considerate and caring to everyone." - Rebecca Dillon, 11th grade

 

It all sounds pretty heavy but we were amazed at how positive most of the children were. The kids really just wanted to share their story and hang out with our students, the "big kids." Many of the children even told us they knew their loved one is in Heaven and that they will see them again one day. The camp focuses or building peer relations between young children and older children so that the kids can relate to one another and open up about their personal stories. It was amazing to see our students helping in this way by simply making a connection with these little ones by lending a listening ear.

 

"I want the kids to know how much God loves them and is always there for them." - Madilee Boyd, 11th grade

 

We also led an art therapy project. Each night we led a painting project that corresponded to the imagery from the story books. On the night that we read "Ida Always," we make a painted collage of a polar bear and then added snowflakes to the background. For each snowflakes the children painted, the shared a memory of their loved one. Our students were able to each work with a couple students to complete the project, but also to listen to their "snowflake stories." After the personal art projects, the students and campers worked together on a group painting that will be hung in the Hospice community center for future campers to see.

 

"I was able to meet a little boy who was able to open up to me about his mom passing. It really opened by eyes to how much kids grieve." - Ann Preston Campbell, 11th grade

 

By the end of the night the room was full of energy as the children were playing without "big kids" and running around laughing together. It was quite a joyful scene! I was humbled to see how our students’ passion for art could lead to such a powerful opportunity to help their brothers and sisters in Christ through a tough time. We are all excited to go back to see the campers art show in September and see how they are all doing while we celebrate their art masterpieces!

Follow along with Mrs. Hardy's art class here: wccsarts.tumblr.com