The California wildfires this October 2017 have ravages thousands of homes, caused many tragic deaths and disrupted the education and economy of multiple communities in the Northern Bay area, including family and friends. Our hearts are with these communities as they begin to repair, heal and move forwards in their lives.
A HAPPI team spent a weekend in the acute phase of the crisis, providing expressive arts support at Sonoma Valley High School which was converted into an emergency shelter as well as at Sonoma Raceway. We served approximately 40-50 evacuees. We were welcomed by the Principal Karen and her team of volunteers at Sonoma Valley H.S. and by the staff of the Sonoma Raceway. We provided more simplified stress relieving expressive arts therapy based activities, including guided breathing strategies, yoga, puppet making, painting and coloring. We connected empathically with many evacuees, both children and adults to provide validation, comfort, and warm connection. When possible, we shared the typical trauma and stress responses happening in the Nervous System and brain as well to normalize symptoms and inform on how to cope better, including relaxation recommendations.
We are grateful for the opportunity to provide short term relief support in the acute stage of the crisis. Check out the photos from our work for this project. Special thanks to our team of volunteers for this project: Fran Sharp, Thao Bui, Danielle Kardum, Andrea Salinas, Carlos Vasquez, and April Dawn Parker.