Hello friends! I’m Iris. I was born and raised in New Jersey. As a second-generation Taiwanese-American, I was raised a traveler. I would often travel to my parents’ hometowns in Taiwan to visit relatives. I always thought traveling across the world was at most a hassle, but nevertheless super normal. It was a bit of a shock coming down south for school, surrounded by many who had never been out of the country. Each year of school, I managed to find a way to board a plane going abroad. Even throughout the year, I would be planning road trips all around the eastern side of the Mississippi river. If I wasn’t moving, I was planning. If I wasn’t planning, I was going crazy. (NOTE: I love Nashville.) But I realized that traveling was an essential part of my life. So when I heard about Lumos, I was convinced that this was the project for me.
In early high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up (an awful burden to bear as a teenager). All I really knew was that I wanted to help people and hopefully do some art along the way. A visitor came to our local chapter of the National Art Honors Society where she talked about her job doing crafts with kids who were in the hospital. I thought, “WHAT? You mean my dream??” So I kept researching and researching about everything art therapy related and found that it continuously aligned with my interests. Jump forward four years, when I discovered Lumos, I immediately started looking for art therapy programs abroad. What’s better than figuring out how your dream job affects people on a global scale?
My Lumos project is in Auroville, India, which is located in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. I will be living in a community guest house with many other travelers, researchers, and volunteers. I will be assisting the founder of Sankalpa in her art therapy sessions. These sessions will vary from individual sessions to themed group sessions and experimental community workshops to train teachers, counselors, and parents. Currently, Sankalpa works regularly with adolescents at the Learning Community Center in Auroville, as well as young women (13-24 years old) at the Life Education Center in a nearby village. The population that Sankalpa reaches varies from local Indian village women to the diverse population of Auroville. One of Sankalpa’s objectives is to use art to bridge these vastly diverse communities.
Additionally, I will be conducting systematic psychological research on the indicators of self-esteem as reflected in artwork. According to the founder of Sankalpa, self-esteem and youth suicide are prevalent issues in India. The purpose of this research is to bring credibility to both the work done at Sankalpa and to the art therapy field at large.