Cairo, Egypt 2018

Jennie kristel's Blog

DSC07697 I  am now back from Cairo, Egypt, where I spent two weeks working with Dawar Arts (www.dawararts.com)a wonderful experience on many levels.  And, I have to say, it was lovely to move around without a winter coat!

Working with my colleague Ben Rivers, and others at the Dawar Arts Center was exciting and inspiring.

Ben Monier and I at the Left Bank on the Nile RiverBen Rivers, Ahmed Mounir, and I having lunch by the Nile River.

Dawar is fast becoming a home for therapies, psychodrama, dance/movement work, arts based therapies  workshops and training.  I was the first trainer in their Creative Arts Training program, a year long diploma program to support community advocates in using the arts in their work.  Our focus was on using Visual art, and we integrated other expressive arts into the process.  Participants of this program

28945820_10159919721725136_383828218_o Conversing on Paper

come from all over Egypt, and Lebanon.  My last workshop “Caring for Caregivers An arts based approach…

View original post 500 more words


Cairo, Egypt 2018

DSC07697 I  am now back from Cairo, Egypt, where I spent two weeks working with Dawar Arts (www.dawararts.com)a wonderful experience on many levels.  And, I have to say, it was lovely to move around without a winter coat!

Working with my colleague Ben Rivers, and others at the Dawar Arts Center was exciting and inspiring.

Ben Monier and I at the Left Bank on the Nile River

Ben Rivers, Ahmed Mounir, and I having lunch by the Nile River.

Dawar is fast becoming a home for therapies, psychodrama, dance/movement work, arts based therapies  workshops and training.  I was the first trainer in their Creative Arts Training program, a year long diploma program to support community advocates in using the arts in their work.  Our focus was on using Visual art, and we integrated other expressive arts into the process.  Participants of this program


Conversing on Paper

come from all over Egypt, and Lebanon.  My last workshop “Caring for Caregivers An arts based approach to Burn Out” had participants from two countries and multiple professions including psychiatry, veterinary, artists, teachers, councilors, disaster relief 28943488_10159919723230136_440269292_oworkers and theatre activists. The burdens people feel are in some cases excruciating. People are caregivers to family members, disaster relief workers in war torn areas, clinicians and advocates working with challenged populations such as street children, refugees, and the mentally ill.  While weaving an introduction to using the arts to this subject using a trauma informed lens, including  a look at how creativity stimulates the Brain, we experimented, played and engaged directly with art, movement, puppetry, object theatre, music, dancing, Touch Drawing, and much more. Students were moved and excited by the possibility of being able to Self soothe, and create spaces for Self care as well as to be able to have tools for their clients and students and family members.


Dialoguing with the Imagination



      Cairo itself seems to struggle as the country is gripped with political chaos and conservatism. (Sound familiar?) In fact, I left during their election.   It is 97% Muslim, and 3% Christian.  Muslim prayers ring out over loudspeakers 5 times a day beginning at 4:30am.  At one point until after WWII, there was a strong Jewish community. In fact, there is a gorgeous, but derelict Synagogue across from where I often ate that was under police protection. But I wasn’t allowed in, and couldn’t photograph it  nor had it been used in what looked like many many years. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few years. It certainly isn’t lost on me that I, a Jew, was in Egypt and that today marks the beginning of Passover, which celebrates the Jewish exodus from Egypt.


Dawar Playback Theatre

One of the things I did in between trainings was see Dawar Playback Theatre in action, and as well to  visit a kitchen in the making at the Ezbet Kharallah slum. Ben is working with the community to create this Kitchen (a common thing in Egypt are various

Sitting with Mostafa on the new bench in Ezbet Kharallah

Rooftop where there will be a new kitchen.

Kitchens, Syrian and Egyptian that caters food) to be able to hire and train local refugees from Syria. At the same time he is working with the community to beautify the area and he had a beautiful bench and garden area created to support this idea.



As I have just arrived home, I am exploring ways in which my work as a trainer and as a therapist will dovetail. Certainly, these last two trips to Africa have profoundly influenced my thinking for future training both here and abroad. I am very excited to see what will be next for me here in the States, as I explore partnering with other clinicians and groups. Do let me know if you would like to partner and collaborate on a training!

Happily, it is looking like I will be partnering again with the Dawar Arts organization in the  future.





In January of this year, I went as part of a 10 person team of Arts based therapists from the States  to work with a 7 person leadership team of East Africans meeting in Kenya with the Global Alliance for Africa (GAA) Therapeutic Arts program(TAP). The East Africans came not only from Kenya but Uganda and Tanzania as well. TAP has been working in East Africa for the last 11 years and this years trip was done in a new way, by having those who were identified as Leaders from previous trips in the growing uses of arts based therapy in their regions.

I was a day late in arriving due to frigid cold weather in the eastern coast of the US that backed up all travel for days. I was lucky in that I was only a day late.

Included in the East African group were professional artists, theatre activists, dancers, storytellers, teachers and councilors. Included in the US team were art therapists, expressive arts therapists, Drama therapists, art and expressive therapy students.


Meeting in small groups

The overall training was co-facilitated by Cathy Moon ATR-BC (who is the Chair of the art therapy program at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago) and Tally Tripp ATR-BC (professor at George Washington University) with the rest of the US based as adjuncts in the process.

So much was covered!  While I missed a bit, including the important sociometry at the beginning, it was not hard to fall into rhythm with others as we were very happy to connect. From basic counseling skills, to integrating art making and drama into counseling,   and education (many of the East Africans work in schools or after school programs) recognizing and working with trauma to artistic skill sharings including Playback Theatre, Touch Drawing, Theatre games, Singing, Dancing, Basket weaving and paper folding creating dolls, journals, boxes.  Each day we met from 8:30 to 3 integrating

Melissa teaching basketweaving

Learning to create Baskets

material didactically, experientially and looking deeply at how to bring the arts into schools, orphanages and art therapy workshop settings. Then from 4:30-6 for Skill sharing.

We also were able to sight see-  Two of the East African participants are internationally recognized  professional artists  who work out of their home. They offer art therapy to the local children and families many of whom work in the flower industry. One of the issues facing families who work in the Dutch owned industry are higher than normal Cancer rates, and fatalities due to chemicals that are used to preserve flowers so that when they arrive in Europe they look “Fresh”.  Street children are often orphaned, cared for by other family members or friends.  Certainly has made me much more observant and thoughtful around where my flowers come from.


At the art therapy studio of the Wadus

When we were there at their studio, their adult son was finishing an art therapy session with about 30 children.They were excited and happy to show us their work they had done that day, belying the more intense struggles they experience at home. From there we went to Lake Naivasha. While we were there a number of us took a boat cruise and saw hundreds of birds, Hippos, Zebras. The land adjacent to the lake is where “Elsa” The lioness of the 1960’s film, “Born Free” was released into the wild. Our program coordinator Linda Stolz (who worked tirelessly on our behalf day and often night) wanted to get Crayfish for dinner that night but wasn’t able as the Crayfish had been all bought out from the lake by Chinese corporations. Then ensued my education on what was happening in the entire African continent  based on Chinese corporations buying into  and building the infrastructure. Deeply disturbing and powerful. Kenyans had lived from eating Crayfish from the Lake for centuries and now have none. For more information about this go to: https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/china-africa

We also went to an amazing glass blowing studio  (and later stayed at a Treehouse B&B that had integrated into everywhere blown and stained glass)and a library that Global Alliance of Africa is supporting in Kibera- Kenyas largest slum area.  Going to Kibera was a deep conversation. One of the things we, as US participants wanted to be clear on and careful of was why and how we would go into the slum areas. In fact, two East African participants did not want us to go in. Kibera had a tremendous amount of violence during the elections of 2009  and again last August.(For more information on this, go to: https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/08/12/photos-gunshots-in-kibera-mathare-as-cops-disperse-post-election_c1615333)  Hard feelings are still had around this.

DSC07143We also went to the National Art Museum. The two  artists who were participants, Eunice and Sane Wadu, whose home we had gone to, had paintings in a show there. The museum was wonderful and I leaned much about the work of Joy Adamson who is deeply revered as a conservationist. She was also a fabulous watercolorist as well.

We ended our training on Wednesday evening, closing our circle and saying our goodbyes to the East Africans. On Thursday morning the US participants went by train to Watamu along the Indian Ocean coast. This was where we were to process our time together and think around next steps- all while staying in an amazing guesthouse that was built like a tree house. As there were no windows and basically no doors, we were outside the whole time. Let’s just say we had often close encounters with Monkeys. We were not allowed to keep any food at all, but one monkey thought my wipes were interesting and came in my room and grabbed them.

My last two days were spent with my niece, Stephanie and her husband Andrew OngukaDSC07432 and their three boys in Nairobi. Stephanie is a physician and Andrew a minister and together they have developed a scholarship program for those academically  talented from the Mathare slum areas. As well they work with their families. As well, while I was there, Andrew was busy meeting with people and trying to figure out better ways people could water their cows. They are doing much good work. I was able to meet one of their graduates who is waiting to go to college next year. They are doing amazing work together. See for yourself! (.http://www.onelifeafrica.org/ )

While I did not intentionally go on safari, Kenya being what it is,  I was able to enjoy an abundance of wildlife including Giraffes, Baboons, Monkeys, warthogs, Elephants and a huge array of birds, as were driving throughout my stay. It was in a nut shell an amazing trip with a lovely group of people. If you have a chance to go, I think a wonderful and deepening experience.


Dreaming the World

It is clear off towards the lake, and cold. Clouds lie thick over the hill to our south, obscuring the sun for now. When it does appear, it will be the wan sun of the winter solstice.

View original post 253 more words

I’ve been asked to train trainers in Egypt, Kenya, and India in 2018. I’m incredibly excited and honored. Working with the arts and with Playback Theatre has always been the powerful bones of my work.

In January 2018,  sponsored by The Global Alliance for Africa, a non-profit in Chicago Illinois, I’ll join several arts-based therapists working with artists, therapists, and gaasaf4community advocates who are aiding orphans in Karen, a town outside Nairobi. We’ll be in conversation with local professionals as we learn about their work, understand their needs, and share ideas. It is everyone’s expectation that the arts-based tools we share will greatly benefit workshop attendees, enhancing their effectiveness as therapists and educators, and enriching both their work and ours. In this work teachers and participants are all both facilitators and learners.For more information on GAA and their work:  Global Alliance for Africa

Educators and therapists around the world have expressed a great hunger to learn arts-based tools that support clients and address complex issues such as trauma. In my last trip to India in a psychodrama for Playback practitioners, we heard stories about DSC04302strength and resilience of people who experienced deep violence. I expect to support in creating this kind of safe container again, when I go back to Bangalore in June 2018 to work with the Actors Collective and Yours Truly Playback Theatre troupes both renowned and awarded companies.

And, in March, Im very excited to be working with Ben Rivers at the Dawar Arts Center 23000157_372336273178874_211023708324059649_oin Cairo, Egypt.The Dawar Arts Community in Cairo, Egypt has invited me to facilitate two trainings. Directed by Ben Rivers, Dawar “utilities participatory theatre, therapeutic drama and other arts-based processes for healing, dialogue and societal transformation from the grassroots up.” I’ll be working with therapists, caregivers, and other professionals seeking ways to integrate the expressive arts into their projects, practices, and communities. The first training will explore issues related to burnout using narrative therapy and the expressive arts; the second is an overall introduction to the potential and practices of expressive arts therapy field.


Because I volunteer much of what I do, I need to fundraise for travel. Please feel free to check out current fundraising project at FundMyTravel  Many hearts and hands can help, and if you donate, you can become part of  my travels too.No donations are too small. Thank you in advance!

High Holy Days

Dreaming the World

Each year, here in New England, Fall creeps down the mountains to the lakes and the ocean. A couple of weeks ago the weather was cool and damp, and our autumn color change was progressing rapidly. Then summer-like warmth and dryness returned and the change stopped abruptly, replaced by browning leaves and sudden leaf drop.

Something similar happened last year when, after a soggy first half of summer, drought set in. By mid-September we were pretty certain there would be no autumn color. Then, at the last moment, cool, rainy weather arrived saving the season. We’re hoping for another miraculous turnaround this year.

View original post 476 more words

Michael and I just came baqck from a 2480 mile road trip to the Midwest and Canada. Here he offers some thoughts on what we experienced, particularity at the McMichael Collection outside Toronto.

Dreaming the World

We’ve been traveling. Over the course of past ten days we drove out to Illinois to visit family, then up to Toronto to explore the city, its museums, and the natural world that surrounds it. Yesterday we drove the nine hours home. The drive home proved stormy, yet we somehow stayed ahead of the rain most of the way; a couple of hours east of Toronto a tornado formed behind us, touched down briefly, then dissapated. Today,  the storms have arrived here, repeatedly drenching the landscape.

View original post 513 more words

Dreaming the World

Yesterday was a perfect summer day, very much fitting of the 4th of July. We kayaked and picnicked, then went walking along the lake shore, or rather Jennie walked while I rode my scooter. I’ve finally decided I appreciate the scooter and the flexibility it offers; of course, in true Polio fashion, it has taken three years to arrive at appreciation.

View original post 245 more words

Ethical Quandaries

Dreaming the World

It is cold; really cold. The new pattern seems to be we receive our deep cold weather in March, rather than January and February. We could use some snow as the bare ground is subject to thawing which is tough on the garden. We also need more snow to get us through the summer as summers have become quite dry. A storm is forecast to come up the coast in a couple of days and bring some snow. The past two winters these storms have mostly missed us, depositing their moisture on the coast. Southern New England is in year five of  drought and can use the moisture. But then, so can we.

View original post 495 more words

Showing Up

I arrived back from another fruitful collaboration in India at the beginning of February.  I  focused the work and time with two Playback Theatre troupes in Bangalore (the Actors Collective and Yours Truly theatre companies),  attend and support the Indian Art Therapy Association Symposium on Using Art Therapy with Children and as well offer an introductory training of Expressive Arts Therapy to Master level clinical psychology students at Christ University. It was a full 3 weeks for sure.  Each time I go to India, I learn something new both about myself and about the work, and of course about India. One of the things that I learned about myself was actually that I know what I’m doing and I was able to structure the trainings from that place rather than ” What do I do? How do I do it? Do I really know how?”The  trainings felt different and energetically flowed in an organic way.

Since being home, I have thrown myself back into work, and local,  community politics.Admittedly, I find that I do not have the energy or bandwidth that I once had, and so am being far more judicious about what I actively work on, and spending more time at home,with family and in the studio. I do what I can with the energy I have. I show up where I can and now try to not make decisions to others that I cannot keep.

I now am getting good at making phone calls to my representatives in Washington. I sign a lot of petitions. I raise a ruckus on social media. I try to attend things in person, and find that my in person protest /social action work needs to be balanced with my in person work as a therapist. There is so much to be done and so very much needed.

This morning, as I voted for change  and watched in dismay at the national news of how everything I hold dear is getting gutted, I had a vivid memory come to me from grade school. School was always a deep challenge for me. Thanks to the Special Education Bill S91(that my mother was on the team to develop), I was able to mainstream at the local school. However, I stuttered, I lisped, I walked funny, and I couldn’t write very well. I left class each day to be in the “special needs ” class which clearly earmarked me, often in not a friendly way.  I was not considered the brightest bulb, and  I remember how incredibly painful it was to simply show up.

Anyway,   In 4rth grade during gym class one day, we were running laps and getting timed. These were probably 1/4-1/2 mile lengths.  The teacher divided us up in pairs. I was paired last with a young woman, named Susan who struggled with her weight. Clearly we were paired for a reason, and I’m sure that we were thought to be the slowest of everyone. I’m not sure that the teacher thought either of us would be able to finish.

One thing I could do, and do well was run. And that day, I ran as hard and fast as I could even though I knew it meant leaving Susan way behind. I felt bad about that in a way as I didn’t want to show off. But I needed to show up. I had finished those three laps by the time Susan was beginning her second.

I remember people teasing us as we began. I remember people cheering as I, then she finished. I went up to Susan after and slapped hands. I wanted her to know I saw her. That she had finished even though it had been hard. That she showed up. We didn’t talk.

I’m not sure much really changed after that day.I still got bullied, and in fact left that school the next year. But I think for me, it was an important day in which we showed people, to question assumptions. That regardless of appearance or intellect, we had skills that were there waiting to be seen. We showed up.