Bethany Williams on using art to help child survivors of war find joy again

“Sometimes these children just don’t have the words to express the trauma they’ve been through. That’s a reason why I believe the arts — art, dance, drama, music and drawing — are so powerful in bringing us to the next level of healing.” 

BETHANY WILLIAMS, Ph.D., Founder, Exile International  

Orphans. War. Child soldiers. Displacement. Abuse of nearly every form. Topics like these often feel so astronomically huge that we don’t know what to do or where to begin — let alone feel as if our tiny effort could actually make a difference.

Thankfully there are people like Bethany Williams in the world who not only refuse to buy into that narrative, but decide to do something about changing it.

Bethany is world leader at helping restore children — emotionally, psychologically and spiritually — who have been affected by war and who can’t yet imagine a life worth celebrating again. Bethany pulls from her own hurt and brokenness (documented in her book The Color of Grace) as well as her training as a psychologist and counselor to help these children. And it all starts with art therapy that includes a white handkerchief and some markers. It is on a simple yet symbolic handkerchief that children can express in pictures what they don’t even have words for. It is where the pain within can safely be expressed to initiate the process of healing.

Led by Bethany and her husband Matthew, Exile International is going into the darkest places to do this difficult and often emotionally devastating work. But thanks to that willingness, there is a generation of former child soldiers, abused daughters and sons, and war-torn kids who now get to dream again. They get to experience renewed joy. And they can imagine a life of great expectations — just like any other child.

Exile International

Bethany’s story