The Red Pencil: Healing the “silent trauma” of earthquake survivors in North Lombok through arts therapy


The Red Pencil: Healing the “silent trauma” of earthquake survivors in North Lombok through arts therapy
Kamis, 07 Maret 2019

At the RRA (Ruang Ramah Anak - Child Friendly Space): The children pose with their final collage together with The Red Pencil volunteer arts therapist Emma (left) and Myoung (right). Behind them is a mural also done by the children during an arts therapy mission in December 2018. (Photo: Janet Joe/The Red Pencil)

LOMBOK - It has been six months since the July-August earthquake in Lombok. But the trauma of the massive earthquake that damaged parts of Lombok is still felt by many people, especially the children and women in North Lombok, the area worst affected by the disaster.

The Red Pencil Humanitarian Mission (The Red Pencil, thereafter), in collaboration with the Youth Care Foundation, held a series of arts therapies to help children and women in Semokan Hamlet, a remote area in North Lombok Regency, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB).

The Red Pencil is an international humanitarian organization with offices in Geneva, Singapore, Brussels and Dubai.

Around 40 elementary and middle school children gathered at the one-stop emergency school, in Semokan Hamlet, Monday, February 18, after school hours.

With paper and drawing equipment, they then began painting. Occasionally joking and laughing with their friends.

"For these children, the development has been good, from painting and color choices, arts therapy has helped themrecover from trauma," said Emma Halim, volunteer arts therapist from The Red Pencil.

Emma has been doing arts therapy for almost two months in Semokan Hamlet.

The target beneficiaries are children and women in the Semokan Ruak and Batu Ringgit, two smaller areas in the Semokan Hamlet area. They number to about 100 people, which includes children and women.

The Red Pencil volunteer arts therapist Myoung (left) and Emma (right) working with the children in preparing the big collage. (Photo: Janet Joe/The Red Pencil)

According to Emma, through arts therapy, the children and women in Semokan Hamlet can express and share their feelings through artmaking.

"We conduct therapy using visual arts media. We also train some teachers here so that they can apply it when working with beneficiaries after our mission is over," she said.

Emma related that when she first held arts therapy sessions earlier in January 2019, the children and women were still very traumatized.

Especially when heavy rain or strong winds come. Furthermore, until last February several earthquake tremors were still felt in Lombok.

The level of anxiety and trauma is reflected in the pictures painted, as well as the choice of colors used by children and mothers of therapy participants.

Semokan Hamlet is included in the administration of Sukadana Village, Bayan District, North Lombok Regency. This area is classified as remote, and the people still highly uphold traditional values and local wisdom.

The earthquake that occurred in July-August 2018 ago has heavily damaged most of the houses in Semokan Hamlet.

At present, the conditions remain the same. The distance from Semokan Hamlet, which is far from the center of North Lombok's government, makes post-disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction in the hamlet run very slowly.

Semokan Hamlet Chief, Dulsalam said, the number of families in Semokanis around 400 families. Of that number, around 179 houses were damaged by the earthquake.

"Until now, only about 75 houses have been repaired," he said.

The most severe is the Posyandu building. Until now Posyandu is still damaged and a temporary Posyandu has not been built.

For the activity of the Posyandu, Posyandu cadres and people who have toddlers use berugak or wooden buildings in the hamlet chief's house.

According to Dulsalam, the North Lombok regional government has kept a record of damaged houses, particularly noting which ones were heavily, moderately, and lightly damaged.

However, the administrative process is complicated and it makes it difficult to speed up the development process.

Dulsalam acknowledged that the arts therapy programme of The Red Pencil and the Yayasan Pemuda Peduli was quite helpful for the local community, especially to children and women.

Particularly since some people still live in temporary shelters that they have built independently.

"These children and women are the most vulnerable. They are most likely experiencing discomfort [being in temporary shelters] because it is not like the homes that they were used to," said Dulsalam.

Meanwhile, Issara Rizkya from Yayasan Pemuda Peduli explained that they have been conducting an educational development program in Semokan Hamlet in Sukadana Village before the earthquake.

This foundation based in Bandung, West Java, has a program that sends teachers and educators to filial schools.

"At the of 2018, we started an education program. We learned about this hamlet after browsing and doing research.We found out that there is a filial school here and we try to help by sending teachers," said Acha, the nickname of Issara Rizkya.

When the earthquake happened, the Foundation then decided to carry out emergency response assistance in this hamlet.

The trauma healing program was finally carried out, and in 2019 the Foundation collaborated with The Red Pencil.

Acha admitted that she was saddened by what had happened to the Semokan Hamlet community.

Far from the center of government, it seems as if making people in this hamlet have been forgotten.

The Red Pencil's Marketing and Communication Manager, Joyce Zaide said, the Red Pencil mission is to bring the benefits of arts therapy (art, music, movement and dance) to the most vulnerable, particularly children and families, throughout the world.They are those who have gone through traumatic life conditions—natural disasters, displacement as a result of zone conflicts, human trafficking, life-threatening diseases, violence or abuse—for which they have no words.

"Since our inception in 2011, we have carried out missions in more than countries and impacted more than 17,000 beneficiaries," she said.

Joyce Zaide explained that the arts therapy program in Lombok were carried out for community building and to restore hope among children in emergency schools managed by partner Yayasan Pemuda Peduli.

"The aim is to provide trauma healing after they experienced the Lombok earthquake in August 2018," she said.

Meanwhile, Founder and Managing Director of The Red Pencil, Laurence Vandenborre, explained that the teachers were also given training (Train-the-Trainer or TTT) in order to maintain the impact of the work done with children.

The aim of the TTT itself is to provide skills and knowledge to the teachers or caregivers to use creative arts tools and techniques in their work with the children.

After the two-month stay ends at the end of February, the Red Pencil makes a full assessment of its mission and benefits.

"We will return to the same place for the same beneficiary within a few months if it is considered valuable to the community. There is another place in Indonesia where we hope to intervene like Sulawesi," Laurence said. (Inforial/*)