Happy Birthday to Us!
As of January, 2016, First Aid Arts is six years old! Looking back, we're amazed by all the good and beautiful things we've had the opportunity to do and see, and we wanted to invite you to celebrate with us as we take a birthday stroll down memory lane. Ready?
In 2009, First Aid Arts was born. At the time we called ourselves Arts Aftercare, because our original vision was conceived when Curtis and Grace Romjue's involvement as IJM justice advocates collided with their love for the arts and the realization that survivors of human trafficking could benefit in powerful ways through engaging with various art forms. Collaborating with Brian Howe, they set out to develop a research-based, multi-faceted arts curriculum that would be accessible to aftercare workers and volunteers, regardless of their previous level of training or artistic abilities.
So, this baby non-profit was born. But we were so small then. And we knew so little. We needed wise advice and intentional nurturing to grow.
In 2010, we formed our advisory board. To this day we remain in awe of the leaders and counselors who willingly took us by the hand and provided step-by-step guidance as we learned to walk on our wobbly legs. Among the great men and women who mentored us, we leaned on David Knott, head of music therapy at Seattle Children's Hospital, Kathy Stout-LaBauve, VP of Aftercare at IJM, Dr. Dean Hirsch, the former president of World Vision International, and Dr. Dan Allender, who took us under his wing, not only sharing his profound insights but also recruiting graduate students from the Seattle School of Theology & Psychology to research best practices in arts-based therapies.
In 2011, we were ready to begin developing our Healing Arts Toolkit Program. We received a grant to hire our first paid employee, Lacie Morrison, a professional counselor with international experience in a variety of human trafficking aftercare and trauma recovery settings. Lacie did a masterful job reviewing the data collected by Dr. Allender's students and conducted a thorough literature review. She brilliantly synthesized the expertise of our advisory board with her own and authored the Healing Arts Toolkit Program curriculum.
Now we were ready to test it.
In 2012, Curtis, Grace, and Lacie traveled to the Philippines to conduct our first pilot training for workers serving with several organizations operating aftercare facilities. They were accompanied by photographer, John Keatley, and filmmaker, Eric Becker, who documented their journey. Here's the video Eric produced:
In 2013, we hired our Vice President of Program Development and Training, Ruth Yeo-Peterman, who traveled to Mexico with us for our second pilot training. Meanwhile, due to the reports of dramatic results already flooding in, our waiting list of organizations eager to be trained continued to grow. We received requests not only from groups serving survivors of human trafficking, but also those working with refugees, disaster survivors, and other traumatized populations. As our vision became both broader and more clear, we decided to change our name to First Aid Arts.
In 2014, we hired Kirsten Musgrave, our multi-talented creative director, and launched full-scale trainings domestically and around the globe. Click on the images below to scroll through a carousel of sample photos from various training events:
In 2015, we added Matthew Smith to our team as Executive VP, gaining his invaluable experience and wisdom. We also offered our first Level II Training -- training trainers to train others. And thanks to the diligent work of our summer intern, Michael Zuch, we adapted our toolkit for use with refugees and internally displaced persons. We plan to pilot that version in 2016.
It feels good to be six years old, growing strong, and filled with hope for many years of meaningful service and good work ahead of us. To date, we've trained 356 staff from 134 organizations, reaching more than 5000 trauma survivors with the healing power of the arts. And our goal for 2016 is to double that amount, reaching 5000 survivors in one year.
As we ponder all the wonderful gifts we've received, we especially want to say THANK YOU to our friends who've encouraged and supported us along the way. We could not have come this far without you, and we hope you're as excited as we are for the adventures that lie ahead.
This month marks six years of making the world more beautiful together. Here's to many more.