When Wanda Luna's 3 year old niece was diagnosed with cancer, the whole family rallied around her. While people baked, and brought gifts and offered rides for the parents, Luna offered a different kind of help.
Luna transformed her niece's room into a galaxy of stars, moons and flying saucers. She gave her niece a comforting -- and magical -- bedroom, and put a big smile on her niece's face.
Wanda Luna working on a "Buzz Lightyear" room for a 4 year old coming out of foster care. (Wanda Luna)
That was the inspiration for The Dream Room Project
. For 4 years, Wanda has been bringing comfort and healing to kids who have experienced some kind of trauma. She's been doing it one room at a time.
She has transformed a little girl's bedroom into a palace for a princess, and made a 4 year-old boy's dream come true with Buzz Lightyear.
One of Luna's favorite projects was the work she did with juvenile female offenders at the Manitoba Youth Centre. She worked closely with a few teenagers on a quiet 'retreat' room. She recalled the reaction of one girls coming into the room when it was done. "That tough exterior she came in with was gone. It was very moving to see her twirl around the room
and say 'it makes me happy.' I realized how much it meant to them to have someone give them something."
A bedroom is a very personal space. Luna starts by spending at least a day hanging out with the child who will be getting a dream room. " We'll play games, I'll get them to open up to me, if they are older we'll go for a walk or hang out."
Another dream room mural (Wanda Luna)
Luna says it is important that she builds a relationship with the child. "I encourage them to take an active role in every step of the process to ensure their dream room becomes everything they need to dream of a bright and positive future. "
While Luna creates the concept, and the art, she has a team around her for emotional support. It's not the physical work that's hard, it's the emotional toll it takes. She usually takes a break every hour to talk to someone. "The team will take me out of the room, debrief me, make sure that I have eaten."
Wanda Luna has transformed 15 rooms in the past 4 years. And there is no slowing down even though she holds down a full time day job and runs Estudio Luna in the Exchange. "I have to do it now. I love to see the joy on their faces."
If you are an artist interested in volunteering with the Dream Room
Project, or you know someone who would benefit from a 'dream room' get in touch with Luna at The Dream Room Project.
Listen to Wanda Luna in conversation with Larry Updike, CBC Radio's Up To Speed, June 20.