Our committment to women and girls
Women and girls—particularly in places affected by crisis—face discrimination, violence, and a lack of equal opportunities that threaten their lives and rob them of their potential. But with the right support and investment, they can change their own future and uplift entire communities. They can change the world.
The International Rescue Committee in Los Angeles (IRC-LA) hopes to offer a place of solace and support for young girls and women who have been forced to flee their homes. Through our Unaccompanied Children program, we provided a summer arts and wellness as a way for children to connect and build confidence. In honor of International Day of the Girl and Women's History Month, we'd like to share with you some of their hopes and dreams for ther future.
How we assist unaccompanied children
Through our Unaccompanied Children (UC) program, we assist children who have crossed the border and come to the U.S. alone, mainly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, but also cuontries such as Afghanistan. Our Unaccompanied Children Caseworkers provide an invaluable lifeline and support to assist the children as they adjust to life in Southern California, providing family reunification services, legal referrals, and intensive case management.
In addition to the trauma faced in their home countries and on their migration journeys, most of the children have left all of their friends and family behind. Many experience stress and isolation as they adjust to life in a new country, new school, and in a new language. With this in mind, the IRC-LA launched a summer arts and wellness program “toencourage creativity and healthy coping mechanisms to manage stress and isolation during these trying and difficult times", says Natalie Kobsa-Mark, one of IRC's UC Caseworkers.
Creating community through art and creativity
Natalie, along with her colleagues, UC Interns, and fellow UC Caseworker, Jessica Rivas, created a robust summer program to help provide a sense of community that included ESL, financial literacy, college readiness counseling, self-care and mental health workshops, art classes, and even yoga!
Stacey Patino, IRC's volunteer art instructor who led the art classes, explained the importance of creating the right environment for the children to explore and express themselves. “The act of creating art in a community environment opens opportunities for dialogue and trust...Drawing and coloring become soothing rituals for the children as they share parts of their personalities to their peers and instructors." It is also “an opportunity to encourage each student's inner voice and boost their creative confidence as well as their power to shape their worlds”, says Stacey.
Celebrating International Day of the Girl
For the past two years, at the end of the summer program, we asked the children to create self-portraits and drawings in honor of International Day of the Girl (which takes places annually on October 11th.) These paintings, drawings, and self-portraits capture some of their hopes and dreams for girls and children all over the world – enjoy!
We hope these creative works of art will inspire you as much as they did for us!