Kites for kids

17th June 2022 | Refugees

The Clewer Initiative

Refugee children find release through art workshops.

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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.

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Creating kites is a key part of this methodology. Bill explains: “I believe the kite making process works particularly well as art therapy because it consists of several different elements. The process of planning the design of the kite is great because the children must work in teams. Then once the kites are made, it is a fantastic sight to see 30 children flying their kites all at once. There seems to be something very powerful about the physicality of turning art into something you can play with. Kites bring out laughter, hope and joy and provide a release from the boredom and fatigue of life in a refugee centre. One of the refugees we worked with in Sicily said flying a kite is like sending out a prayer.

“Throughout the day, we got to know the children better and began to establish a trust and rapport which I believe could be vital for engaging at a deeper level in a follow up programme. I saw, once again, the power of art to connect with children in a profound way, even when language is limited.”

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