mercredi 4 mai 2011

Woman uses art to aid Haitian children

Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 6:00 pm

By CHRISTINA GUENTHNER, Argus-Press Staff Writer The Argus-Press
OWOSSO — Ellen Coulter had never been much of a world traveler. Until recently, she had never been through Customs or found the need for a passport.
But, when the First United Methodist Church member was approached by a pastor about traveling to Haiti on a mission trip to train teachers to use art therapy with their students, she felt a calling to go.
“It took me a while to decide... I’d never done anything like that before,” Coulter said.
A retired nurse, Coulter said she’s not an artist. She was invited on the trip by the Rev. Gordon Schleicher from the University United Methodist Church in East Lansing because he knew about her nine years of experience working with children at Community Mental Health.
Coulter said Haitian culture goes by the old adage: “Kids should be seen and not heard.” Because of this, many of the youth are having a hard time dealing with their feelings about the massive earthquake that struck the island nation in 2010.
“They’re not allowed to speak unless they’re spoken to,” she said. “It was (Schleicher’s) idea to use art and get the kids to express themselves that way,” Coulter said.
The pair spent their nine days in Haiti at four schools in the Cayes area, training about 80 teachers to use art therapy with their students.
Coulter said they started the process by having the teachers draw pictures and then discuss what they were about; then the teachers did the same process with their students.
Coulter and Schleicher taught the teachers to recognize a child’s struggles through what they draw and the colors they choose to draw it with.
Because the teachers are given a certain curriculum to teach from — one that doesn’t include art at all — Coulter said the teachers were planning on incorporating the art therapy creatively.
The pair also had the opportunity to work hands-on with about 100 students.
“Probably about 99 percent of the pictures were about earthquake-related losses,” Coulter said.
She said the entire country is still suffering the damage caused when a 7-magnitude earthquake hit on Jan. 12, 2010.
“The roads are still really, really bad,” Coulter said.
After flying into Port-au-Prince in February, Coulter said it took more than six hours for them to travel to Cayes — a distance Coulter said would have likely been covered in about two hours in the United States.
Another area the country lack’s in is medical care, Coulter said.
“Once they found out I was a nurse they had all kinds of questions for me,” she said.
In addition to the pencils, crayons and paper they took with them, the pair brought three suitcases full of medical supplies with them to Haiti.
“Everything we took, we left there,” Coulter said. “It was culture shock to me. I had never been to a third world country.”
Even though she hesitated when first asked to take the mission trip, Coulter said she would go back in a heart beat.
“The people there are so hungry for stuff,” she said. “They’re hungry for knowledge — for what we in this cultured world can teach them.”

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