A Beautiful Mess!

Hey artsy people! I'm Amy, the newest member of the Art Relief International team.  I'm originally from frozen Canada, but my new home for the next 3 months is the hot and beautiful - Chiang Mai, Thailand!

In my first week here I had the pleasure of doing an art workshop with the kids at Hope Home. Before I got there I was warned about the high levels of cuteness I would have to endure. I was still blown away!
It was a great chance to meet and play with each of the kids, as today's workshop was centered around them.  Fellow volunteers had prepared personalized T-shirts with stencils of the kid's names on them as well as images that matched their bright personalities!

All we did was stick the stencils on and let them take creative control!  I worked with Yim as she painted her sunshiny T-shirt.  She seemed to like painting our toes and fingers better than the given canvas.

Luckily this time Phil had some protective baggies so his chair wouldn't get quite as messy.  But it seems none of the kids can stand to have their creativity stifled by a clean work environment.


Out of all the mess came some beautiful finished apparel after we removed the stencils!

I had a blast getting to know all these children and can't wait for the next opportunity to make a beautiful mess with them!

Peace and love from Thailand, Amy :)

Spill Your Secrets!

Happy Leap Day everyone! It saddens me to say that this is going to be my last blog post for ARI. My six weeks are up here and they have gone by faster than I could’ve imagined. Words can’t describe how I feel about this experience- you will only know by hopping on a plane and getting to Chiang Mai to discover it for yourself. (I highly recommend you do this!)

Together with the volunteers of ARI, I headed over to the Mplus+ last evening to conduct a workshop with this vibrant group of people! Mplus+ is a LGBTQ community house in Chiang Mai. It was my first blog the last time we talked about Mplus+, so I have come full circle with them!

For this workshop, we introduced the group to the idea of a global art project- in particular one called PostSecret. For many of you out there who live in the states, PostSecret is widely known. However in Europe and Chiang Mai, Thailand- it was a new discovery for many.

So for those who don't know, here is a short explanation... A man named Frank Warren started the PostSecret project in 2005. Frank invited strangers to anonymously mail him a secret on one side of a postcard. It could be anything, as long as it was true and you have never admitted it before. Then, these secrets are either shown in traveling art exhibits, one of Frank’s 5 books that have been published full of secrets, or on the PostSecret blog- www.postsecret.com, which gets updated with 20 new secrets every Sunday.

The idea of sharing secrets while staying anonymous gives people the ability to say whatever they want without their identity revealed. It’s empowering to confess something, anything… about depression, dreams, stories, experiences, anything that you would otherwise never share with others. PostSecret has created an anonymous community of support for those who wish to share.

What a great concept to bring to the people of Mplus+! After explanation and showing endless examples of past secrets from the blog, we all got started!

Many members of Mplus+ found cozy nooks to work alone and think of their secret, while others were very open about what they were sharing. After everyone had created a postcard, we had them quickly slip it into an envelope to protect their anonymity. After all the postcards were finished, we sealed it shut and plan on sending it off to Frank Warren! Many found the project therapeutic, and were relieved that they could admit their secret even just to themselves.

We’re going to keep an eye on the blog to see if any of our secrets show up there! And made sure that the people of Mplus+ check it on Sundays to look for theirs, as well as keeping up with the global project that we are all now apart of!

Now that my time at ARI has come to an end, I have to thank all the people here that welcomed me and gave me such amazing memories and experiences to look back upon. If anyone out there is considering volunteering or supporting an organization, please think of ARI! The work we do with the community of Chiang Mai gives a voice to those who need it most. Art is truly powerful, and ARI has shown me that.

With that said, it’s not goodbye to Chiang Mai- I know I’ll be back one day!
Sawatdeeka to all!

And for the last time, I offer you my Dad’s words of wisdom… “Be happy, and make a difference”
Love always,


Baila Baila Conmigo!

Live is a Carnival and we wanted to celebrate it this week with our students from Healing Family Foundation.
In my home-city, Cologne, and also at the other side of the world in Rio de Janeiro all the people celebrated this colourful and musical festival. During this time every street turns into a family-celebration and strangers became members of this one big and warm-hearted family.

Carnival in Rio is the most famous because of the beautiful masks and costumes and, of course, because of the samba music that forces you to move every part of your body. It takes place in the hottest month in the Southern Hemisphere (February), when the Rio summer is at its peak. 


To create a festival atmosphere we showed a short movie about Carnival in Rio at the beginning of the workshop and played Samba music. Inspired by the impressive pictures our students started creating and decorating their own Carnival-masks.


First the chose their favourite shape, or two or three or..... 

and started decorating them with paint, tissue-paper and colourful feathers. The paint-brushes moved fast and tactful to the samba music that we played.


The students presented proudly their finished masks to everyone and just loved to take pictures with their masks.


We finished our workshop with a big Carnival-parade, a lot of samba music, dance and laugh. And as we were leaving the warm-hearted Healing Family Foundation, everyone was humming the melody of the song:

Baila Baila Conmigo......

 Till next time

Baila baila con Cee


Young Lions are thinking about their future

Hello everybody from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
I am Stephanie, a new volunteer at ARI. Usually I live in Switzerland, but at the moment I am traveling around Asia and I am here in Chiang Mai at ARI for several weeks.

 This week we had again a very interesting workshop with the Young Lions. We wanted the Young Lions to think about their future and about their plans for 2012, 2013 and beyond...

While we were waiting for all the Young Lions to come in, they had time to draw and paint their favorite cartoon characters. Some like Spiderman, while others prefer Hello Kitty!!

When the majority of the children were here, we started with the workshop. First of all, we wanted them to fill in a form with some questions about future plans. We asked for their age and measured how tall they were in centimeters. They we asked what would they like to achieve in one, five and ten years ...

The children think about their future goals.
 Some said they would like to own cars or houses, others said they would like to be doctors or businesspersons. One said that in the future, she would want people to know that she had tried to be a good citizen. One of our youngest students said that in ten years she would like to be able to work to help her family. Another young student said she would like to own a flower garden.

Qing wants to go to school and visit the beach!

Painting, Drawing, and Collaging! The Young Lion displated Boundless Imagination!  

After that, they created their own time capsule that included all of their paintings and questionnaires.  

The end results were beautiful. They all worked together to create a fantastic and unique time capsule, which we will bury in the Art Relief Garden during our next workshop for future Young Lions and ARI volunteers to find!



Pride In Painting at Srisangwan...

It was an exciting day for ARI today, as it was our first visit to Srisangwan, a school for physically disabled children.  After singing songs and some memorable entertainment, it was time to get working. Running two classes back to back, we introduced the students to a short video to highlight the amazing masterpieces iconic artists have produced in the past and present, artists who also live with physical disabilities. From Matisse, to Dan Keplinger, the focus of the Oscar-winning documentary King Gimp, to Beethoven... the students were definitely inspired.

Offering the students the opportunity to work with paint brushes on various types of extenders and at a comfortable angle to suit their individual needs, they were eager to get creative. Some students were keen to experiment with all different kinds of brushes...

It was really remarkable to see the students' determination in working with the adapted brushes. It is difficult to imagine living in Thailand - where there are often broken and bent sidewalks and steps leading into nearly every building - with a disability. Srisangwan offers these children an opportunity to recieve an education, and often employs differently-abled teachers and administrators. At ARI, we try to offer the children an opportunity to express themselves and tell their stories. Perhaps, if their stories become known, in the future, life may become easier for people living with disabilities in Thailand. We allowed the children free reign to paint what ever theme they chose, and we definitely discovered some artists in the making.

The students were very proud of their masterpieces and had a lot of fun, too... And, like us, I think they will enjoy another Art Relief workshop in the near future.

Until next time,
Stay happy.


Hope Home Sends Their Love Down Under!

Today at Hope Home, the children expressed their love and thanks to our new friends from Down Under! For the past few weeks, Hope Home was lucky enough to have four Australian Occupational Therapist (OT) volunteers from the Cultural Canvas Thailand program. It's clear that the kids of Hope Home are dearly missing their Aussie friends, who returned home last week. So we wanted to give them an opportunity to reach out and say thanks! During their stay, both the OT's and the Hope Home kids had heaps of fun, so we know that they are sure to all be missing each other.


We made stencils ahead of time of all things Aussie- like koalas, kangaroos, surfboards, and even vegemite! We included messages that the kids could paint over- "We'll miss you" and "Thank you." We let the children select what stencils that they wanted to use.


One of our new volunteers to ARI, Stephanie, helped Boonrot by holding a board out for him to paint his stencils on. Boonrot has the Australian volunteers to thank for his beautiful new chair that they put together for him. He is able to keep much more upright and watch everybody hard at work during the projects!

We helped Boonrot paint over the stencils as he selected each color that he wanted to use. He loved to paint over the shape of Australia! 

Lately with Hope Home, we have been experimenting with different types of paint and paintbrushes to see what is best for the children who have difficulty with movement. We've been finding that the rollers on extenders with tempera paint work best lately. It's a little messy, but everyone has fun!

We spend a little time each workshop trying to get Phil used to working with his hands. He gets rewarded for his efforts by being able to feet-paint afterwards, something he much prefers to do.

As you can see, foot-painting gets messy for everyone, but you have to admit it looks like fun!

And of course I made time in our busy day to play with Namchok- my little cuddlebug! Who can resist this little guy? He is closer and closer every day to walking!

Stephanie and Namchok jammin' on the tambourine! Or eating it?!

Although Namchok didn't participate in today's workshop, his presence is known! He never fails to entertain us by his adorable sense of curiosity and movement.

It's always wonderful to see Namchok make Yim smile... the two youngsters are best mates at Hope Home.

Boonrot gives us a big smile before we leave! He looks so handsome with his new haircut

Some of our finished paintings! The kids were hard at work today- each making several paintings.

After a little ARI magic, we transformed the paintings into Aussie-inspired thank you notes! We hope that the OT's feel the Hope Home love when they open these cards. They will surely be missed by the residents and staff there.

Be Happy and make a difference,

Create Your Own Community!

Another beautiful week in Chiang Mai was kicked off at Thai Freedom House. This week, we introduced the students to the idea of community. We talked about the community that we live in and the attributes of what it is comprised of.  

Then we asked the students to create an entirely new community- their own personal village. We asked them to think about the daily life in this imaginary village: where people would live, what they would do, and what would the laws of the village be? Every student came up with three laws for their village and wrote them down, as well as something about the daily life. 

Then we sat in a circle and shared our laws with each other. The most popular laws were "No Smoking" and "No throwing garbage in the river." Some of the children talked about who the leader of their village would be. Some children said that in their village, it was a law that everyone is allowed to go to school and learn. It was really interesting and enlightening to hear what some of the younger children came up with. It sparked good conversation for the kind of ideas that we all think are important in a community, especially education. Many of the students at Thai Freedom House want to continue much further in their education, but cannot because they are Burmese refugees and don't meet requirements to enroll in Thai schools. It was good to get them talking about the kind of changes that they wish to see happen!

Alena, Cee, and me!
The volunteers came up with laws for our own villages as well! 

Then the students got to work creating their village maps! We gave them all paper and colored pencils, as well as old magazines and paper scraps so that the children could collage as well as draw. The students of Thai Freedom House love to recycle, so they were all about using the paper.

Everyone busy at work!

The students loved the idea of creating their own community, and were hard at work designing their villages until the last second of the workshop! They were really creative in coming up with their village maps.

We had everyone show off their creation when they were all finished. Each student was so proud of their work and happy with the final result. 

Proud artists and village designers!

Til next time,
As always, be happy and make a difference!