Expressive Sandwork Projects

SAAJA in collaboration with the International Association of Expressive Sandwork (IAES), has undertaken the implementation of Expressive Sandwork projects in Hanover Park, Cape Town. SAAJA has also worked closely with CASE (Community Action towards a Safe Environment), a NPO in Hanover Park, to bring the Expressive Sandwork Projects to fruition.  Since 2015 nine projects, twelve weeks each, have been completed.  Over 137 learners have benefitted from the project and 137 volunteers have been trained. A further 76 volunteers have participated in more than one programme and are thus in training to become trainers.

Expressive Sandwork is a specific intervention developed by Eva Pattis-Zoja, Analytical Psychologist, to assist children in vulnerable communities. It is a very precise method which has evolved since 2008, in which groups of children are invited to play freely with miniatures in sandboxes in a safe and protected space weekly for 12 weeks. Volunteers from the community are trained to be witnesses to the children’s play. The intervention is carried out in silence with no interpretations offered.

This intervention is based on the premise, as formulated by Jung, that there is a self-regulating aspect in everyone’s psyche that also serves as a source of energy. Jung termed this the Self. 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. While playing in the sandbox the children can give form to conflicts troubling them and in so doing bring about some integration and healing.

Expressive Sandwork

In the process of Expressive Sandwork, we trust that if we provide a safe and protected space with miniatures and sandboxes in which the child can play, observed by a related and empathic witness (the volunteer), some significant positive changes may occur.

Children are selected to participate in the programme who are manifesting a range of difficulties: excessive aggression; poor relationships with peers, teachers, and care-givers; depression and social withdrawal; absenteeism, and academic underachievement. Following participation in the programme, children’s behaviour often improves, their peer relationships as well as those with their teachers and care-givers get better, and their mood may improve as well as their academic performance.

The International Association of Analytical Psychology (IAAP) and the Susan Bach Foundation generously gave us research grants for Expressive Sandwork research. We implemented the first research project in Hanover Park, Cape Town, in collaboration with the University of the Free State in 2018 and completed a successful pilot study.  The results of this study were presented at the international IAAP congress in Vienna in August 2019 and were enthusiastically received. Further research is planned in future.

Unfortunately, due to the Covid pandemic, all Expressive Sandwork projects have had to be placed on hold. We are looking forward to setting up another project as soon as it is safe to do so, hopefully in 2022. Several volunteers are keen to engage in another project and will be ready to be of service as soon as Covid regulations allow us to do so.

However, besides the research grants, funding for this project relies entirely on donations from benefactors. No donation is too small. Any financial assistance towards setting up further projects would be gratefully received.

Should you 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 NPO (197-888 NPO).

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