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Project Background

Renaissance Village Art Therapy Trip #5 – June 2006

By Karla Leopold LMFT, ATR, Fine Artist

“Don’t’ you know? Don’t you know she’s coming around again? That Hurricane Katrina is just waiting around the corner to come and get us again.”

These are the words spoken by a seven-year old while I was helping him construct a cardboard model of the new, strong house he hopes to occupy someday. He thinks he will be safe in this new house.

This seven year old is not alone with these fears. As the art therapy team returned for the fifth visit, we found an overriding fear of returning hurricanes throughout the trailer community. These people know that they are not safe in the government provided, 24-26 foot aluminum camper trailers and lack resources to make it different.

We had hoped to find a degree of recovery and hope on this return trip, but the majority of the people at Renaissance Village continue to feel hopeless and abandoned. A small number have moved back to New Orleans for jobs and new families have moved from motels to these vacant trailers on site. People do not leave their trailers because it is extremely hot, humid, dusty, and there is no place to go to.

Once again, Rosie’s For All Kids Foundation made it possible for us to continue our work. Much of the art therapy this trip was centered on helping the children recreate a sense of internal safety through the art. A table top city was created by the children that included everything a city might need: church, FEMA office, help center, airport, police and fire station, etc. Some of the children created elaborate bedrooms with all the things they had lost out of clay and paper.

The younger children have the opportunity to attend camps and summer school. There are new programs started to engage the children in learning. We partnered with one of these organizations, The Delta Express Project, taking 25 children to the zoo to photograph the animals.

An alarming number of teenagers are not being reached. As reported by the New York Times “of the 560 children who are evacuees and were enrolled in the Baker schools district, only 190 were still attending when the school year ended on May 19.”We had the opportunity to film several of the teenagers telling their stories, listening to why they did not attend school and how difficult it is for them to overcome the trauma of relocation and devastation. They created art. You will hear and see their stories in Katrina Through the Eyes of Children.

Thirteen of these teenagers are very excited because they will leave Louisiana for two weeks to attend Idyllwild Arts summer session in California. For most it will be there first time on an airplane. This is made possible because of hard work and generous donations from the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and caring individuals. When we reviewed the list of things needed for camp: tennis shoes, bathing suit, etc., we found the teenagers lacked most everything on the list including suitcases. We are collecting donations for Wal Mart cards to buy what they need.

Katrina Through the Eyes of Children, the mixed media art exhibit created by these children becomes more important with every visit. This story must be told!


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