Here’s how Aliento uses art to heal and transform trauma for undocumented
Aliento is an organization using art to heal and transform trauma into hope for those who are undocumented, DACA, or part of a mixed immigration status family.
“It is a space for healing and support provided to our families and youth to help them cope with whatever that they are facing,” said Sarah Blache, one of the arts and healing program managers.
Aliento, located at 4747 N. 32nd St. in Phoenix, has a vision in which human potential is nurtured and not defined by immigration status.
Reyna Montoya is the founder and CEO of Aliento. She was a community organizer before Aliento was founded in 2016 and was inspired to create this platform after the trauma she experienced when her dad was detained undocumented in the U.S.
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Cultiva is one of many Aliento programs. It includes the arts and healing workshops held every third Saturday of the month during fall and spring. The program is free and open to anyone 7 and older who is DACA, undocumented, or part of a mixed-status family.
The bilingual workshop starts with a mindfulness exercise led by the program managers to learn how to cope with the emotions that come up related to their past traumas.
“They have the toolbox, and we provide them with some of the tools,” said Jessica Grijalva, one of the arts and healing program managers.
Undocumented Latina immigrants are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder at nearly four times (34%) the rate of women citizens in America overall (9.7%), according to a study done by George Mason University’s College of Health and Human Services.
Its last workshop theme was “illuminating your path.” Aliento had everyone take a moment to pause and think about a need or emotion they have and where it stemmed from. Then, the participants created paper lanterns where they wrote those needs and tools to help them cope.
The lantern’s purpose was to serve as a reminder every time they saw it that they took time to understand themselves better.
Aliento also dedicate time at the end of the workshop to share and reflect on their experience with the activity in a safe space.
The past workshops have been online this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, Aliento is proud to announce that its last two sessions of the year, on Nov. 16 and Dec. 18, will be in person as of right now.
The program also holds an annual gallery open to the public where all the participants can display their artwork at the end of their season.
Aliento also offers free group therapy sessions during the summer online and often throughout the year. They hire a licensed therapist and are usually made in conjunction with what’s going on with politics.
“We know that these announcements create a lot of trauma and anxiety for folks that are impacted, so usually when a big announcement happens, we make sure we provide a group therapy space soon after,” said Diego Lozano, the marketing and digital director for Aliento.
Along with the arts and healing workshops, the Cultiva program has many other activities to offer, such as open mic nights where the community is welcome to explore immigration from an intersectionality lens. This provides an environment for people to express their thoughts and feelings without fear.
If you are interested in helping Aliento fund their programs, head to their donation link to donate.