In 2018, a Pakistani young artist living in Sydney, Shehzar Abro, approached GEM’s Founding Director, Angé Weinrabe, to discuss the stressful conditions his peers were undergoing (this was pre-Covid), in Karachi Pakistan. These conditions included the dire socio-political situation whereby very few young people had access to arts and wellbeing education, never mind mental health support in his densely populated city of Karachi. Angé and Shehzar approached the Chair of Global Outreach of Karachi Biennale Trust, Atteqa Malik, to identify their interest in a youth outreach program.
GEM delivered its first GEMAH workshop – ‘The Art of Wellbeing’ – at the 2019 Karachi Biennale (KB19) in Pakistan. At the GEMAH-KB19 workshop, 157 young people registered and 41 young people participated, aged 18-25 years old. Coaches, artists, and musicians guided participants in using art and music skills, and our proprietary GEM Method as the wellbeing component, to work through personal challenges. In turn, this helped participants learn more about how to regulate their emotions and embrace their self-expressed creativity.
The Australian team visited Karachi a second time, to deliver GEMAH-KB22, another huge success! This time over 200 young people registered, and another 40 completed the program over its 2-day period. This time GEM invited local, Karachi-based health services, Interactive Research and Development (IRD), a public health research organisation working across several disease areas, including mental health, to provide mental health support and screening facilities at the GEMAH workshop. The GEM IRD collaboration showcased the fact that art-based techniques provide safe spaces to better engage young people in a healthy conversation about mental health and wellbeing.
Overall, our GEMAH programs working with the arts, helps young people build resilience, not by changing their environmental challenges, but to help them transcend beyond them.