In 2016, an 11 years old boy, Hien Ho, was hanging out at a skateboarding park in Modesto, California with his father. The intention was to see if he likes skateboarding. Instead, Hien came up with an idea of an erasable backpack because he noticed some older boys wearing canvas backpacks decorated with cool intricate art drawn by permanent sharpie. He said: “those are really cool arts. Too bad they are permanent. Wouldn’t it be cool if it were erasable?” His father thought it was an awesome idea. They experimented and created the world’s first and only erasable canvas and mobile billboard on a backpack. The original intention was for creative kids, like the ones at the skateboarding park, who have a strong desire to express themselves and to showcase their individuality. As more and more kids are using this unique backpack, mental health experts informed us that this tool can help kids who experience childhood trauma overcome the negative effects of the trauma, through artistic expression, to thrive. Engaging in art consistently will boost self esteem, creative thinking, and problem-solving ability as well.
I am Hien’s father. I grew up in Vietnam after the war ended in 1975. I was 2 years old. When I was old enough to remember, I recalled that I and many other kids and adults had to wait in line at a faucet near our condo to fill up whichever form of containers we could find and carried that water to our home to fill up a 50 gallon drum. Mine happened to be on the 4th floor. It required multiple trips. We usually had to do this after school. We did not have electricity either. Not knowing it, but growing up poor is a trauma. I was often beaten by my father, in the name of discipline for my own good. Physical abuse is a trauma as well. When my father escaped Vietnam by boat. He landed in the Philippines and got to come to American because of my mom’s past work with the US Marines Corp. He decided to get married with another woman and had children with her. When I found out, I was devastated. It was another trauma. When I took the Adverse Childhood Experiences test the first time, I scored a zero, which means I have no trauma. After I had the fortunate opportunity to go through American Leadership Forum program, I learned so much about myself. I realized I buried all my trauma so deep. I became honest with myself and took the ACE test again and scored 3 or 4. Someone with a score of 4 or more is more likely to engage in drug use, criminal activity, unsafe behavior… I have been suffering from low self esteem, low confidence, depression, problem with relationships…. Now, I understand the root causes and am actively working to improve myself. If I had help when I was young, I would have turned out better mentally and social-emotionally.
When we learned that this can be a great tool for kids to improve their social-emotional development through artistic expression, we make it our mission to bring this tool and art curriculum to more kids in the US and the world.