Who We Are

All of us could use a refuge, a small, safe space that encourages honest reflection, where we can relax and share with one another, where we can grow. 

Refugees in particular need such a space. Many bear the scars of violent oppression, not only physically but in their hearts and minds, and find themselves disoriented when faced with life in this giant refuge -- the United States.

Through expressive arts, Owl & Panther provides a refuge within a refuge. While the families grapple not only with their past experiences but with the challenges of living in a very different world, Owl & Panther offers them a nurturing community where they feel safe. They also explore ways to share their ideas with the community, and to help others.

The group initially developed from The Hopi Foundation's Center for Prevention and Resolution of Violence (CPRV) in Tucson, which treated refugees struggling with pain, poverty, loss of community, and/or family problems.

In 1995, refugee parents asked the organization to provide special support for their children. At first, activities focused on tutoring and summer school. Participants also met to celebrate different cultures and to learn skills to ease their transition into life in the United States.

In 1999, Owl & Panther became a creative writing group as well. Children, young adults and parents from Central America were those first served. Today families from Iraq, Nepal, Bhutan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Guatemala and Congo like the owl and panther of Cherokee legend, stay watchful in their own darkness. They accept opportunities to share what they learn through collaborative video projects and readings as well as learn to give back to the community in our holiday cookie baking. They travel to Rancho Luz to explore the outdoors and take part in group building challenge activities. As they begin to express their feelings through poetry, art, drama and music, they discover their strengths.

The Hopi word for trauma, tsawana, means "a state of mind that is in terror." Like the owl and the panther we must learn the power of being able to see in this terrifying darkness and to strive towards a state of Qa Tutsawanavu -- a state of living, unintimidated by fear from any source. Such people, the Hopis believe, will enjoy a full life, regardless of the fear around them.
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