First Aid Arts in Tijuana, Mexico

"I held the hands of one of the strongest and most hospitable women I have ever met as she thanked us for coming. We reminded her that she makes the world more beautiful. I am awed by her resilience and humbled by her hospitality." ~ Mylinda Baits

February 16-18, our director of program development and training, Ruth Yeo-Peterman, along with First Aid Arts partner, Mylinda Baits, facilitated a workshop at Deborah's House, a shelter in Tijuana, for women and children who have left situations of intimate partner violence.

Deborah's House brings together a diverse mix of services, including crisis intervention, health care, shelter for victims, and counseling and education for both victims and abusers. They also offer workshops on alternatives to violence, self-esteem, relationship skills, and communication. 

It was an honor to be invited into this tender space to lead a Healing Arts Toolkit (HAT) workshop with a group comprised of both residents and staff, many of whom are survivors themselves. Over the course of two full days, seven residents considered the ways in which trauma affects the body, mind, spirit, and relationships, and they explored the use of the arts as an accessible resource for building resilience.

Through an embodied process, Ruth and Mylinda walked the attendees through the phases of recovery and healing. Stories of hope and encouragement were shared and a deep sense of community support was strengthened. The group experienced eight activities from the Healing Arts Toolkit and reflected on the value of the arts for regulating emotions, self awareness, and building interpersonal skills.

One of the residents had arrived at the shelter a day before the workshop began, whereas others had been living there for almost six months. The Healing Arts Toolkit workshop helped the group to connect and share in a safe and structured way, and to forge deeper relationships through the arts.

Mylinda observed, "It was awe inspiring to watch how one woman, who was initially emotionally flat and non-communicative, became engaged and alive as she expressed her feelings with a gesture using a colored scarf. Though words often escape her, the movement activity provided her a non-verbal way to share life with the others. Later as the workshop was ending, in her own words, she said she was grateful for the chance to be seen and taken seriously."

On the third day, Ruth and Mylinda conducted a follow-up training for staff members, who described a new-found awareness of the need to care for themselves and drew up a schedule for implementing the HAT at the shelter for the residents as well as a practice for staff care.

A celebration was held at the end of the workshop. Each resident and staff member received a card with their picture and proclamation, “You make the world more beautiful” in Spanish. As each one stepped into the center of the circle, the rest of the group told them, “You make the world more beautiful,” before they were invited to say, “I make the world more beautiful!"

It was an emotional moment for many. One of the women, who has experienced unspeakable loss and hurt, spun around in the circle shouting at the top of her lungs, “I MAKE THE WORLD MORE BEAUTIFUL!”

Moments like these are the reason First Aid Arts exists. As always, we thank you, our friends and supporters, for your encouragement and support in this work. You make this beauty possible.

  Tijuana, Mexico

Tijuana, Mexico

Curtis Romjue