Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Art Therapy Helps Japanese Tsunami Children Survivors

Young Pain From Japanese Disasters Eased By Artmaking

By: Lindsey Christ

After the tsunami washed away their homes, schools and sometimes even their parents, many Japanese children were encouraged to draw pictures about their feelings. Now their art has come to New York and local students are responding. NY1's Education reporter Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Crayons can sometimes help children heal. For the youngest survivors of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, art has been a key to recovery. This week, some of their drawings came to New York City, as the first stop of an international tour.

Drawings and writings by more than 300 Japanese students are on display through Friday at the AIGA National Design Center on Fifth Avenue near 22nd Street in the Flatiron District.

Young Pain From Japanese Disasters Eased By Artmaking
The children's pain is clear. One 10-year-old child wrote, "I was worried about school -- what about aftershocks? This is how I felt deep inside. It was scary. That's all. My heart is so anxious."

The non-profit group Hug Japan visited more than 100 schools along the tsunami-ravaged coast. Workers noticed lots of material donations but not much psychological support.

"Nothing to help children in their mind, so teachers didn't know how to encourage the children," says Hug Japan representative Kazunari Matoba.

That's where the art therapy came in. Students were told to focus on either how they feel now or what they hope for the future. As part of the exhibit, New Yorkers can respond by drawing or writing postcards to the children.

Students at schools like Harlem's Manhattan East Middle School raised money and drew their own responses.

"New York is suffering from the 9/11 and also New York is a special place for art," says Hug Japan representative Kazunari Matoba. "Maybe Japanese students will be encouraged by New York children's art."

The art therapy of photographer Mayumi Suzuki hangs opposite the student drawings. She lost her home and both parents to the tsunami.

"After the earthquake, I did not know what I can do. However, by picking up the camera, I was able to take a step forward. And I believe that it is because I have the camera that I can keep going," says Suzuki.

Photographing the students, she says they looked depressed in the beginning, but seemed uplifted after turning to art.

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