“Jordan is a hub for the arts,” says Ashley. “But art as a therapeutic vehicle was very new to them--so in a way we introduced this idea to the people. The point of art therapy is to encourage people to express themselves. So we did three workshops a day with different groups of women or children with exercises that allowed them to do just that. Each week we were in a different city and had a big exhibit at the end. We would choose about 150 pieces of art that the participants had created and display them.”
Ashley worked alongside the US Embassy in Jordan and admits she was blown away by the warm welcome she received from the women and children and how open the groups were to the idea of art therapy.
“I was really surprised at how receptive people were,” says Ashley. “I really thought I was going to have a hard time because I am an American; and I was fully prepared for resistance or skepticism. But the people were very welcoming and responded incredibly well.”
“The women from Zarqa that I worked with are from a poor area and they are basically just taking care of their children. They really didn’t have time to talk to other women or time for themselves. They were so happy to just come together and make art.”
“One woman came all the way to an exhibit just to say thank you. It was so powerful because we couldn’t speak to each other but understood what the other was saying.”
By the end of her trip, Ashley had fallen in love with the country of Jordan and ultimately believes the greatest breakthroughs made during the tour were her own.
“I loved everything about the country,” says Ashley. “There is such a beautiful blend of history and culture there. You have Petra and these old beautiful places; all this religious history. But at the same time there are these modern aspects as well. I made some of the best friends there. This experience made me want to explore so much more.”
“My conviction in this work has changed as well. I think working in my field for 10 years had made me complacent. But to go to this country and have everyone be so excited really just refreshed my commitment to this field. I realized that art can connect people more than language can. It can heal.”