Owl & Panther is a unique creative writing project that works with young people affected by trauma, especially trauma associated with torture, dislocation, refugee status, or family problems. It has recently released a new book, Writing Out of the Darkness: An Anthology of Poetry by Refugees in Transition.
All of us could use a refuge, a small, safe space that encourages honest reflection, where we can relax and share with one another, where we can grow. Refugees in particular need such a space. Many bear the scars of violent oppression, not only physically but in their hearts and minds, and find themselves disoriented when faced with life in this giant refuge — the United States.
Through creative writing, counseling and community service, Owl & Panther provides a refuge within a refuge. Here, participants — mostly children and young adults — grapple not only with their past experiences but with the challenges of living in a very different world. They also find ways to share their ideas with the community, and to help others.
The group developed from Tucson's Center for Prevention and Resolution of Violence, which treats people struggling with pain, poverty, loss of community, and/or family problems. In 1995, refugee parents asked CPRV to provide special support for their children. At first, activities focused on tutoring and summer school. Participants also met to celebrate different cultures and to learn skills to ease their transition into life in the United States.
In 1998, Owl & Panther became a creative writing group as well. Children, young adults and parents from Central America, Mexico and several African countries, like the owl and panther of Cherokee legend, stay watchful in their own darkness. As they begin to express their feelings through poetry, they discover their strength.
Visit the Project's website to purchase
its new book Out of the Darkness
Photos are from a DVD, "Owl & Panther Goes Comic," produced in partnership with The Comic Book Project.