About thirty refugee women sat in a circle at a church in El Cajon on a recent Monday morning, thrumming the pulse of a heartbeat on hand drums and with shakers.
Under the guidance of Ari Honarvar, they played first for a member of one of the organizations involved in the drum circle who had recently had surgery.
Then, Honarvar told them to play for women in Syria who were suffering from escalations in violence there. The thrumming became loud throbs.
In partnership with License to Freedom, a nonprofit that focuses on helping refugees and immigrants who are survivors of domestic violence, since September, Honarvar has led twice-monthly drum circles in El Cajon designed to help participants heal from trauma they’ve experienced.
Part of the purpose is to allow the women to have fun and to laugh, she said, but it’s also to give them a safe space to access darker emotions from their past.
“Sometimes those different emotions that end up being in the background, if we experience them, that could be more valuable than 1,000 laughs because once we experience it, we can process and let it go,” Honarvar said.