Touch Drawing with Traumatized Children in Gaza

by Mohammad Mukhamair

Last fall Mukti Khanna invited me to introduce Touch Drawing to two Palestinian therapists from Gaza who were in Olympia, WA for a trauma treatment training program. It was very moving to connect with them, and we sent them home with a suitcase full of Touch Drawing supplies. One of the therapists, Mohammad, and I have maintained an active correspondence since then, as much as can be expected from someone in a war zone. Sometimes he hears a blast out the window while he is writing. Sometimes roads are blocked off and he can’t get to the clinic where he works with the children.

I was born and raised in Rafah Refugee Camp in the southern area of Gaza Strip, and got my university degree in psychology. I have been working as a psychologist in Gaza Community Mental Health Program since 1998. This is non-profit, non- governmental organization established in 1990 to provide comprehensive community mental health services to the population of Gaza Strip, including therapy, training and research. It’s one of the leading mental health organizations in Palestine. We provide urgent psychological intervention for thousands of children and families experiencing severe organized violence and trauma.

Being a Palestinian Psychologist assisting traumatized children is a very painful task. The context of work is a nation that has been living a collective experience of humiliation and oppression for 57 years. Ongoing trauma destroys people’s sense of safety and keeps them helpless. It reinforces their core assumption of injustice in the world. Many people are vying for martyrdom and eternal life. But there is no military solution for this bloody conflict. Some day they will realize that power is the ability to love not the ability to kill and destroy.

A large part of my work is with children to help them imagine a different future other than being a martyr, given the desire to try to do something in the current situation. This generation of children has lost the feeling of safety, which is a basic condition for a normal process of emotional, physical and social growth. In my center I try to create a safe environment in the play therapy room, by using different kinds of expressive art therapy. I consider it a very powerful model in dealing with people afflicted by trauma. I try to apply some tools in the daily work with children to help them experience the world in different way, rather than be occupied with violent fantasy, and mixed feelings of fear and aggression.

Touch Drawing helps the children externalize and express their thoughts and emotions in a creative way. They can imagine and create images and draw their wishes in a very smooth way on the paper. I can feel their feelings of pleasure and self control. It’s very fun, pleasurable, and allows them to express many feelings. It fascinates the children as they feel much control and ability to change.

      

This is a picture of a 12 year old boy. He suffered from post traumatic reaction and depression. Six months ago the Israeli Army invaded his village. Several people were killed and injured. He witnessed the event and experienced a lot of fear and sadness.

You can contact Mohammad Mukhamair at ybna1948@yahoo.com

Mukti and I feel that it would be of great mutual benefit for Mohammad to attend the International Expressive Art Therapy Association conference in San Francisco this March. The theme of this conference is Peace and Transformation through Expressive Arts. He is on the front lines of this work as he helps traumatized children to envision other paths than martyrdom.

We are looking for funding and support both to keep him stocked with Touch Drawing supplies and to bring him to the conference. IEATA (www.ieata.org) has agreed to be his official sponsor, but does not have financial resources to cover any of his costs. If you would like to make a donation of money, air miles or help in any other way, please contact me at deborah@touchdrawing.com.