Written by Kirstie Nel, international student in the Art Therapy Master’s program at the University of Haifa International School.
NAMAL Project – check in with Liz Yung
I had finally been able to talk to Liz, the instructor running the group sessions for NAMAL (created by Prof. Ester Cohen, a post-traumatic play specialist and operated by the Israeli Psycho-trauma Center). Unfortunately the group sessions ended in January and due to my own study obligations it was just not feasible for myself to attend any sessions in that time. In addition, the future of NAMAL is uncertain and new groups in 2016 are still yet to be confirmed.
I had a good conversation with Liz about the NAMAL project over the telephone. Liz is an amazing woman and has been involved with NAMAL for 8 years. Other than NAMAL, she works as a pre-school teacher at a kibbutz near Sderot and acts as a supervisor to other young teachers as well. She has also other groups she runs, with mothers from low socio-economic backgrounds. She speaks Spanish, Hebrew and English and also acts as a supervisor to groups of Spanish immigrants dealing with immigration trauma.
The NAMAL project, as Liz explained to me, works with mothers and children living under the threat of ‘fire’ in and around Sderot near Gaza. The children are 2-3 years of age and focuses on empowering both parent and child in coping and handling trauma the duration of the group lasts for 14 sessions in total. Usually there are at least 2 groups a year and last year there were 4 (thus the prospects sound promising for this year!).
Liz spoke of a doll that she uses in each session to explain trauma to the group. The group sessions also place emphasis on establishing a routine (by beginning and ending with a song, and having the doll each session) to help promote feelings of safety and security. In general routine and structure helps to reduce anxiety in people.
Each meeting a different theme is brought to the session that deals with trauma. Liz spoke of a session with the activity of finger-painting with the children. During this activity the mothers do not get involved with finger-painting alongside the children and are rather active in communicating, reacting and containing the children. During the activity a piece of white paper is taped down to the floor – the edges of the paper and tape serves as a frame within which the children can play with the paint. Thus promoting creative expression but within boundaries set. The frame serves as a contained and safe space in which the children can play.
Another interesting activity they do in the group sessions is the ‘relaxation box’. The relaxation box is a box prepared for the children by the mothers and is a gift that they give to their children. Each mom decorates a shoe box and places objects inside that they know is comforting to their child and calms them during times of distress. I thought this especially a very beautiful activity in that the mothers take the time to prepare a special gift for their child. It reminded me of group sessions I ran back home at Horizon House, a residential home for intellectually disabled adults. In this activity each member made their own comfort box and made things to put inside and could add things of their own to their box as well.
What is more, Liz also spoke of it as a dream of hers to be able to extend the NAMAL project to work with Palestinian mothers and children as well. A dream I hope would be able to come true one day as well.