There are currently 43 unaccompanied children under the age of 14 living in the safe-zone of Moria. Being away from family, alone, in an unknown and unfamiliar environment is one of the most challenging and impactful experiences a child can go through. A big part of our work on the ground in Lesvos is therefore facilitating activities for children in the safe-zone that keep them engaged. With the help of Help Refugees, “Project Peace of Happiness,” conducted artistic workshops with children in the safe-zone over the course of a month recently and is a great example of the kinds of activities that keep children mentally and physically active in a positive way.
The project gave children from the safe-zone the chance to express their creativity and work in different mediums including paint, paper maché, origami and even clay. Rather than focusing on a particular theme, or enforcing a particular kind of participation, the art workshops were an open space, which children could use to develop either individual or collaborative projects, in the direction they wanted.
"As you see what the different children want to do, you try to encourage that.” says Gemma, the project coordinator. "It takes a few lessons for them to grow and trust each other, then they start to express themselves more. They draw things that is definitely going through what’s happened. But that's not the focus."
Gemma, is a social psychologist and artist by training. The program she developed was shaped by her experiences in both fields, particularly “positive psychology” and the role of art in empowerment. Instead of focusing on the difficult thing's the children have been through, the idea is to encourage them to develop and channel their individual talent.
“As I was working with young people and refugees in the past, I noticed how empowered they felt if you try and find their passion and what they’re good at,” says Gemma. “It doesn’t mean you ignore the problems, but you look at the positive qualities, that can help them overcome the issues.”
Apart from taking part in art workshops, children also got involved in redecorating the fences in the area where they live, to brighten up their environment. "It's fantastic to see what the kids can come up with. Most of them can paint really well.They’ve started a floor game too, as much as I can I’m involving them. The idea is I also help by incorporating some of their drawings into the fence too,” says Gemma.
Art and creativity is a great way of getting children to gain confidence, develop personally and stay engaged. We also love Project Peace of Happiness's positive minded focus. You can see some before and after shots of the safe-zone and the colourful changes made there over the last month, below!
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