By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is hosting a new exhibit that tells the stories of some of the refugees who have fled from their country and are re-settling in the city.
Titled Envisioning Home: Perspectives from Philadelphia Refugees, the new exhibit is part of a photo-voice project where families from Burma, Iraq and Bhutan – three of the largest refugee populations in Philadelphia – used photography to capture their story and struggles in adjusting to life in Philadelphia.
“It really helps people communicate what they are going through without having to speak our language,” says Melissa Fogg, an immigrant mental health specialist at Lutheran Children and Family services. “Coming here as refugees, people tend to be more survival focused on things like food, shelter, safety. I think adjusting their focus here was a big challenge.”
Fogg’s group teamed up with Thomas Jefferson Hospital to help the refugees use pictures to provide a glimpse into resettlement stresses that could impact their mental health. Thomas Jefferson physician Ellen Plum says the experienced changed how she treats patients.
“Typically when screening for mental issues, we ask questions like have you been able to sleep? What has your appetite been like? Are you able to concentrate? These are indicators of mental health disorders,” says Plum. “But I learned that these questions were not helpful. Now I ask about family structure, which family members remain in their (home country), whether they are finding their ethnic foods or places of worship.”
Magic Gardens Executive Director, Ellen Owns says the exhibit will help dispel myths about the refugee population.
“A refugee is many different types of people and the exhibition tries to lend a face to the very diverse groups of people that are refugees.”