For the hundreds of refugee families arriving in Philadelphia every year, who have fled or been forced out of their homelands, resettling in the City of Brotherly Love is a challenging process. A new exhibition at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, Envisioning Home: Perspectives from Philadelphia Refugees, presents 69 photographs by Bhutanese, Burmese and Iraqi refugees that detail their everyday experiences adjusting to life in the U.S. The exhibition opened on July 13 and will be on display until August 27.
The exhibition is the culmination of a year-long Photovoice study conducted by Lutheran Children and Family Service and Jefferson University Hospital’s Department of Family and Community Medicine with the support of the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The goal of the study has been to identify resettlement stresses that impact mental health among Philadelphia’s major refugee groups using photo essays and storytelling.
One of the photos in the exhibition is by Paw Eh, a refugee from Burma. Of resettlement in Philadelphia, she says: “My son and daughter have access to educational privileges that were never available to them in Burma or Malaysia. They wait at the bus stop on the way to music lessons. My daughter is learning to play the violin! The teacher bases her fees on my income, so I can afford to give my daughter this opportunity.”
In an effort to create a coordinated and streamlined healthcare system that addresses the physical and mental health needs of refugees arriving in Philadelphia, resettlement agencies, health providers and the City of Philadelphia came together to create the Philadelphia Refugee Mental Health Collaborative (PRMHC). This two-year, citywide initiative, led by Lutheran Children and Family Service and funded through a grant from the Department of Behavioral Health is using a multidisciplinary, trauma-informed approach to help families process past exposure to violence and current resettlement stress through therapy, support groups and community-building arts projects, like Photovoice.
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