As the pandemic continues to affect many in the world, the number of children who are likely to experience loss and trauma is increasing. With schools closed across Kenya, more children are subjected to child labour, early marriages, child pregnancies, abuse and domestic violence.

Schools are starting to reopen and bearing in mind how difficult these past few months have been, we want to be ready to address any psychological trauma or emotional distress among our students and staff caused by the pandemic. We want to ensure that the staff members are able to overcome their challenges and perform at their best. We also want our students to come back to a safe space that allows them to continue developing holistically.

In September, staff members underwent online training to equip them to improve mental health and trauma support for children and adolescents. The training was run by art therapists from The Red Pencil Humanitarian Mission. The training equipped the staff members to use art therapy tools and techniques to support their students’ mental health as they also take care of their own mental health.

Our Transition Programme Teacher noted that “as a teacher, I have learnt practical ways to use art to help students communicate their emotions. I can create a safe space for children to express themselves and thrive.” Our Children’s Pastor reflected on the benefit to our frontline staff team, saying, “the training has shed more light about self-care and how to self-regulate. In taking care of ourselves, we won’t be fatigued through our work with the new tools in our counselling sessions.”

The use of art therapy is a unique experience for our team because even though we often engage our students in art activities, we have not used it to intentionally create an environment that supports the wellbeing of children and staff.

“The use of art will be useful during our mentorship sessions as it will help the shy students open up more about their problems.” Football coach.

The days have been filled with a lot of learning and self-reflection through art activities. Here are some of the reflections from the staff members:-

“By understanding how trauma affects children differently we can create a safe space” Children’s Welfare Officer

“In our transition programme, the lessons on how to assist students to self-regulate will enable the teachers to help the students settle in and make their transition to school easier.” Kianda Centre Manager

“The training has included staff members from different departments and this will enable TP to support our students more effectively as a team.”

The Red Pencil Humanitarian Mission believes that “When we rescue the child, we save the adult” and by helping our children develop better coping skills, heal from loss and trauma and grow, we ensure that we give them more opportunities to fully develop their God-given potential.