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VAST Received a $30,176 Grant to Provide a Creative Arts Program During the Pandemic for Refugees in Recovery from Trauma & Torture

Surrey – SurreyCares Community Foundation has 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 runs individually and in small groups, increasing their healing and integration into Canadian society through art and expression. The ECSF 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.”

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 delivers 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 arts 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.”

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 from this program positively correlate with greater resiliency and the ability to cope with traumatic events. The investment of 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.  

“We’re grateful to the Government of Canada for this much-needed boost benefitting local charities,” said John Lawson, Chair of SurreyCares Community Foundation. “Charities and non-profit organizations have been leading the charge to assist those who need it most in the fight against COVID-19. We know the need for funding is still significant and we’re continuing to advocate for additional funding.” 

Individuals and businesses who wish to support Surrey charities are asked to give to the Smart & Caring – Surrey’s Community Fund.

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