Lowell, MA

Contact Name
Linda Sopheap Sou
Project Dates
Year round
Tags
Event, Design
The series offers workshops for youth whose family may have experienced trauma. The workshops include history and cultures, healthy coping skills for dealing with trauma, family strengthening, building healthier relationships between youth and parent/grandparents and learning about post traumatic stress disorder.

JTH also offers an expressive arts component where youth are given the opportunity to express themselves through art, design and dance. Past projects have ranged from traditional Cambodian art to modern art/design; past art projects include creating masks out of paper-mache, designing fashion garments out of traditional cloth, as well as storytelling through shadow puppets and spoken word.
Project Goals
What were the project goals?
The Journey to Healing (JTH) project is designed to address key risk factors and promote protective factors in a manner that was culturally relevant for immigrant youth. It aims to reduce violence, enhance healthy coping skills, and promote family connections. Through JTH, LCHC’s Teen Block increases access to violence prevention services for this hard-to-reach population of second generation torture survivors who are at-risk for mental health, substance abuse, HIV infection, disconnection from their parents, and are further stressed by academic failure, gang, and criminal involvement. The program model responds to the unique needs of immigrant youth ranging in age from 13-20 years old.

The goal of LCHC’s Teen Block Journey to Healing Project is to “inspire, train and support youth to serve as active participants and decision makers in reducing risk factors associated with violence in Lowell utilizing creative strategies, family strengthening and community connections.”
Have they changed over time?
Changes and adaptation have been made over time when new immigrant populations arrive to the city and utilize LCHC servces
Who are the project partners and stakeholders?
Project partners include the Angkor Dance Troupe, FreeVerse!, other youth serving agencies, and the project is partially funded through Lowell Police Department and MA Department of Public Health.
Project Specifics
How was the project implemented? What were the steps taken?
The project has been implemented since 2005. There was a year-long planning process which piloted the workshops and content with youth and families allowing for real time feedback and changes to be made.

New youth were then recruited to participate in the series and at the end of each cohort the group hosts an art exhibit open to the community. The art exhibit displays art projects, testimonies of their journey to healing and an opportunity to engage the larger community.
Have they been refined over time?
The project has run quite smoothly over the years and we have increased our outreach efforts to create similar groups as they are requested.
Obstacles
What were your major obstacles?
Major obstacles that are faced is the ability to truly engage the family in the healing process.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
We continue to work with liaisons to support in building relationships with families.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
1.) Have an adult component to the program
2.) Have a parent liaison as part of the team
3.) Work with the schools to be an avenue to present the information
Project Impact
How has this project contributed to creative community building?
Through our partnerships youth are cross referred building their skills and ability to navigate through the resources in the community. My modeling the ability for adults and organizations to work collaborating youth are also able to see the importance of becoming vested in the community in which they live, building leaders for the future.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
Youth that have completed the Journey to Healing series have become strong advocates within their community and presented testimony at national hearings about the needs of torture survivors and the need for integrated identity amongst immigrant youth to avoid gang involvement.
Were there unexpected impacts?
Here are some outcome messages that are received via the Journey to Healing Project include:
- Exploring different healthy coping skills to see which one is right for you (understand the behavior and destructive aspects of unhealthy coping i.e. violent behavior, addiction, gambling, risk-taking)
- Depression can be treated
- Meditation can be a way to re-balance your mind and body and is a skill that can be practiced
- Understanding the behavior of PTSD and how it affects the entire family; how you can seek help; types of bicultural care
- Poetry and writing can be a healthy form of processing pain and other strong emotions
- Art can be symbolic and an opportunity to express feelings through many forms such as drawing, sculpture, opera, lyrical writing, and fashion
- Documentaries and oral history can shed understanding and provide perspective
- You are not alone with facing bi-cultural issues
- We can contribute to changes in cultural attitudes by practicing appropriate and moderate behaviors, being willing to talk about healthy attitudes at appropriate times and places, and helping others develop appropriate attitudes and behaviors.
- Examine your current level of personal responsibility in your family life, with an eye toward developing personal independence and responsibility for adulthood.
- It is often helpful and appropriate to talk openly and honestly about our true thoughts and feelings with others.
- Improve your feelings communication skills and enhance your sense of competence, self-esteem, connectedness, and bonding with others. (difference between thinking and feeling)
- Recognize your potential and affirm your sense of self-esteem through visualizing yourselves in the role of future parents, co-workers, supervisors, or other adults responsible for setting appropriate expectations and consequences.