Hearts Online is an initiative that provides Spanish speaking children and youth in shelters and detention facilities in Tijuana, Mexico with quality arts programming, including painting, hand-crafts, music, and creative movement instruction in an online format, produced by the Gente Unida creative team of artists, and technical producers delivered weekly online over the internet and facilitated by shelter staff and volunteers in the shelters using donated and purchased arts and crafts materials and tools.  

Studies across the United States and internationally in healthcare, community and afterschool settings have demonstrated that the arts have a unique ability to engage youth who have undergone substantial emotional, physical, and mental trauma and that are experiencing the effects of isolation due to hospitalization, incarceration, quarantine or other reasons. The expectation of this instruction is to allow each participant to be seen and heard and engaged in a safe way on their own terms.  All curriculums will be developed specifically with this unique population in mind with “layers of engagement” that need each child at the place that is most comfortable for them.

An online art class that meets the need of each child engaged in a Hearts Online session might look like a Mixed Media painting activity class exploring the beauty of trees, with opportunities for children and youth of different ages to be involved at their own particular skill and “enthusiasm” level.  Small and younger children might need assistance to draw leaves, and stay engaged in simpler techniques while more advanced students could move from leaves, to creating birds and animals that live in trees. Because children and all of us respond best to warm and human interactions that reach us through all of our senses, teachers will incorporate little songs and games throughout all lessons to bring humor and a dynamic nature to exchange between online teachers, facilitators and children/youth.  These online classes have the goal of bringing joy, levity, respite, humor and laughter into an environment that can feel restrictive, rule bound and limiting self expression.

Hearts Online also aims to build awareness in the United States and Internationally as to the dangers of the isolation of youth in general and will offer training to artists who wish to bring their expertise to children in shelters and detention by offering workshops in online instruction and curriculum development that focus on the special emotional/social needs of this unique population.