I started volunteering with Beyond Words International (BWI) in February 2020 as their Social Media and Marketing Intern. I quickly learned more about the behind the scenes of nonprofits, the humanitarian crisis that is happening all over the world, and how important the arts are for healing. Over the last year and a half, I have come to love the mission, vision, and values of this organization and hope to continue to spread awareness about our projects.
Mission and Vision
BWI works with global communities to support and offer healing opportunities to displaced people (e.g. refugees, asylum seekers) through the arts and psychosocial support. Therapists and those working in those communities base their care in the arts as it has been proven to be a powerful tool for stress relief, trauma recovery, and positive expression.
Beyond Words International was born in Pagosa Springs, Colorado by a group of local artists and mental health professionals. Since then, the organization has grown to include programs in local, national, and global areas.
During the COVID-19 Pandemic, BWI started a food drive to replenish community food banks. Additionally, BWI offers a unique new art workshop inspired by the projects created in Syrian refugee camps called Art for the Heart as well as an empowerment and self defense workshop, Women Empowered.
Today, thousands of asylum seekers are still stranded on the U.S. – Mexico border, many with no food, clothing, or shelter. Living conditions are poor with little infrastructure and high levels of violence including kidnappings, extortion, human trafficking, armed robbery and sexual violence. In 2019, BWI partnered with Team Brownsville, an organization who helps families and individuals legally seeking asylum in the US, to create programs to support their education and healing.
BWI’s first international pilot project was volunteering with Syrian refugee children in partnership with Happy Caravan, an organization providing long-term education and creativity to children in a refugee camp near Thermopylae, Greece. Members of our BWI team traveled to the camp and supported a set curriculum Monday through Friday, while also implementing our healing arts programming. For five weeks, we taught English and math, and provided art, collage, creative writing, and dance to more than 80 children, ages 3 – 14.
In collaboration with the Irida Women’s Center, Beyond Words International recently launched Women Without Barriers, a project to support refugee artisans in marketing and in-turn selling their artwork and products through our new Etsy store! This project will provide the artists with income-generation opportunities, as well as allow them to express themselves through art. Proceeds from the project will go directly to the artists, as well as fund a part-time art teacher to continue training women at the Irida Women’s Center and provide classes to refugee youth in Thessaloniki, Greece.
Volunteering for Beyond Words International has allowed me to become increasingly more aware of global and social justice issues, such as immigration, gender and racial inequality. Since I have been involved with the arts for many years, I have come to love its ability to communicate messages in a more powerful and expressive way in a nonprofit setting.