Expressive Sandwork Project, Cape Town, 2023
SAAJA, in collaboration with the International Association of Expressive Sandwork (IAES), since 2015, has implemented Expressive Sandwork projects in two schools in Hanover Park, Cape Town. SAAJA has worked closely with CASE (Community Action towards a Safe Environment) a non-profit organization in Hanover Park, to bring the Expressive Sandwork Projects to fruition. We have also collaborated with the two principals from Leliebloem and Parkfields schools in Hanover Park who have been very supportive of the projects.
Townships in Cape Town, South Africa, have been identified as among the highest crime-ridden and poverty-stricken in the world. Children are the most vulnerable members of such communities and experience daily violence (including gang warfare), abuse and neglect.
Expressive Sandwork is a specific intervention developed by Eva Pattis-Zoja, an analytical psychologist and Jungian analyst, to assist children in such vulnerable communities. It is a precise method in which children are invited to play freely with miniatures in sandboxes for an hour in a safe and protected space weekly for 8 weeks. Volunteers from the community are trained to be witnesses to the children’s play – the same volunteer for the same child each week. The intervention is carried out in silence with no interpretations made.
This programme is based on the premise as formulated by Jung that everyone has a self-regulating aspect in their psyche that he termed the Self that also serves as a source of energy. In Expressive Sandwork, the child is offered a safe and protected space in which this self-regulating aspect of the psyche can resolve some of the conflicts with which the child is confronted. We trust that in this safe environment in which the child can play freely, observed by a related and empathic witness (the volunteer), some significant positive changes can occur.
Children are selected to participate in the programme who are manifesting difficulties, such as excessive aggression; poor relationships with peers, teachers, and caregivers; appearing to be depressed and withdrawn; often missing school, and who is struggling academically. Following participation in the programme, children’s behaviour often improves, their peer relationships as well as those with their teachers and caregivers get better, and their mood may improve as well as their academic performance.
Our experience confirms that most children after completion of the programme, show some improvement in most areas listed above.
To date, approximately 120 children have benefitted from the program, and we have trained approximately 80 volunteers. We currently have 7 trainers involved in the project who oversee the weekly sessions.
The International Association of Analytical Psychology (IAAP) generously allocated a research grant to us for Expressive Sandwork research. We implemented the first research project of this nature in Hanover Park, Cape Town, in collaboration with the University of the Free State in. The findings were presented in 2019 at the IAAP conference in Kyoto. This is the first research of this nature that has ever been done anywhere in the world.
Funding for this project relies heavily on donations from benefactors. No donation is too small. Should anyone wish to donate, please click on the “Donations” tab and state that the donation is intended for the Expressive Sandwork project.
SAAJA is registered as a Not-for-Profit Organisation (NPO).
Expressive Sandwork Trainers:
Regina (Jean) Booysen