By James Ramirez
Special to The Collegian
First 5 Fresno County, in partnership with the Fresno County Office of Education, Central Unified School District, Community Medical Centers and several other organizations, will host an exhibition aimed at spreading awareness about child abuse.
The Lisa Project, a free interactive exhibition based out of Stockton, Calif., will reside at the Central Unified School District Office from April 2 to May 4.
In 2011, First 5 Fresno County, an organization that provides funding to programs that enrich the lives of children in Fresno County, began hosting daylong seminars focused on effective interventions for vulnerable children and families.
Initially, the need for increased awareness about child abuse prevention and opportunities for learning and sharing came from organizations and practitioners working in First 5 Fresno County funded programs.
“More than 700 professionals from various disciplines attended the seminars and, with each year, we noticed a significant increase in attendance and interest in this area of study and practice,” said Lilith Assadourian, Program Director for First 5 Fresno County and coordinator of The Lisa Project exhibition.
As the seminars gained more attendees, First 5 Fresno County convened a group of representatives from key organizations.
The mission was to promote awareness and provide support to the community on the issue of violence and abuse.
While searching for options with a larger capacity for outreach, the group came across The Lisa Project.
“The Lisa Project seemed to hold a lot of the promise,” said Assadourian. “We were looking into launching a major effort to create public will and personal investment in preventing child abuse and neglect.”
The project is an interactive exhibit that requires the viewer to walk through a gallery while listening to a narrative recording depicting different scenarios faced by abuse victims.
Gene Hardin, director of the project, said the audio narrative allows the listener to be fully immersed into the world that these individuals face on a daily basis.
“It is not sensationalized but simply tells real stories,” said Hardin. “It is, in a word, reality.”
The idea for The Lisa Project came to Hardin after visiting an exhibit about King Tut in San Francisco. It was the audio integration in the exhibit that Hardin said, “made it very compelling and more meaningful.”
“When we were done, we were standing on the sidewalk outside the museum and I said to my wife, ‘Why can’t we do that for child abuse…take a child by the hand and let them tell you their story?’”, Hardin said.
Now, Hardin’s vision has come to fruition, by hosting the exhibit in Stanislaus, Riverside, Lodi, Visalia, Sacramento County, Kern County and San Joaquin County, to name a few regions. From each and every location, Hardin seeks similar outcomes.
“More awareness, more education and equally important to us is getting people the help they need right from within their own community,” said Hardin.
Despite the magnitude of organizing the project, Assadourian explains she has received generous amounts of cooperation and involvement from other supporting groups.
Members from the Fresno County Office of Education, Central Unified School District, Community Medical Center, Valley Children’s Hospital, the Rape Services Center, and several others in Fresno are represented on the committee of support.
“The Lisa Project Committee, made up of a diverse group of county wide organization,s has been meeting since summer 2013 to determine a way to effectively raise awareness and action around child abuse in our community,” said Hannah Norman, First 5 Fresno County program officer. “Through this inherently collaborative process, relationships have been created which will remain intact long after The Lisa Project travels back to Stockton.”
The groups will be taking volunteers and encourage all to come out and experience the exhibit in person. The project will be open six days a week throughout April and the first week of May.