Building care workers’ psychological resilience

Founded in 2001 by art therapist, Linda Souchon, and drama therapist, Kirsten Meyer, The Zakheni Arts Therapy Foundation provides creative arts workshop training for child and youth care workers and teachers to strengthen psychological support services for vulnerable youth.

Zakheni 1The Wellbeing project helps child and youth care workers manage their own wellbeing when dealing with traumatised children as the work is psychologically demandingThe organisation was initiated to make creative arts therapies and applied arts services accessible to youth workers in disadvantaged communities surrounding Cape Town.

Heather Mac, project manager at the Zakheni Arts Therapy Foundation says; “We see the incredible positive impact and transformation that using the creative arts therapies can have on the all the individuals that we have trained or worked with.”

BUILDING PSYCHOLOGICAL RESILIENCE

Zakheni runs the FireMaker, Wellbeing, Creative Arts youth therapy, Beyond Words, and Bonfire Theatre projects.

During a series of four three-day workshops, FireMaker helps strengthen the psychological support capacities of child and youth care workers and teachers so they are better equipped when dealing with children suffering from trauma.

The project introduces the child care workers to storytelling, puppet-making, music activities and basic theory relating to child development to use in the care workers’ interactions with the children.

The Wellbeing project helps child and youth care workers manage their own wellbeing when dealing with traumatised children as the work is psychologically demanding.

The project also helps beneficiary welfare organisations involved in child and youth care understand and meet the needs of their care workers.

Mandy Daniels, training coordinator at Uviwe Child and Youth Services, says, “I am sure that I speak for all the Uviwe attendees of the Zakheni FireMaker Workshops when I say that these workshops have made a huge impact on us as people as well as on our professional lives.

“We have been equipped with many new skills that can be applied in all areas of our work, from starting a new group to choosing activities that speak to a whole planned session.”

The Creative Arts Therapy youth project aims to provide young people with space and tools to explore, process and express their troubles, to help build resilience to the psychological challenges their environments pose. This helps to reduce school dropout levels, prevent children turning to gangs for social support, and prevent their developing mental illnesses such as depression, post- traumatic stress disorder and challenging behaviour.

Beyond Words trains social workers, educational psychologists, counsellors and occupational therapists to use arts-based methods and techniques to improve and support their approaches when working with children, youngsters and adults. Drawn from internationally developed creative arts therapies, the skills acquired can be adapted to suit each professional’s area of work.

Zakheni 2Bonfire Theatre, Zakheni’s largest project, is an improvisational theatre company that celebrates the real life stories of regular South AfricansBonfire Theatre, Zakheni’s largest project, is an improvisational theatre company that celebrates real life stories.

Zakheni hopes the project will help change social attitudes and support community building by sharing experiences through storytelling and theatre performances.

PLAY YOUR PART

“Our organisation has worked in Limpopo, KZN, Gauteng, Western Cape and Eastern Cape,” says Mac.

“We would like to extend our projects into Northern Cape, Mpumalanga and Free State in 2014.”

Though the organisation hopes to widen its reach and make an impact on more people’s lives, Mac acknowledges the challenges Zakheni faces. Like many non-profit organisations, Zakheni relies on sponsors and donations to meet operational expenses.

“Organisations that apply for our projects are most often unable to fund their staff development,” Mac says. “We therefore need funding in order to make this valuable work happen.”

She adds, “Zakheni Arts Therapy Foundation is currently transitioning into more of a social enterprise model where we find other modes of self-sustaining income streams.”

To find out more about the Zakheni Arts Therapy Foundation, donate to the organisation, or to apply to attend the workshops, visit its website, or call 021 448 7199.