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VAST Receives $30,176 to Provide a Creative Arts Program for Refugees in Recovery from Trauma.

We have provided a $30,176 Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF) grant to the Vancouver Association for the Survivors of Torture (VAST). This funding is providing support for individuals and families, already in recovery from trauma and torture, with a creative outlet during the pandemic. The program is offered for individuals and small groups, increasing healing and integration into Canadian society through art and expression. The ECSF grant was used to fund professional expressive arts therapists, art supplies, and interpreters.


“VAST serves individuals who are survivors of war, political violence, torture, and the traumas of the refugee experience. During the global pandemic, these individuals consistently expressed an even greater need for support and connection,” said Gilberto Algar-Faria, Development Coordinator at VAST. “Anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and other trauma symptoms have been exacerbated during this time, and connecting to a healing and supportive community is essential for safety and healing.”


"Making art helped me connect with my soul."

VAST’s expressive arts-based programming is available online, and clients who need support connecting to new online spaces are provided with training as well. Participants do not need any artistic experience to join the group. VAST volunteers deliver high-quality art supplies directly to the clients, who participate from their homes. The methods used include drawing, painting, collage, play & drama, music, voice, dancing, clay sculptures, and poetry. VAST’s team of trained expressive art therapists and community engagement workers deliver this programming in first languages, including Spanish, French, Farsi, Dari, Arabic, and Swahili.


“The community benefits tremendously by having outlets for creative expression that allows for the creation of a sense of belonging and integration,” explained Matias Hacker, Senior Expressive Arts Therapist at VAST. “Expressive art therapy enhances the ability to share experiences and tell stories, and shape them through the arts. Healing through the arts decreases vulnerability and trauma-related symptoms increase a sense of belonging and promotes self-regulation.”


"It's helped me experience life through art and color for the first time."

“At VAST, we try to engage participants' imaginations, as oftentimes trauma causes a loss of imagination and creativity. Therefore, art helps to heal trauma in ways that speaking may not,” explained Elena Hack, Expressive Arts Therapist at VAST. “Art is truly a universal language for all and can be used to encourage healing.”

This grant is made possible through the Government of Canada's $350 million Emergency Community Support Fund, which saw over $900,000 allocated to SurreyCares in its first round and now, over $575,000 in the second round.


“SurreyCares Community Foundation is thankful to have been able to support VAST in providing their clients with an uplifting art and expression program. The skills taught in this program positively correlate with greater resiliency and the ability to cope with traumatic events. The investment in these tools helps each participant cope not just in the present, but also in the future. We continue to hear about and advocate for the need for mental health and community support for refugees during the pandemic and beyond,” said Christine Buttkus, Executive Director of SurreyCares Community Foundation.


The Emergency Community Support Fund is being delivered through a national partnership with Community Foundations of Canada, United Way Centraide Canada, and the Canadian Red Cross.


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