My Experience

Three years since the uprising in Syria began, more than 6.5 million Syrians have been displaced, more than 3 million Syrians have fled the country to countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, and Iraq and become refugees.

Approximately 300,000 Syrian refugees are currently living in camps along the Turkish border alone after their home city of Kobani was assaulted by Islamic State. The majority of these refugees are vulnerable children who are in a state of unsettlement, both physically and culturally.

Suruç Municipality, governed by the local parties, coordinates humanitarian aid and manages the 5 camps. After having heard about the camps through a friend I have decided to spend 2 weeks in the border town of Suruc in Urfa province in February and March 2015 to get to understand local context and how I might be any help for refugees.

At one of the refugee camps, I facilitated art classes and observed hundreds of children’s drawings. During my time volunteering as an art teacher I came to witness the therapeutic and self-expressive impact of art on children affected by the war in Syria. I facilitated around 10 classes and have scanned over 150 children’s drawings using portable scanner while in area.

Beside from their geographic displacement, there was a deeper migratory phenomenon.The most powerful part of this exercise was noticing the change of themes in the imagery they were producing. What initially began as violent and militaristic later became passive and peaceful.

During the time I have spent in Suruç and whilst conducting workshops, I have observed this de-migration back to childhood through art and play. Through each drawing children made, the visuals they have depicted became more calm and positive.

Upon this mind-blowing experience, I have decided to go back in a more prepared manner. I started looking for organizations for funding and networking opportunities to support a longer term project which I can apply successes and failures when implementing our workshops.

Moving on: Goals & Objectives

The objective of our programme is to provide a means of expression for the youth of the camp to unleash their creative minds, it aims to help design structures to allow for creative expression, bring light and color to their environment in a menacing structure. It intends to soften the effects of austere dynamics of the region as seen and experienced by children and help them break away from their reality and become children again.

The camp doesn’t offer a place to allow for and encourage creative thought and behavior, because it is constructed for it’s functionality it is lacking a humanistic element.  I am hoping to construct a space to allow for the children to be transported out of their environment into a more meaningful place which they can explore their sense of safety, creativity and peace and connect with the outside world. The workshop programme to be aimed pre and elementary level as well as unschooled to trigger diagnostic thinking skills.

The Art-Therapy exercises and activities:

  1. Drawing what you feel. We will be using crayons to draw our emotions.
  2. Design a postcard which will be sent to people around the world. / Design a postcard for yourself to keep but imagine you will receive it when you go back to your hometown.
  3. Paint murals on the camp tents. We will be using acrylic paint buckets and wide brushes and hand painting.
  4. Drawing while listening to music. We will conduct some of our workshops with music.
  5. Painting with fingers. Getting our hands and fingers in colours to create abstract shapes and interact with the material.
  6. Drawing outside. As long as the weather allows it during the months of spring and summer 2015.
  7. Draw together. We will give them large sheets of paper which they will paint on together.
  8. Creating a future self-portrait. We are particularly think this activity will be very useful for our context. From our pilot workshop in February, this activity brought up that most children are drawing themselves as soldiers and militants. We would like to repeat this activity few times to help them explore their opportunities for the future.
  9. Draw yourself as an animal.
  10. Make your own cardboard toy, which they can take home with them later on.
  11. Draw your home. This is another one, we think will be beneficial to children. Some have seen their homes back are demolished after the war. We would like to help them think optimistic about their future homes, where they feel safe.
  12. Making collages with colour paper. Introduction to different materials.
  13. Draw a funny moment of your life, or create a comic strip.
  14. Draw positive things in your life. This will help children to think of their happy memories.
  15. Paint on rocks. We will transform gravel into colourful jewels.
  16. Make art with used bottles and recycled objects. We will make toys with recycled objects by combining them with fabrics and paint.

Explore more about Art in Camps Project