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Celebrating Thanksgiving: How Stars of Hope is bringing the world together using art for those who feel alone

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Thanksgiving marks the celebration of the fall harvest and other blessings throughout the year. It is a positive and secular occasion, sending out the message of gratitude and togetherness. But everyone is not fortunate enough to have family or friends to celebrate the festival with. Approximately 52 lakh people have lost their lives to covid-19. Some lose their homes, are forced to flee their countries and some lose their family and friends.

We spoke to Josh Garcia, Executive Director and Kelly Burns, LMHC, ATR-BC, Program Manager and Art Therapist, Stars of Hope USA to learn how their nonprofit is using art to bring hope, healing and show compassion as a response to those who are struck by tragedies like mass violence and natural disasters.

What motivated you to work for Stars of Hope USA?

Josh – I was a recipient of Stars of Hope. From the very beginning days after the tragedy in Orlando, Stars came into our community. And I just saw the ripple effect that Stars had on bringing everyone together, sharing stories in the storytelling, and just receiving a piece of art that was unique just for me. And it didn’t matter that it was a stranger that made it, it was that I didn’t feel alone in that moment, and it brought a smile to my face and others. But it also just reminded us of the humanity and kindness that’s still in the world after a tragedy. So a big part of me wanted to get more involved in growing the mission.

Kelly – Being a licensed mental health counsellor and certified art therapist, I have worked with survivors of domestic violence and people with mental health issues which gives me an understanding of the span of what traumas can entail. So, the opportunity to work with Stars of Hope gives me the chance to help people heal on a larger scale, making a bigger difference. Tragedies affect the whole community- directly or indirectly. Using art as a therapeutic tool for lifelong healing was extremely moving for me.

How are Stars of Hope impacting victims of mass violence and natural disasters?

Josh – After a traumatic experience, some people change their approach towards life. They get triggered to avoid social interactions. I recently heard that the first year after a tragedy- the first holiday, the first birthday, the first of all these days doesn’t make them feel good and sometimes reminds them of their trauma. Stars of Hope helps them feel that they’re not alone. Social connection reminds everyone of humanity and kindness. Engaging in activities such as colouring and painting brings us simple joys and brings us back to basics.

Kelly – We’re creating a safe space for them to recollect and start rebuilding the sense of safety and resilience through art. Whether it is the people who have been impacted directly or the ones who are impacted indirectly.

What were the challenges faced by your nonprofit during the pandemic?

Josh – We kept on hearing the word “social distancing” so much during the pandemic that everyone thought it was 100% correct. But in today’s world where we intensively use technology, we shifted the approach to “physical distance” because there are still many ways to continue the connection. We used technology to connect with our beneficiaries, volunteers, staff and resiliency centres. It was not a smooth sail but knowing we are helping people during the pandemic made us happy. Despite everything, we miss having in-person conversations with our beneficiaries and we’re looking forward to doing that again.

What are the few things that you are most proud of in 2021?

Josh – The pandemic was a very hopeless moment for a lot of people. We had to reconfigure and rewire ourselves and change our approach completely to keep our work going. I’m extremely grateful for the wonderful volunteers who held us up during this pandemic. I’m thankful for the spirit of compassion and generosity that people across the world have shown. We need to remember that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and humanity can conquer every challenge.

What are the different ways in which a volunteer can support your cause?

Josh – Anyone who wants to support our cause can buy our ‘Box of Hope’. It’s a kit that contains wooden stars and a paint catalogue in a reusable shipping box that has all the tools for anyone to paint those stars from the comfort of their homes or office. When someone purchases a kit, the money goes towards purchasing the supplies for the survivor group or a school. The stars that you paint can be either shipped back to us or directly to the address of the survivor. We’ve also started the gratitude banners wherein people can create banners digitally and take their printouts which are then put up at different locations that were struck by a tragedy of some kind. We also welcome volunteers who want to help us with their skill sets.

Any message you would want to give to the potential volunteers?

Josh – The world lacks the support and compassion to comfort a person who is dealing with trauma. I firmly believe that alone we feel but together we heal. And I wholeheartedly feel that coming together in the power of humanity is the way that we get through anything- whether it’s big or small. So your support goes a long way in helping somebody.

Kelly – The star that the volunteers are creating, they don’t know who the recipient is going to be. For a person who is dealing with trauma, knowing that a stranger took time out of their day to create something for them can uplift their spirit. To make the star just means that someone else is thinking about you, created this especially for you and they stand by you. It’s a positive feeling for a survivor.

Celebrate Thanksgiving with Stars of Hope USA

Goodera is constantly helping nonprofits in spreading the word about their mission and mobilizing support.

We hope the interview helped you understand how Stars of Hope is bringing a ray of hope in the lives of people struck by any traumatic experiences like mass violence or natural disaster. You can show support to the nonprofit via Goodera’s virtual volunteering experience.

Interested? Reach out to us here.

Are you a nonprofit looking for volunteers? We can help! Talk to us.

To get helpful information on nonprofits, you can read our blogs.

Use #JoyToTheWorld on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram to tell us how you are celebrating World Children’s Day and get featured on our platform of 50K+ Audience!

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