Safety First at Mplus+!

Hello from beautiful Chiang Mai! I am Sarah, one of the newest members of ARI. I am an artist from New Jersey, USA and just finished my first week with Art Relief International and have been loving every minute so far. My passion for art and working with children has brought me to Chiang Mai to work with ARI and so far it has been a wonderful growing and learning experience.

We finished up last week by visiting our friends at Mplus+, which is a non-profit organization in Chiang Mai, working to promote sexual health and identity for men in the LGBTQ community, transwomen, and male sex workers. Its a wonderful gathering place and resource center and we were happy that they welcomed us back for a workshop!

This workshop focused on the importance of safe sex and the use of condoms. We decided to erase the stigma of the taboo of condoms by getting a little silly with the vibrant people of Mplus+! We brought back our workshop of facial expression stress balls and put a safe-sex spin on them by making them out of condoms!

Creative faces!

The people at Mplus+ loved the idea, and got very creative in making their stress ball faces unique. We used markers to create beautiful faces and yarn for different hairstyles. Everyone had fun trying to out-do each other and create the most wild hairstyle!

Some of us added googly-eyes!

After we were done making our stress balls, we got the fabric out and started making condom wallets. The Mplus+ artists chose their fabric, cut out a template for their wallet, and started sewing!

It was so impressive to see the creativity coming out of these people, they were really enthusiastic about the projects and were inspired to create! After they were done sewing, they even added buttons and decorations to their wallets.

That's me with my new Condom Cozy!

Everyone enjoyed the projects and spent the evening laughing, creating and sharing good energy. We were happy to spend time with the people of Mplus+ and had so much fun!

Our collection of stress-ball people!

The night was such a success! I can't wait to share more of my experience here with ARI. Until next time, Stay Safe!



The Trickster and the King

Today, we will be emphasizing Shan culture through folktale and song.

Gong is a young Shan man, whose greatest wish is to become a teacher. He joined our Young Lions workshop to practice his teaching skills.  His touching story wakens the interest of a film-team which is going to produce a short documentary film about his struggle. The premiere of the film is on Friday the 4th of February in Chiang Mai. If you are planning a trip to Chiang Mai you are welcome to join our exiting movie-night.

It was very touching when  Gong sang two Tai Yai (Shan) songs. You really could feel how heartily connected he was with his culture.

Then he told about the  Shan suit he was wearing and showed the children the typical  embroideries and buttons.

Cee then caught the children's fascination by telling the impressive story of The Trickster and the King.


Now our students are going to tell you the story using the language of Art:

There once was a Trickster who used to play tricks on the villagers.

The Villagers got so tired of it that they asked the King for help.

 The King told the Trickster that if he could deceive him 3 times then he will be a free man again. If he could not, he would be killed.

The Trickster was successful and played the King 3 tricks: 
1: he told the King that he was hungry, but he was not.

2: he tricked him into coming down from his throne, which a King should never do.

3: He lit a match and the King hit his head by running out of the room, scared of the fire.

      When the King heard that the Trickster played tricks on him, he was furious and commanded the soldiers to put the trickster in a cage above a river and to cut the the rope after seven days. As the Trickster was sitting in the cage a merchant with bad vision ca to the trickster in his boat. The trickster told him, that if he stayed in the cage for seven days he will be able to see again.

The merchant believed him. On the seventh day the King ordered the soldiers to cut the rope and the cage felt into the deep, swift river.

The trickster stole all of the merchants treasures and visited the castle to meet the King. He told him that he had met the King's ancestors in the depths of the river and that they have given him some treasure to bring back to the King. The trickster told the King that if he stayed in the cage above the river and allowed the soldiers to cut the rope after seven days, he would be able to meet his ancestors in the depths of the river.

The King believed him and never has been seen again.
The trickster was then crowned the new King of the land.



       THE END!


Fun in the Magic Garden

Today we set off again for Hope Home.

It really earns its name, because whenever we arrive, joy and excitement are with us.
And that always gives us hope that we will have a great time together with the beautiful children of Hope Home.

We started to sing the song "Hello, How Are You" and the two boys, Phil and Boonrot loved it very much. They shook their arms and legs while laughing.

Then we gave them little stickers of flowers in bright colours and also stickers of butterflies, bugs and dragonflies. They felt the soft foam in their fingers, and they loved this, too.

Then Boonrot and Phil tried hard to give each sticker a nice place in their magic, sparkling garden.
It was not easy work for their muscles, but they succeeded in the end.

They both loved this work very much!

 Then, a white sheet of paper was put on it, and as soon as we went over with the oil pastels, the shapes of the flowers and insects appeared one at a time.

It was not an easy work, but we helped them to do it! 

 A Magic Garden was created.

After that we gave the children massages on their hands, arms, legs and feet.
they loved being touched in this way and enjoyed the attention very much.

The little babies were hugged and given attention, too.

We had  a great time again at Hope Home together with these children who are all so admirable !


I have to  say good bye now, because I leave ARI tomorrow.
I had a really great time with the very supporting team and the children we educated about art.
I will keep the memory alive.

from Germany 


Fool Me Thrice

It was a tricky day at Wat Pa Pao today, when students were asked to create their very own mosaics of scenes from The Trickester and The King, a traditional Shan folktale. Once we'd said our hellos and danced out our jitters P'Cee captured the attention of the students with her story telling skills.

The students kept their eyes on P'Cee as she told them how the Trickster tricked the King three times and what became of the fooled king. Every now and again an excited student would chime in with part of the story before P'Cee. Laughing ensued as the end of the story rolled around and then silence fell again (but not for long) when colorful squares of paper were passed out and students began designing their own individual scenes from the story.

It's amazing to see the diverse talent that each of the students hold. All took to the page like naturals and were able to come up with many different variations of the same (or different) scenes.

The students multitasking abilities were also impressive. While working on their project with one hand they were able to reach over and help their neighbor with the other. And once the rules were explained the volunteers of ARI realized the full extent of the children's curiosity, chatting and answering questions the entire time. Ranging from "Where do you come from?" to "What is your favorite color?" The hour long class was filled with conversation, laughter, and the occasional friendly prank.

At the end each student presented their new piece of art and explained what scene they had chosen to recreate. Put side by side it was clear that the children of Wat Pa Pao had created their own version of The Trickster And The King. They created a colorful puzzle of squares that didn't have to trick anyone into believing their story.


The Language of Facial Expression

There are 6,500 languages spoken across the world and so many culture differences throughout the globe. But even if a language barrier exists, you can explain yourself through the expression of your face to people the world over. It doesn't matter if you speak English, Thai or Shan- when you smile everyone will see that you are happy and if you start crying you will probably receive support and solace in every country.

This week we spoke with our students from Thai Freedom House about different emotions, moods and feelings. By moving just a few muscles their face can change completely and express happiness, anger or sadness.  

We had the students draw different emotions and that showed them that nothing stands completely on its own. When you move the shape and position of your eyes and mounth, it affects everything else. 

Afterwards the students continued the workshop by making emotions-stress-balls in the beautiful garden. We filled colourful balloons with cornstarch and a bit of oil. The result was a funny stress-ball that can be formed in particularly any shape.

Later the students used their newly acquired knowledge to decorate stress-balls they made out of balloons by drawing facial expressions on them. To improve their artwork they gave the stress-balls a nice hair-do using wool. By kneading and forming the stress- ball the facial expression could change and became more or less strong. 

To present the finished artworks to each other we sat down in a circle and talked about the facial expression they had chosen for their stress-ball. Nearly every student had chosen a laughing and happy face expression and the explanation were always the same : "we're happy, to be in the school and to make arts. We wish that the ARI would come every day and make art workshops with us!"

At the end of our lesson the kids still had so much energy and creativity so that they continued making art outside on the walls of the Thai Freedom House.......

…....the day ended with more FUN, GAMES and MUSIC! And we could tell by the look on everyone's face, that we all were HAPPY!

See you next Monday!