Since last June, we have been holding space for some brave and authentic teens- offering up a safe place for unfiltered, open hearted communication, journaling, crafts, movement, meditation, experiences in nature, and so much more. Chrysalis groups are facilitated by Mirabai Trent and Jenny Wonderling of Circle Creative Collective, with the support of Alex Julson of Ulster County's Youth Bureau and a donation from The Maya Gold Foundation. Chrysalis addresses the ever-present complexities of being a teen (and a human!) that have been greatly amplified by the social and physical isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And we can confidently say, Chrysalis is working! In spite of the challenges and blatant traumas these girls have had to face in their own families and lives, and now navigating in a pandemic, they are flourishing. And they want to keep claiming the sacred space we have co-created! How do we know?
This program that was supposed to last 6 weeks has bloomed into an ongoing, weekly program without any foreseeable end in sight. Simply said: the girls don’t want it to end. So we haven’t, continuing to offer the program for free (and by donation). For almost seven months, both virtually and in-person, we have met weekly to share with one another within a container devoid of competition or shame. And no topic is off limits.
For two hours a week, mostly online- between four and seven girls not only show up voluntarily, they share in the most meaningful ways- laugh, cry, sing, play instruments, and courageously share creative expression in so many forms... They are (mostly) even on time. They are present. This, when they are already inundated with screen time due to full schedules with online classes, and plenty of responsibilities and distractions outside of our time together. And they’re blossoming before our eyes- moving from shy, hard-to-reach and wounded ones, to sparky, sassy, hilarious, brave, and caring young women with dreams. This level of intimacy did not just arrive. It took weeks and months to feel safe enough- and brave enough to go that deep, and reveal themselves in the truest of ways- including experimenting with creative expression in front of one another.
Chrysalis is made up of a diverse group that ranges from thirteen to eighteen year olds, mostly from Kingston, of single parent households and low income backgrounds. Some of the girls have bounced between family members, traumas, drug abuse, and eating disorders, some have teetered on foster care. One has major dental issues and has needed support. (Our team helped connect her with an incredible dentist who is now donating his time to help her.) And yet, we can confidently state that they have been celebrating life again, love, inner beauty, strength, and possibility. We have helped bring grades up, This program is transformative in the most pure, mutually supportive and simple ways.
During our last Zoom gathering, the girls were asked why they are inspired to join us each week. They quickly threw out answers like: “For the understanding it provides.” “The fact that I can share without shame.” “It’s a safe spot where I can talk about anything.” “Things that can feel overwhelming suddenly feel normal.” “We get great advice.” Chrysalis is a plunge into a competition-free oasis where we explore meditation, journaling, movement, craft and nature exploration, but most especially, we howl with laughter, share grief and fears, and we say absolutely whatever we feel called to. And yet, this is also simply evidence of the healing power of an open circle, the honoring of inner truths, and the wisdom of connection to the earth and each other.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, research has shown that the rate of depression and anxiety among teens is rising at an alarming rate. According to sbtreatment.com “In a study of about 1,500 teenagers, 7 out of 10 kids reported that they were struggling with their mental health in some way. Over 50% of the teens said they struggled with anxiety, 43% dealt with depression, and 45% had felt more stress than usual.” Those numbers seem to reflect the national average. Thankfully, studies by Harvard Health Publishing and others have also shown that when teens as well as adults express themselves through art- rates of depression, anxiety, and even cancer drop dramatically. Add in honest communication, some anxiety-busting tools, and supportive community, and the benefits are immeasurable.
Thanks to a small (and greatly appreciated!) financial contribution from The Maya Gold Foundation which have helped to cover some of the costs accrued from providing journals and items for collaging and crafts, Mirabai and Jenny have been running this solely as volunteers. (Alex receives compensation through her employment at the Ulster County Youth Bureau.) We are finally deciding to ask for help from the community to support this much needed and thriving program by launching this campaign.
WAYS TO HELP:
SPONSOR A TEEN for $180 for a 6 week session. That's only $30 per gathering which runs between 2 and 2 1/2 hours weekly (or a mere $15 per hour for incredible support.)
We would DEEPLY appreciate any monetary gifts (no matter how small!) you may be able to offer to help fund our Covid-safe outdoor workshop costs which include crafting, walks in nature, and more. We need passes to state parks paid for, materials for craft projects and new teens, food and beverages for when we gather, etc. And frankly, Mirabai and Jenny would greatly appreciate even some compensation.
Yet Jenny explained, “Honestly, Mirabai and I would do this for free til the end of time; it's such a deep honor to see how they are growing- expressing themselves so openly now. The girls have less anxiety, feel less alone. And they're now writing and readily reading their work, singing openly with us with little prompting and no preparation, leading meditations for the group themselves, making jewelry, getting better grades, and most importantly, loving their own bodies, hearts, and families with a little more compassion. It's not easy to be a teen in the best of times, but the lack of social connection has created so much depression for too many. We would love to do this work every day of the week because we see (and hear) the positive impact.” We hope that through this initiative, we will receive contributions to not only keep Chrysalis going and thriving, but to expand the reach by also offering much needed circles for boys, as well as running numerous circles for more girls simultaneously.
Also, we would like to send at least $600 to cover some of the materials for the incredible and generous Dr. Bruce Milner at Transcendental.
Chrysalis is spreading its wings under the umbrella of Circle Creative Collective, a growing 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization rooted in the Hudson Valley with a mission of preserving and sharing the wisdom and healing of traditional crafts and skills.
“We gather in Circle to weave the fabric of community, inspiring people of diverse cultures and backgrounds to remember the lessons and skills of our ancestors, and embrace the wisdom of each of our unique traditions. Circle Creative Collective offers an ever changing line-up of education and craft preservation programming, women’s and teen workshops, as well as economic and teaching opportunities."
Together, we hope we can keep Chrysalis flying... Thank you in advance for any support you can offer.
With deepest love,
-Mirabai and Jenny (and Alex!)
Here's feedback from a grandparent of one of our teens:"I AM FOREVER GRATEFUL THAT WE WERE GUIDED TO THIS GROUP. AT THE TIME I WAS SO SCARED AND UNABLE TO EXPRESS TO MY GRANDDAUGHTER MY FEARS ON WHAT HAD HAPPENED WITHOUT HER FEELING I WAS JUDGING HER. CHRYSALIS DOESN’T JUDGE, BRINGS OUT HER CREATIVITY AND SHE LOOKS FORWARD TO THE MONDAY NIGHT ZOOM MEETINGS. YOU ENABLE YOUNG WOMEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO EXPLORE THEIR UNIQUE SELF AND OFFER OUTLETS FOR THAT EXPLORATION. THANK YOU! - D. C."
And from one of our teens:“I AM HONORED TO BE PART OF SUCH AN INSPIRING GROUP OF WOMEN IN CHRYSALIS. OUR EXPERIENCES, BACKGROUNDS AND AGES ARE ALL DIFFERENT. HOWEVER, WE’VE CREATED A SAFE SPACE WHERE WE CAN BE OUR AUTHENTIC SELVES. ALL THE WHILE WE CONTINUE TO DISCOVER, LEARN AND GROW…EACH OF US CELEBRATING OUR STRENGTHS AND CONQUERING OUR WEAKNESSES. CHRYSALIS IS HELPING ME TO BECOME MORE AWARE OF MY OWN POWER! IT IS AN OUTLET TO SHARE IDEAS, STORIES, TEARS AND LAUGHTER. I AM VERY GRATEFUL FOR THESE FRIENDSHIPS THAT WE HAVE CULTIVATED TOGETHER. AS WELL AS FOR THE VALUABLE AND THOUGHTFUL SUPPORT AND FEEDBACK THAT THEY PROVIDE.” -MIA F. (AGE 13)
Again, perhaps you would like to help by making a tax-deductible donation to our non-profit, can offer park passes, or know a teen who may want to join our exciting journey? Thank you for considering!