• Mechthild

Breaking the Ice with paints + beads

Updated: Aug 3, 2019

The men had cigarettes, the women coffee and tea, small children had a few toys, but what was there for the older children? A radio journalist and grandfather gathered a dozen around him on my first day at OHF.

The favorite 'Aba' (father) asks everyone to write a page in his book. And he got the boy from Aleppo to smile.

He has seen it all in adults. Thieves. Corruption. He loves the children. The lifelong journalist has a long story to tell (look for his journey later)

Beads and paints and joy and warmth.

I start with the children. On my second day, I explained my project to few people. Some were interested, some hesitant: “Was I from the government?” and “Would their story hurt their asylum process?” I assured them of my independence and my confidentiality should they not want their name published or associated with a photo but decided to not rush. The older children were watching from afar. To get to know them and just talk, I brought beads, scissors, twine from the cartons full of art materials I had brought with me. And in no time the table was full of kids trying to make themselves a bracelet, a necklace.

And it was a chance to talk. Fatima was here with her 3 children and her husband. She enjoyed the kids’ eagerness to play. But when she told me she was from Aleppo, the joy instantly fell from her face, and I could only imagine the horrible pictures she must see in her mind.

The next day, several girls wanted to learn to write their names in English lettering and we started to draw objects and numbers in English, Arabic, Farsi. Now they were ok to take photographs with me and wanted to give drawings as a present. I could see that the adults were very patient and gentle to everyone’s children, from Fatima to the grandfather who had raised a dozen children decades ago.

At the end of the day, Javier the Spanish volunteer, I , some men, and a somber teenager got together for a game of UNO. He spoke English quite well, but could not write it. Like most Syrian children, his school closed years ago, and he now gets a little schooling here on Lebos. I learned that the boy was only 13 and had seen hellish atrocities in his hometown of Aleppo. I would not dare ask him, but his drawings left me speechless. When he won the UNO game twice in a row, he finally cracked a smirk.

When the children were called to come for the long walk back to the camp, they instantly said goodbye and left, no argument. For the next weeks the kids beleaguered me for more art, and we held many fun ' afternoon art tables'.


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