“Often, women who have been trafficked or experienced homelessness believe that their only path in life is to prostitute themselves, but their abuse is not the sum of who they are. Exposing them to pottery has opened up their eyes to building new skillsets and created an array of new opportunities that tell them their lives don’t have to be this way.”
This is what Send Relief partner Kendall Wolz had to say about our ministry center Baptist Friendship House’s (BFH) newest therapeutic program—ceramics class.
Primarily serving as a creative arts program for women experiencing sexual exploitation or homelessness, the pottery ministry was created after a volunteer and good friend to BFH, Jenny, fell in love with the work being done on the streets of New Orleans and wanted to contribute. After attending a group therapy session where she realized many women needed a creative outlet, Jenny went back to her home church and immediately started fundraising for a kiln to donate. Jenny was able to transport the kiln back to Louisiana and began teaching BFH staff the intricacies of ceramics making.
“We can teach women how to do something with their hands that not only is therapeutic but also could develop into something that helps vulnerable women become self-sufficient,” shared BFH staff member Kayleigh White. “Some people aren’t verbal processors, so we try to include this form of expressive art therapy after group therapy for those who need to work through some of the complicated emotions that often arise in a therapeutic setting.”
One of the primary artisans, Sarah, has been excited and involved since day one of this program.
Sarah struggled with alcohol addiction for many years and lived on the streets of New Orleans for decades before seeking help. BFH staff can’t remember ever seeing her sober before enrolling in their program, but she showed a special interest in the pottery classes once they were announced.
After making giant strides in her ceramics skills program, Sarah made it a goal to save the money she was making off of her pottery pieces to eventually own her own business. She shared that learning to mold the clay had really facilitated spiritual healing and growth, as she would contemplate God’s role as the potter and hers as the clay while working on a new project.
Today, Sarah is a graduate of culinary school, as well as the ceramics program, and is well on her way to opening a store with the nest egg she has acquired through these pottery classes. She was baptized last week at her new home church where she is thriving.
Another participant, Maria, has been in the BFH community for about a year but just made the decision recently to start pottery classes. Maria is seeking asylum in America, as she was forced to flee her home country in Latin America after horrific acts of violence were committed against her family. Maria and her small child are receiving ESL, case management and legal assistance from BFH as they navigate this difficult in-between time, and the pottery classes are serving as a much-needed outlet while she processes the trauma of her past.
Wolz commented on the healing that these creative group therapy sessions facilitate, saying, “The best way to heal injuries and hurts that happen to us in relation to other people is to be in healthy relationships with others where the Holy Spirit is present.”
If you would like to help women like Maria and Sarah continue their healing journeys, you can purchase pottery made by them at the Baptist Friendship House here.
Published May 20, 2021