Center City: Immigrant, Refugee Service Program Provides Support for Victims of Torture

ABOVE: Gretchen Shanfeld (left), director of Health and Wellness at the Nationalities Service Center, and Cathy Jeong stand in front of a tapestry created by 30 immigrants from Bhutan, a country in the Himalayan Mountains. The tapestry, which is about 10 feet long, details some of the country’s culture and was made in a group-art-therapy program in PPR.

The Philadelphia Partnership for Resilience started as a small torture survivors support group in 2009, but was able to expand in 2013 thanks to funding from the United Nations. Today, 90 clients and their families are part of the program. The group seeks to help survivors of torture gain access to legal and social services, and recover in group settings.

About 3,000 torture survivors live in the Greater Philadelphia area, according to HIAS Pennsylvania, a PPR partner that provides free legal services to clients in the program. PPR screens about 600 people a year for a history of torture.

Once in the program, clients can get involved in several group activities aimed at restoring a sense of identity and overcoming fear that torturers have induced. Completed projects from the group art therapy sessions hang in the Nationalities Service Center‘s offices near 12th and Arch streets in Center City. PPR also offers coordinated social outings, educational opportunities and a new group campaigning for human rights.

Click through the gallery above for more information about the Philadelphia Partnership for Resilience.

-Words and visuals by Erin Edinger-Turoff and Joe Brandt.

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