Timeline Reflection inside an Immigrant Family Detention Center

It is very frustrating for women in a family detention center to wait and wait and wait, wondering and worrying if they will be released and allowed to continue on to family (already) waiting for them in the U.S. or if they will be summarily deported back to the horrors of their homeland.It is particularly frustrating for those waiting while a family comes and goes but they are still waiting. The art reflection project I developed for the women was created with this frustration in mind. For the timeline project, their goal was to see how short their time is in the detention center compared to the big picture of life.
They wrote their story on the bottom layer of the art about their experiences in the detention center: what activities they and their children did, what their living arrangements were like, classes they attended, school, etc. They are locked up and waiting, but there are many interesting and even fun activities to do for the others and the children. The point was to name the blessings amidst the waiting.

They then painted over the words with watercolors and added stencils of symbolic shapes for their life (past, present, or future) using tempura or acrylic paint. The timeline is a piece of pretty art tape and it was placed halfway to represent the medium or average experiences in life. I asked the women to estimate how long they thought they would live and to put that number on the far right of the timeline. Most said they expected to live to age 100; a few said age 80. The average age of the participants was 22-25, and the timeline helped give the perspective that there is much more of their live to live before them then what has already been lived. In the big picture of life, "now" at the detention center is very short.

They put dots above the taped middle line for events in their lives that were good, and dots below the taped line to indicate event that were unhappy. They could add words to explain those dots or they could leave them blank. A stencil or stamp of a mother and/or a child to symbolically added their family into the art. They could glue on the Serenity Prayer and a scripture verse of the "fruits of the Spirit" if they wanted. The final touch: write the "fruit of the Spirit" that you most need to help you through this time of waiting. PATIENCE was the popular choice!