From touch-down in Moldova we received a crash course in the history of Empire: Moldova is the little country that has literally been bought, traded, or sold to the highest bidder. Centuries of being trampled have left hopes crushed and the future feeling so bleak that millions have decided to leave their home country rather than rebuild.
The facts were sobering and made the transformational and innovative work that we discovered at Beginning of Life Moldova even more remarkable. Beginning of Life has decided to place themselves on the cutting edge of restoration and regrowth in their community.
We stepped inside the Psychological Art Studio, a vibrant contrast to the gray streets and sad history. As we climbed the winding stairs, one of my teammates whispered to me that she felt she was in a tree house. The vibe was peace and the work being done was being carried out with hope and joy.
Our gracious hosts explained to us how they have a vision for people recovering from the trauma they have experienced so they could rebuild their futures. What impressed us was their commitment and willingness to put in the time to go deep and make sure that patterns were broken and restoration could take root: the program spans an entire year. There is no jumping in to mask the issues. Their long-term commitment to people is what will give the space for true healing to happen.
What started as recovery for girls who had been trafficked has expanded to cover kids and youth. Bubbly preteens buzzed in and out of the rooms on a creative scavenger hunt. Our eyes scanned the gorgeous artwork done by emerging young artists: one young man had been doodling on the back of cardboard cereal boxes and random trash scraps and now was free to put to canvas stunning scenes of Moldovan life. The staff beamed and told us he was just accepted to the national art school. The studio was simply teeming with life.
When chatting with the team we realized they had formulated a strong sense of the “why” behind everything they do. They also were willing to share their knowledge by holding trainings for those interested in doing restorative art therapy in Russia and central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan.
Our small visiting group didn’t want to leave. The hopeful and transforming spirit made us all want to spend some time creating and exploring; I’m sure we brought our own issues that could be unpacked and we certainly had a lot to learn.
We finished our tour at the fun and funky Art Story shop where whimsical stuffed animals where being designed by some of the team and created by a group of vulnerable women. It was cuteness overload and we learned that not only was a team of women employed making the adorable creatures but also three girls received a salary running the shop. As with all the projects, dignity and sustainability were the cornerstones of the operation.
We left overwhelmingly inspired: perhaps Moldova’s history of pain has birthed in them a tenacious creativity that has the power to restore. Through partnerships in Europe and the USA their work is touching not only the vulnerable youth and women coming to art studio but people all over the globe. Our whole group can’t wait till next time we get to spend some time at the art studio. We plan on taking lots of notes on how we can help bring healing and wholeness to our own community.