By Rachel Ophoff
Special to The PREVIEW
Olivia Craig rocks.
When COVID-19 forced the closure of Pagosa Springs High School, this 16-year-old sophomore launched a drive to keep replenishing our local food banks.
We at Beyond Words International (BWI) were delighted, but not at all surprised. All three of our student ambassadors, a vital part of our volunteer team, have the same can-do attitude. Craig didn’t wait for us to suggest this. With the help of her mother, she launched her own social media blitz, reaching out to her friends, family and community to make it happen.
Monetary donations are coming in and we at BWI are doing our small part to help facilitate that process. Also, there’s a box on her family’s front porch for nonperishable donations. So far, they’ve made two supermarket runs, helping replenish the Methodist Church’s food pantry.
Craig’s spirit of service makes her a great fit for BWI. Founded in December 2018 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, BWI is a nonpolitical, nonreligious organization offering humanitarian aid, psychosocial support and arts programming such as dance, creative writing and visual arts to empower and aid survivors of severe trauma in their healing process.
What does that mean?
If you could see compassion wrapping its arms around the planet, you would get a glimpse into BWI’s mission. Last summer, our team partnered with a local organization in Greece working with Syrian refugees to provide a healing art program, as well as education in math, English and technology. In October 2019, we began traveling to the U.S. border to provide humanitarian aid and support to a local organization, Team Brownsville, serving approximately 2,500 asylum seekers in Matamoros, Mexico. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve turned our attention to local concerns, including Rise Above Violence. Lastly, we are in touch with contacts who work closely with at-risk children in Pagosa to assist with utility bills and other unmet needs.
What do these concerns have in common? And why art, dance and education in addition to funding for food, shelter and medical care?
We serve survivors of trauma at home and abroad. Most relief organizations must strive to provide the necessities of life. Already organized in their localities, they have navigated the physical and governmental logistics. Barging in cold sometimes hurts more than it helps. BWI partners with established nonprofits to supplement their ongoing efforts, and bring an additional dimension of healing.
BWI’s founder and president, Casey Crow, traveled abroad for 10 years, studying and working in refugee camps. As she assisted the residents with the complexities of displacement, she noticed an absence of programs to help with the severe psychological trauma that comes with being forced from your home. This lack of psychosocial support inspired Crow to merge her education with her passions for dance and service. She dreamed of an organization that would provide both humanitarian and art healing services for those suffering from extreme trauma. And BWI was born.
When teams from BWI go to work internationally, we hit the ground running. We serve alongside local relief agencies. Having already ascertained their needs and cemented our relationships, we bring only what they need, lend support to their ongoing efforts, and use our gifts to further enhance the lives of the displaced and traumatized. The statistics of women and children who are abused in refugee situations are staggering. The need to address the psychological consequences of exile and abuse is overwhelming. The power of art and dance in expressing and healing trauma is astonishing.
That is why we serve.
We can’t do it alone. For more information, as well as our PayPal link, please visit us at https://www.facebook.com/beyondwordsintl/. If you would like to send a check, our mailing address is P.O. Box 5204, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147. For the food drive? Just add a note to your donation. Thank you.
I doubt Craig thought she rocked when she began collecting donations. She was thinking about hungry people. I love working with people like Craig, her partners Lauren and Nell, and the rest of our BWI team. We invite you to join us at BWI.
By Rachel Ophoff