My last workshop with New Life Centre

I'm just back from my last workshop with the girls at New Life Centre and how sad it was to say goodbye to them! They are great fun to work with and today's workshop was a nice end to my time here. I can't believe this is my last week here! I know the phrase "time flies" is cliched, but my 6 weeks here really have flown by. I've taken lots of photos and am looking forward to pinning them up when I get home...and this was the inspiration for this week's lesson: making photo frames.

We arrived at New Life this morning, and it was as if the girls had read my mind! They came running in with photo albums and beaming smiles on their faces and at first I didn't click, but when I saw the photos it all made sense. Super Junior had visited them on Sunday and there they all were in the photos! Great, I thought, they can make photo frames for their photos with Super Junior!

So off we went - first making some sketches (the flowers and hearts were very popular!), then carving designs into little pieces of foam, then spray-painting the background, then printing onto the frames. As always, the girls were being perfectionists and were very careful with their designs and colour schemes.

The end products looked great and I'm only sad that I didn't get to see which photos they all choose to put inside! I'll be following the future blogs to find out, that's for sure!

So I guess it's now time for me to end my last blog! Thanks to New Life Centre for an amazing last workshop, and thanks to everyone at Cultural Canvas Art Relief for everything! In my time here I;ve been able to work with the Young Lions, Freedom House, New Life, Hope Home, Mitmoundek and Wildflower Home. The MTV Exit project was an amazing thing to be involved in too. I've had a great time here and have many great memories! Hugs to all the volunteers and staff I've worked with,

All the best, Niki

Suuuuper Junior...they're a-MAZE-ing!

So it’s Monday morning and a new week begins! Rewinding back to last week brings a smile to my face - what a week! My clothes are still damp, they are covered in paint, and I just found 3 bundles of MTV Exit tickets in my jacket! Looking around the office...the roof has collapsed in, there are canvas panels dripping on the washing line and a paper mache globe sitting propped up in the corner...so it might surprise you to hear how much fun we had last week – definitely one of the most memorable weeks of my life!

To give you some background (if you don’t already know), Saturday held host to the MTV Exit concert, featuring Korean band Super Junior (cue screaming girls!). The concert was held to raise awareness for human trafficking and Art Relief International made a canvas maze presenting facts, thoughts and art work about human trafficking. The maze looked fantastic but sadly its life was short lived due to Saturday’s tropical downpour...but more about that in Aoife’s blog post!

In the run up to Saturday, ARI held some workshops to create the canvas panels for the maze – one of which was held with the girls at the New Life Centre. I’ve really grown fond of these girls over my last few weeks here and we always have such fun working together. Last week was no exception! I started off the lesson feeling a little stressed with all the work we had to do (finishing their posters, presenting them on their canvases and making a gift for Super Junior) but then the tunes came on, the girls started dancing and time issues were forgotten! Their posters looked great and I was impressed with the designs they came up with.  They also wrote messages about human trafficking on their canvas panel and it was quite moving seeing what they were saying, especially knowing their background.

The second part of the lesson was all about Super Junior! Super Junior visited the girls this weekend, so on Tuesday we spent the whole day making a gift to give the boys. Such an exciting project to be working on with New Life and everyone was very enthusiastic! There were a few squabbles over who was tracing around which boy but all in good humour.
Tracing around the Super Junior boys to make their silhouette

The painting came next and the girls were very attentive to detail! I was very impressed! I ended up going back in the afternoon and we worked on the piece for the rest of the day. A long day fuelled by great company and some very tasty cups of coffee. All the hard work was worth it in the end. Check out the pictures and see what you think! Looking forward to our next workshop with New Life!

Bye for now, Niki.


First week on the job!

Hi all,

I’m Aisling from Ireland, the latest recruit! I arrived in Chiang Mai last Sunday, 19th June. As you have seen from the other volunteer blogs it’s been a hectic week at the CCT office! Preparations for the MTV Exit concert have consumed our lives and left us exhausted! Nonetheless, as a first time visitor to Chiang Mai, and to Thailand, I also managed to squeeze in 3 trips to the infamous markets (where the street food is the best), a trip to the zoo and aquarium, a visit to Chiang Mai university and art exhibition, attended the MTV Exit concert, visited numerous Wats, sampled the Thai nightlife, and of course, experienced the mandatory Thai massage! Be warned when they say deep tissue they really mean deep tissue!! There is just so much to do and see in Chiang Mai!

Me, (on the left), busy at work at the CCT office.

This week it’s back to normal at the CCT office. I am looking forward to all the exciting workshops and activities that are being planned as I type. Let’s just hope the rain eases up. Coming from Ireland I should be well accustomed to the rain but this is on another level altogether! Have a look at the photo below…I think my face says it all!!

Bye for now,


Me, and one of the lucky canvases that survived, undercover from the rain at the MTV Exit concert!

Folk art with the Young Lions!

My name is Aoife and I am volunteering with Art Relief International in Chiang Mai.  This week, the exuberant Young Lions children were engaged in a folk art workshop led by two visiting art educators. The aim of the workshop was to introduce the children to folk art in a simple yet engaging manner, using folk characters such as wood men.  During he workshop, the children were shown how to create fun sliding puppets using card, paint, paper punchers and paper fasteners. They were given the choice of different characters to put into the completed piece.  One of the initial tasks of us volunteers was to make sure that the two characters the children had chosen were facing towards rather than away from each other. Otherwise, the wood men could have been chopping each other rather than the wood!

While we all waited for the paint to dry before the parts could be assembled, the Young Lions were also shown how to make 'hanky dolls' using cotton hankies and ribbons.  This was a simple and effective idea, which engaged both boys and girls!

After this, the sliding puppets were assembled and the volunteers assisted by showing the children how the pieces should be put together.  The results were colourful and creative and the children enjoyed swaying the characters from side to side. The workshop was a resounding success and everybody went away with a smile on their face at the end of the day!

Wash out at MTV Exit!!!

Hello all,

My name is Aoife, reporting from the Art Relief International volunteer base! This build-up to the big MTV Exit event this Saturday was immense.  The event, held at the 700 Year Stadium in Chiang Mai, aimed to raise awareness of human trafficking.  Art Relief International, both its staff and volunteers, had spent weeks preparing canvases for an anti human trafficking maze, which was to be set up outside the stadium, along with the many information booths.  I myself helped in laying out what information was to go on each panel.  After some summarising and minor alterations, the design was complete and we spent the rest of the week preparing the canvases (painting them white) and writing the chosen statistics/images on the canvases using permanent markers and paint.  The introductory panels asked some central questions regarding human trafficking, notably 'What is human trafficking,' Why does human trafficking occur?' and 'How can human trafficking be stopped?'  These panels were highly interactive, with markers provided for visitors to write down their own perceptions about human trafficking.  Other important sections included a display of art from the children of Thai Freedom House, featuring powerful anti-trafficking images, and art work from the girls of the New Life Centre, displaying their hopes for the future.

At the centre of the maze was a papier mache globe, covered in black and white anti-trafficking images and with the countries of the world marked out in coloured wool and clearly labelled in Thai.  The different colours of the wool corresponded to countries with high/moderate/low human trafficking levels in terms of country of origin and destination of the trafficking victims.  Displayed around the globe were important statistics about human trafficking, written in both English and Thai, and hopeful messages to conclude.  The maze was designed to be as interactive as possible, with some question panels, with pull-off covers to display shocking answers.  A powerful anti-trafficking image designed by another Irish volunteer, Aisling, using the slogan 'Not for Sale' adorned the front of the maze, with a funny cut-out area for people to pop their faces through.  Many people who came enjoyed this feature of the maze! On Thursday, we set up the whole maze outside the CCT office and it all worked according to plan.  Each canvas was attached to a bamboo pole at the corner and then attached to another canvas using thick string.

But alas, 'WHY DOES IT ALWAYS RAIN ON ME???', as Travis would holler! Well... when it rains in Chiang Mai during rainy season, it really does pour! At Saturday lunchtime, we left the CCT office with bamboo sticks in tow.  Just as we arrived at the stadium, little droplets of sorrow appeared on the window screen of the car.  It was raining!!! We started assembling all the bamboo sticks in their correct places outside the stadium, waiting for the rest of the staff to arrive with the canvases.  A few more showers ensued but we still held high hopes that we would get through the afternoon relatively unscathed in moisture terms.  We started putting up all the canvases, the heavens opened and it started to POUR rain!!! Tarps were raised, in a hope that all could be salvaged, everyone ducking for cover under umbrellas and raincoats!!! Alas, after half an hour, the maze had to be abandoned, so as to salvage as many of the canvases as possible.  Nevertheless, we kept our promotional stall alive, with our human trafficking globe still available to view, as well as the cut-out face image!

At this stage it is fair to say that we were all sopping wet and drenched to the skin! We hoisted the bamboo poles and canvases into the van and we were on our way again! Us three volunteers (myself, Niki and Aisling) decided to brave the concert.  After all, water is a valuable natural resource (although not so much when you are wallowing in it!). We wanted to make the best of our day at the MTV Exit, so we stayed on to see and hear the hoard of Super Junior fans! And they came in droves!!!!!
The event also featured the up and coming Australian singer, Kate Miller, who proved to be a particular hit with us volunteers! Just a few minutes before we left, Super Junior came on stage, to multiple screams from the crowd surrounding us! This was an entertaining end to what tuned out to be a very interesting day, which left us singing in the rain, quite literally!

Until next time!!!


Anti-trafficking workshop at Thai Freedom House!

Hello all,
My name is Aoife and this is my second blog for Art Relief International! I (and the other volunteers included) had a busy week last week, with preparations for the MTV Exit event being held in Chiang Mai on June 25th, getting into full swing.  As mentioned in a previous blog, this event aims to raise awareness of human trafficking and features a performance by the hit South Korean boyband, Super Junior!  We are currently working on a maze for the event, which will feature artwork from two separate groups, related to fighting human trafficking: the teenage girls at the New Life Centre and the children of Thai Freedom House.

The workshop at Thai Freedom House aimed to educate the participants (twelve children) about the complex topic of human trafficking, in an accessible but meaningful manner.  In the workshop, canvases for the MTV maze were created, making the workshop both educational and productive!.  The key concept of the workshop was an exploration of human trafficking therough audio visual input and images.  The participants' learning was enhanced and reinforced by showing them seminal anti-trafficking images, engaging small groups in discussion about the images and trafficking language.  The images chosen to show the children were  powerful and striking, relating to different feelings: emotion, action, information and conscience.

The workshop kicked off with the both volunteers and participants introducing themselves, incorporating a few games.  The participants were then asked what they knew about human trafficking.  Questions such as: 'What is human trafficking?', 'Who is involved?', 'What problems does it cause?', 'What action can we take to reduce and minimise it?' and 'How can we protect ourselves and our loved ones?' were raised during these initial discussions.

After this, the anti-trafficking images were introduced.  Some of the images were particularly powerful: incorporating striking phrases such as 'NOT FOR SALE' and 'STOP.'


Following the displaying of these iamges, the participants were divided into three mixed-age groups.  Anti-trafficking images were handed out to each of the groups.  They were asked to examine the images and to discern which image they thought was the most powerful.  Each member of the group then was given a piece of scrap A4 paper, where they came up with their own design focus on human trafficking, before applying this to the full canvases.  The participants used black and red crayons to create these striking images.  The children came up with some truly evocative anti-trafficking images, which required a lot of imagination.  Such images included a bird in a cage, a person behind prison bars and slogans such as: 'I am not for sale' and 'Where is Mummy?'  A brief discussion and many photos capped off the evening!

The workshop with the children of Thai Freedom House was a resounding success.  The workshop with the children of Thai Freedom House was a resounding success.  It allowed the children to come to terms with a complex issue, producing sensitive and informed work.  They also gained protective strategies by learning about human trafficking.  In the process, they gained a clear understanding of powerful symbols and images.  One of the major successes of the workshop was the fact that all age groups and types of people mixed: children, parents, educators and volunteers alike, many enlightening discussions being inspired!

Until next time!!!

Flying High

This week the children at Mitmuandek enjoyed painting and making bird mobiles. 
Being a volunteer with Art Relief International and Cultural Canvas means coming into the lives of many local people and of course, they come into our lives as well. But meeting so many, also means saying goodbye. Having witnessed the fears of our young friends at Mitmuandek be replaced by pleasure and joy, it is now time for new volunteers to take my place. It is lovely to know that the little ones will continue to be cared for, delighted and inspired!


New hope at the New life Centre: an end to human trafficking.

Hello all! My name is Aoife.  I am a new ARI volunteer from Ireland.  I arrived early on Sunday morning and after a crazy first day filled with adventure (despite feeling severely jetlagged!) and initial orientation of the city, I experienced my first workshop today.  One of the other volunteers, Niki, was running the workshop this morning with nine girls from the New Life Centre, some of whom were victims of human trafficking.  In the workshop, the girls were creating images that would form part of panels for a maze that is to be exhibited an an MTV Exit event on June 25th.  The MTV event aims to raise awareness of human trafficking, and the maze will display images, ideas, feelings and facts about human trafficking. The aims of the workshop were to allow the girls to explore the theme of human trafficking in a safe and containing environment, enabling them to look at this issue creatively.  The responses the girls had in the workshop were hoped to provide a catharsis, that would enable them to explore their thoughts in a visual rather than verbal form.  We wanted to emphasise feelings of hope for the future and the positive aspects of the girls' lives, rather than dwelling on suffering.

The workshop started with some initial games, with the aim of introducing everybody.  I felt a bit baffled at first, due to my very limited knowledge of the Thai language, but after a while I felt more comfortable! The workshop posed three central questions, which the girls had to answer on the paper.  They also had to decorate their answers in a creative and idiosyncratic way.  Niki had prepared an example based on the theme of acceptance (see left).  The first question was: 'What is your hope for the future?' The girls came up with answers such as 'love,' 'no racism,' 'cooperation' and 'healthy kids.' The second asked the question: 'What are your personal strengths?.'  The girls responded with such suggestions as 'cooking,' 'sewing,' 'singing' and 'being independent.' The final question challenged the girls to think of a message for the world.  Such diverse responses as 'peace' and to 'see snow' were put forward.

After brainstorming these responses on the blackboard, each of the girls created a preparatory page, choosing one of these questions (in Thai), writing it on the paper, with the reponse written in bigger letters underneath.  They also included some sketches that they were thinking of using in the finished piece.  After this, they created their final piece, complete with imagery.  Some of the girls chose the theme of equality and cooperation, showing people linking hands.  Other images were linked to broader themes such as love or faith. Various materials such as fabric, crayons, felt tip pens, glitter glue, coloured papers and wool were used to create the images. 

I was amazed at the diversity of the imagery and at the artistic ability of the girls.  I genuinely look forward to the five weeks I have here and hope to stimulate the innate creativity that the girls possess.  In this workshop, I had the feeling that new hope was being breathed into the lives of the New Life Centre girls.


 Thankfully no paper cuts this week, as we were making origami with the Young Lions! I was pretty chuffed to have taught myself how to make a crane (embarrassingly, I had never made one before), a horse and even some cute wee butterflies, and I’m still in awe of all the crazy things that people have made online using the origami technique! All I can say is they must have tiny fingers and a lot of time and patience!

The Young Lions were pretty nimble fingered too and made some great cranes from bright paper, attached them to bits of string and then circled them around our heads. The younger kids made little pig and dog faces and had fun playing puppets with them. The kids have also started making covers for their passports, which we’re going to use to record what we do in each lesson. If my memory is anything to go by, it’s best to get their memory in shape from an early age! Anyway, more samples to make just now, so it’s over and out until next lesson. Bye, Niki.


Fabric Collage Self-Portraits

Well, what a morning! I’ve just returned from my first workshop with the girls at the New Life Centre and am still finding little pieces of fabric in my clothes! Today’s workshop was based on getting to know each other, learning about a new art medium, and making art in an expressive and slightly abstracted style.

We started the lesson by playing a few games to learn everyone’s names and break the ice. Then we went on to introduce the students to self-portraiture and fabric collage. As a first step, we looked at the styles of Matisse, Picasso, and Thai artist Nitaya Ueareeworakul, thinking about how artists can simplify images in terms of shape and colour. Bearing this in mind, the girls started their designs by drawing rough outlines of their faces with pencil, and then went over with black pen marking out shapes and simplifying lines.

Once we had planned out our shapes, we moved on to think about using fabric as an artistic medium. PBut, Linley and myself had experimented with three different techniques, so we got our own self portraits out and demonstrated how the girls could go about creating different textures and patterns with the fabric. One example used lots of small pieces of overlapping fabric to create areas of light and dark. Another used clear-cut shapes to mark out different shapes on the face, and another worked on scrunching up the fabric and sticking in to double sided tape to create a 3D fabric texture. Out came the bags of fabric, scissors, glue and good old sticky tape and we were off to work.

Each girl had their own style and they put a lot of thought into their designs, colour schemes and textures in their work. At the end of the class, we stuck our work on the wall and admired the smiling fabric faces looking back at us. The students and staff at the New Life Centre were a pleasure to work with, and I look forward to working with them again next week. Thanks to them for a yummy lunch too!

Bye, Niki

Fabric Animals & Finger Puppets

This week the Young Lions made animals from fabric and were encouraged to think about recycling and using cheap materials like old pieces of fabric and felt. We set up two stations: one for making finger puppets and another for making stuffed fabric animals.

At the finger puppet table, the children made crocodiles, monkeys, kangaroos and koala bears and had lots of fun sticking various pieces of felt and fabric together with good old double sided sticky tape!

At the stuffed animal table, the children were introduced to sewing and, armed with their rather large sewing needles and fiddly pieces of thread, they gradually pieced together their animals. They started out making the heads by sewing two circular pieces of fabric together, then turning them inside out, then decorating with pieces of card, pens, and googly eyes, and lastly stuffing them with cotton wool. Then they moved onto the body – attaching the squishy heads to toilet rolls, and decorating with materials.

The kids were very inventive and we saw the creation of an alien with several eyes, a bear with a pretty dress and lots of animals with funny faces! The Young Lions were as energetic, playful and as ever and let’s hope they bring their enthusiasm and creativity to the next workshop!

Also, thanks to Nicola and her dad for their help in Nicola’s last workshop here - we wish you bon voyage, or gute reise I should say!!

Bye, Niki