Asian Tsunami Healing Arts Program

On December 26, 2004 an undersea megathrust earthquake of 9.1 magnitude and epicenter off the west coast of Sumatra triggered a series of devastating tsunamis across the Indian Ocean, killing nearly 230,000 people in fourteen countries. Waves as high as 100 feet (30 meters) inundated coastal communities, resulting in one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. The United Nations estimated that 1.5 million children were affected, many of whom had lost one or both parents. Qanita Qamarani, Indonesia - 2005

In response to urgent requests by the ICAF partner organizations in Sri Lanka and India, the ICAF developed the Healing Arts Program by transferring the knowledge and experience gained from the treatment of the child survivors of the 9/11 tragedy and other recent disasters to help the tsunami child survivors. Preventing and treating the distress experienced by children as soon as possible is crucial for optimal long-term health and recovery. Parents, caregivers and teachers of these children may minimize, ignore, deny and criticize, or conversely empathize with the plight of the children, depending upon their own recovery and progress.

At the outset the ICAF developed Guidelines for the thousands of relief workers who may not have had any previous experience or knowledge in dealing with traumatized children. The Guidelines were also used by schoolteachers who had never experienced such a disaster before and wanted guidance on what to do with their students who were suddenly terrified by the ocean and unable to sleep, and some already showing signs of fear and worry such as confused behavior, aggressive demeanor, and suicidal thoughts. As a next step, the ICAF sent teams of qualified art therapists (and a dance therapist) to India and Sri Lanka to work directly with the children as ‘art teachers’. The therapists also trained teachers and workshop leaders who expanded the program outreach and benefits.

Thanks to the program supporters which included: Marie Claire (Australia), Mercedes Australian Fashion Week, and Tockington Manor School (Bristol, England). Kathleen Bailer, Annie Dillard, Tzivia Frim and many other individuals provided donations while Cathy Malchiodi, Rebekah Chilcote, Chanda Chin, Cheryl Fakhry, Gabriellle Marcus, Genevieve Smith, Lisette Soini , Claire Wilkinson and others provided invaluable services to the program.

Destruction, Reconstruction and Prevention (199Kb jpeg download)
Tsunami Art Exhibition at the World Bank (865Kb jpeg download)