The Clewer Initiative’s trainer and facilitator Bill Crooks recently ran a series of art workshops for refugee children in a hotel in Kent. During the sessions, which were organised by Kent County Council, the children were encouraged to try out different creative methods and mediums; learn to draw cartoon faces displaying a range of feelings and emotions, and design and build their own kites.
Bill explains: “It was an incredibly moving experience to be a part of these workshops. The energy levels were high throughout the weekend and the children had an insatiable desire to draw. I think they could have kept going until midnight – it was like a creative explosion! They wanted pens, paper, material – anything that would allow them to get creative.
“I also saw a hunger in the children for affirmation and to explore their identity. Many instinctively drew things associated with their home countries such as flags or traditional flowers or around their names and what they value including the Koran, mosques and Mecca. There was a strong desire among all the children to show off their pieces of art and have every single piece displayed. Many became extremely focused on the drawings they were doing and took tremendous effort over the design and colouring of the images.”
The workshops provided The Clewer Initiative with an opportunity to build on the experience gained in Southern Italy where Bill ran art workshops with refugee children and young people (aged 18-22 years old) in two reception centres. It was able to try its methodology in a different context and see how it works with different cultures with different sensitivities. As in Sicily, the team saw how the creative processes encouraged children and young people to be expressive and experimental and build a sense of belonging as they worked with others.