It has been a year since a tornado hit the small city of Joplin in the state of Missouri in the US and its residents are still picking up bits and pieces of their lives, as they lurch to recovery.

As part of the whole rebuilding and healing process, resident artists have started a project - to paint a 30-40ft tall tornado-struck tree called - spirit tree. The idea is to motivate the city to continue working for a better future.

The artists claim the design was inspired by a Native American spirit stick art project, in the south-western American state, by an Ashley Bilke, who had also worked on a similar project two years ago at the Joplin High School.

"The Native Americans believe that the spirit sticks their medicine men carry, also called prayer sticks, were especially powerful if chosen from a tree that was struck by lightning," Bilke told The Joplin Globe, "I feel like that's applicable here, considering the tornado and the storm, which was part of the reason we chose a tree in the middle of the path."

The tree is coloured in bright shades and symbolises the new spirit of the community. Each colour represents different things - white is spirit, red is life, yellow is knowledge, black is clarity, blue is prayer, purple is healing and orange is kinship with other living creatures. The tree is a tribute to the 161 people who lost their lives in the calamity and to honour the ones who lived up the situation and the volunteers who came to help Joplin recover.

The deadly EF-5 tornado which hit the town a year ago ranks as the deadliest twister in six decades and reportedly has been the costliest since 1950. However, the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce reports that 80 percent of businesses have reopened and the city of Joplin has issued building permits for about 65 percent of the houses and apartments.

"We're expecting to come back bigger and stronger than we were before the storm," Mark Rohr, City Manager was quoted as saying in USA today, "...We have a tragedy on one hand and an opportunity on the other hand."

Check out photos of the city of Joplin, a year after the horrible tornado

Artists Emily Frankoski (L) and Dolores Bilke paint a tornado damaged tree in Joplin, Missouri May 16, 2012. May 22 marks the one year anniversary of a deadly EF-5 tornado that ripped through the town, killing 161 people. The tornado damaged or destroyed about 7,500 homes and 500 other buildings, but the city is now well into a recovery mode that has spurred some segments of the local economy.
Artists Emily Frankoski (L) and Dolores Bilke paint a tornado damaged tree in Joplin, Missouri May 16, 2012. May 22 marks the one year anniversary of a deadly EF-5 tornado that ripped through the town, killing 161 people. The tornado damaged or destroyed about 7,500 homes and 500 other buildings, but the city is now well into a recovery mode that has spurred some segments of the local economy.Reuters
St. John's Regional Medical Center is seen through part of a memorial to victims of a deadly tornado in Joplin, Missouri is seen May 16, 2012. May 22 marks the one year anniversary of a deadly EF-5 tornado that ripped through the town, killing 161 people. The tornado damaged or destroyed about 7,500 homes and 500 other buildings including the hospital, but the city is now well into a recovery mode that has spurred some segments of the local economy.
St. John's Regional Medical Center is seen through part of a memorial to victims of a deadly tornado in Joplin, Missouri is seen May 16, 2012. May 22 marks the one year anniversary of a deadly EF-5 tornado that ripped through the town, killing 161 people. The tornado damaged or destroyed about 7,500 homes and 500 other buildings including the hospital, but the city is now well into a recovery mode that has spurred some segments of the local economy.Reuters
The rubble of a high school is seen in Joplin, Missouri May 17, 2012. May 22 marks the one year anniversary of a deadly EF-5 tornado that ripped through the town, killing 161 people. The tornado damaged or destroyed about 7,500 homes and 500 other buildings, but the city is now well into a recovery mode that has spurred some segments of the local economy.
The rubble of a high school is seen in Joplin, Missouri May 17, 2012. May 22 marks the one year anniversary of a deadly EF-5 tornado that ripped through the town, killing 161 people. The tornado damaged or destroyed about 7,500 homes and 500 other buildings, but the city is now well into a recovery mode that has spurred some segments of the local economy.Reuters
Statues are seen with flowers in Joplin, Missouri May 16, 2012. May 22 marks the one year anniversary of a deadly EF-5 tornado that ripped through the town, killing 161 people. The tornado damaged or destroyed about 7,500 homes and 500 other buildings, but the city is now well into a recovery mode that has spurred some segments of the local economy.
Statues are seen with flowers in Joplin, Missouri May 16, 2012. May 22 marks the one year anniversary of a deadly EF-5 tornado that ripped through the town, killing 161 people. The tornado damaged or destroyed about 7,500 homes and 500 other buildings, but the city is now well into a recovery mode that has spurred some segments of the local economy.Reuters
Workers construct a home in Joplin, Missouri May 16, 2012. May 22 marks the one year anniversary of a deadly EF-5 tornado that ripped through the town, killing 161 people. The tornado damaged or destroyed about 7,500 homes and 500 other buildings, but the city is now well into a recovery mode that has spurred some segments of the local economy.
Workers construct a home in Joplin, Missouri May 16, 2012. May 22 marks the one year anniversary of a deadly EF-5 tornado that ripped through the town, killing 161 people. The tornado damaged or destroyed about 7,500 homes and 500 other buildings, but the city is now well into a recovery mode that has spurred some segments of the local economy.Reuters
Workers construct a home in Joplin, Missouri May 16, 2012. May 22 marks the one year anniversary of a deadly EF-5 tornado that ripped through the town, killing 161 people. The tornado damaged or destroyed about 7,500 homes and 500 other buildings, but the city is now well into a recovery mode that has spurred some segments of the local economy.
Workers construct a home in Joplin, Missouri May 16, 2012. May 22 marks the one year anniversary of a deadly EF-5 tornado that ripped through the town, killing 161 people. The tornado damaged or destroyed about 7,500 homes and 500 other buildings, but the city is now well into a recovery mode that has spurred some segments of the local economy.Reuters
A memorial is seen where a house once stood in Joplin, Missouri May 17, 2012. May 22 marks the one year anniversary of a deadly EF-5 tornado that ripped through the town, killing 161 people. The tornado damaged or destroyed about 7,500 homes and 500 other buildings, but the city is now well into a recovery mode that has spurred some segments of the local economy.
A memorial is seen where a house once stood in Joplin, Missouri May 17, 2012. May 22 marks the one year anniversary of a deadly EF-5 tornado that ripped through the town, killing 161 people. The tornado damaged or destroyed about 7,500 homes and 500 other buildings, but the city is now well into a recovery mode that has spurred some segments of the local economy.Reuters
Homes under construction are seen in Joplin, Missouri May 17, 2012. May 22 marks the one year anniversary of a deadly EF-5 tornado that ripped through the town, killing 161 people. The tornado damaged or destroyed about 7,500 homes and 500 other buildings, but the city is now well into a recovery mode that has spurred some segments of the local economy.
Homes under construction are seen in Joplin, Missouri May 17, 2012. May 22 marks the one year anniversary of a deadly EF-5 tornado that ripped through the town, killing 161 people. The tornado damaged or destroyed about 7,500 homes and 500 other buildings, but the city is now well into a recovery mode that has spurred some segments of the local economy.Reuters
Peggy Gettler (2nd R), who lost her daughter nearly a year ago to a deadly tornado, hugs a volunteer in Joplin, Missouri May 17, 2012. May 22 marks the one year anniversary of a deadly EF-5 tornado that ripped through the town, killing 161 people. The tornado damaged or destroyed about 7,500 homes and 500 other buildings, but the city is now well into a recovery mode that has spurred some segments of the local economy.
Peggy Gettler (2nd R), who lost her daughter nearly a year ago to a deadly tornado, hugs a volunteer in Joplin, Missouri May 17, 2012. May 22 marks the one year anniversary of a deadly EF-5 tornado that ripped through the town, killing 161 people. The tornado damaged or destroyed about 7,500 homes and 500 other buildings, but the city is now well into a recovery mode that has spurred some segments of the local economy.Reuters
Students walk the halls on the first day of school at Joplin High School in Joplin, Missouri August 17, 2011. Residents are still recovering and rebuilding from a devastating tornado that ripped through Joplin, in late May, killing nearly 160 people and destroying more than 8,000 homes and other structures. Nearly three months after the deadly tornado, the school year started on time Wednesday, including a brand new high school built in a mall.
Students walk the halls on the first day of school at Joplin High School in Joplin, Missouri August 17, 2011. Residents are still recovering and rebuilding from a devastating tornado that ripped through Joplin, in late May, killing nearly 160 people and destroying more than 8,000 homes and other structures. Nearly three months after the deadly tornado, the school year started on time Wednesday, including a brand new high school built in a mall.Reuters
City work crew clear debris in Joplin, Missouri August 17, 2011. Residents are still recovering and rebuilding from a devastating tornado that ripped through Joplin, in late May, killing nearly 160 people and destroying more than 8,000 homes and other structures.
City work crew clear debris in Joplin, Missouri August 17, 2011. Residents are still recovering and rebuilding from a devastating tornado that ripped through Joplin, in late May, killing nearly 160 people and destroying more than 8,000 homes and other structures.Reuters