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A space for arts and wellness during COVID-19

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Amidst a global pandemic, many have turned a newfound focus toward hobbies, crafting, and arts and wellness. This past summer, at the International Rescue Committee in Los Angeles, such a trend was not unprecedented. Natalie Kobsa-Mark and Brennie Dale, the IRC in LA’s summer Unaccompanied Children (UC) interns, developed and led an ‘Arts and Wellness’ program devoted fostering a sense of creativity and calm among UCs. 

In weekly hour-long virtual meetings on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Kobsa-Mark and Dale taught classes on yoga, visual art, and music. “I liked everything, it was very fun, and the classes helped us to reduce stress,” said one UC whose first initial begins with G. 

Brennie Dale and Natalie Kobsa-Mark leading one of the music classes, using instruments students can make at home!

"I especially liked the yoga, it helped me feel more relaxed. We did a lot using our imaginations, such as making sounds and music from instruments that we made from items around our house. We also used a lot of creativity making paintings from art materials that the IRC sent us.” 

All students enrolled in the program were mailed “art packets” which included information about yoga, color theory, and music worksheets as well as supplies such as watercolor kits and coloring pages. According to Kobsa-Mark, she and Dale were determined to provide a safe and relaxing atmosphere for the UCs, while also introducing them something new. 

“It was very fun,” said another UC whose first initial begins with A. “I learned a little English and art, and I learned things that I didn’t know.” 

In total, ten students participated in the program, all of whom currently live in the Los Angeles metropolitan area and are originally from Central America. To Kobsa-Mark and Dale, discussing topics related to the students’ backgrounds was important. As a part of their visual art curriculum, the two talked about Frida Kahlo, her indigeneity, her feminism, and how she portrayed her identity in her portraits. Kobsa-Mark and Dale then asked the students to draw their own portraits, incorporating aspects of their own identities and cultures.  

A student shares her Frida Kahlo style self-portrait.

At the end the three-week program, Kobsa-Mark and Dale held a wrap-up class which Kobsa-Mark describes as being “all around fun.” The UCs shared what they enjoyed about the program and talked about new skills they were taking away. Even now after the program’s end, Kobsa-Mark still communicates with students sometimes. “I always check in with the kids who loved drawing and I ask if they’re still using the supplies we sent.” We're happy to report they are.  

Author: Isabel Guarco, Journalism Intern