November is Children's Grief Awareness Month. With generous support from New York Life Foundation and 1440 Foundation, Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco (BGCSF) recently introduced the Healing Arts in Culture (HAiC) program and actively addresses the high rates of death among San Francisco’s BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities. Led by our Behavioral Health Services Team, the series connects the incredible cultural diversity of our communities with opportunities and resources that support emotional wellness, while celebrating all identities, and histories, and supporting related social activism.
The goal of Healing Arts is to increase access and support for grief and bereavement through culturally-responsive activities at Club celebrations. Each event welcomes youth, families, and community partners with food, music, art, and culturally-responsive activities that infuse age-appropriate tools to help participants manage feelings of grief and loss.
A recent example are the Dia de los Muertos celebrations at our Mission and Columbia Park Clubhouses. This Latino heritage holiday is based on the belief that the soul of the dead will visit the home where they resided on this day. This is a happy, colorful celebration where death is honored, and the life of deceased loved ones are joyfully celebrated. Many of the members at the Clubhouses holding the events are Latino.
At the events, our Behavioral Health Specialists facilitated culturally meaningful activities that allowed youth to honor the memory of loved ones. They created ofrendas, or altars, where members could place offerings to those who have passed away, including photographs, personal items, or their favorite things. They also participated in crafts that allowed members to use their creativity in creating the offerings such as decorating picture frames, candle making, nichos or shadow box making. At events like this, and throughout the year, Behavioral Health Services staff support youth with activities that help them to regulate their emotions including tea making and creating calming jars. They also train Club staff on how to facilitate these activities.
Events such as this enable youth to honor the memory of loved ones and access additional resources for grief support through our Behavioral Health Services Team. BGCSF is proud to partner with organizations like New York Life Foundation and 1440 Foundation who share our commitment to finding the most relevant ways to cultivate caring and supportive communities and to support all youth in the best way possible.