The Goal: Make a Child Smile

My presumption that all children are naturally happy and easily triggered to smile was blew up in my face on my 3rd day volunteering at ARI. Armed with paint, puzzle pieces, brushes, musical instruments, balloons and unconditional love, off we went to Hope Home, a residence for children with severe physical and mental disabilities.

Some of the children at Hope Home have such weak muscles or no trace of muscle at all, that smiling is quite a difficult task, let alone making sounds of laughter. And so, while providing an outlet for creativity and triggering physical exercise were valuable objectives, our main goal was simply to make them happy. Determined, we used everything at our disposal to make them smile, from singing and clapping, peekaboo games, to simpler ‘tricks’ like making funny sounds or just hugging.

During my previous part-time experience with infants, or even during my goals-oriented job in Marketing, never did I have to face such challenge; a child that struggles to express joy. I can go on and on about the tricks I’ve learnt from the incredible volunteers or about how it felt when a kid snuck a smile or released sounds of joy, but I think the pictures speak louder than words. 


Rotem Zur-Klapwijk


Back to Art School

Three years since I last hold a painting brush and lifetimes since post-school cultural centre in the Kibbutz, I found myself surrounded by pens, ribbons, glue, buttons and stickers. My first instinct was to grab a pair of scissors and dive right in, loose myself in a world of colour and serene shape cutting. But I was more interested in understanding the dynamics and lives I was invited to get a glimpse of, though I didn’t even scratch the surface.

It was my first day volunteering for Art Relief International (ARI) and I could join a workshop at the Wildflower Home, residence for single mothers in need from northern Thailand. A chatty and cheerful group of girls approached us as soon as we arrived in the small yard. They grabbed their tools and semi-finished recycled plastic wallets, and got straight to work without wasting a minute. Quickly and skillfully they moved the needle while offering advice to each other, exchanging plastic swatches and ribbons, trying some English and laughing. They seemed like an ordinary teenage group and it was hard for me to draw the connection between them and the babies in the nursery next door. It was even harder to start and understand their complex background, some coming from Burmese refugee camps and hill tribes.

One of the girls grabbed my attention, highly concentrated with a serious and matured exterior who could sew very well. Only when she smiled to my compliment I’ve noticed she is probably not older than 19. I started wondering what made such a beautiful girl seem so harsh, and despite cultural codes of conduct found myself staring… She had great taste and seemed so dedicated to her work. I tried to chat with her a bit, picking up small bits of information, like that her mom had taught her how to sew, that she never tried to make clothes, that she can’t cook very well (which I highly doubt). I wanted to know more, the questions were buzzing in my head: Where are you from? How old are you? How old is your baby? What made you leave home and come to Wildflower? What would you like to do when you grow up? Would you like to continue and sew? Would you like to make clothes? Will you find a home of your own and live independently? Will you strive to be successful and wealthy? Will you develop your talent to become the greatest you can?

Before I knew it, it was time to wrap up and leave, and I was left with tons of questions unanswered, and which I should probably never ask. 

Thank you girls at Wildflower Home for allowing me to join your day, even if for a little while. And big thanks to the dedicated volunteers at ARI for allowing me to help and be near art again. 

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” 
― Anne Frank

Rotem Zur-Klapwijk


Ice, Ice, Baby!

In honour of my new favourite holiday - Songkran (the annual water festival celebrating Thai New Year here in Chiang Mai) - we decided to cool everyone down at Healing Family Foundation with an icy workshop! 

To give a little background on Songkran - it's a 3 day festival that takes over the city of Chiang Mai.  Everybody, young and old, take to the streets and squirt, splash and douse each other so that there isn't a speck of dryness left.  We even got to see one of our friends from Healing Family Foundation during the festival; he was riding down the street in the back of a pickup with his friends, splashing and waving to us the whole time!

In preparation for the workshop, our scientist volunteer, Alena, brainstormed and experimented with ways to use the ice cold water of Songkran in art.  Finally she found the idea for painting with ice cubes filled with watercolours.  It was going to be cold, messy and a whole lot of fun!

The amazing and crazy students at Healing Family Foundation were quite surprised when we pulled out the colourful ice trays and even more taken aback when we told them to go wild on  the massive white cloth we had set before them.


They quickly warmed up to the idea and the ice started to melt. ;)  We all had so much fun colouring and sliding  the ice around, watching as it soaked in and dyed the fabric.  This workshop was absolutely perfect for the 40 degree weather we've been having out here (or 100 degrees Fahrenheit if that's the way you slide).


After we were thoroughly wet and our hands were sufficiently painted, we moved inside for a little science lesson on the water cycle.  Alena showed everyone the stages of the water cycle and the different states of water.  Then we decided it was time for more painting and we designed masterpieces based on our Songkran experiences and our new knowledge of water.


This was such a fun workshop to end off Alena's time as an Art Relief volunteer.  She's been here for 6 months and I know she will miss all the Healing Family students terribly, as well as all of our other students.  And we will all miss her!

So Happy Songkran! and Goodbye for now, Miss Alena!

Alena learns some new moves before heading out!

Peaces and Loves and Splashes from Amy

Rhinocerous Patternocerous

     Albrecht Durer was only 13 when his genius level of artistic talent began to show.  By age 15 his family recognized this potential and he began his apprenticeship under painter and print maker Michael Wolgemut.  This young prodigy seemed the perfect example for our Young Lions, so we copied his world renowned interpretation of the rhinoceros for this week’s YL workshop.

     In his piece, he separated the rhino into plate like sections and filled each with patterns of scales, swirls and spikes.

File:Dürer - Rhinoceros.jpg

     We prepared rhinoceroses and crocodiles and a variety of crazy creatures to teach this technique of drawing to the Young Lions.  We passed the images around in a circle so each kid could participate in filling the space with their own unique patterns – stitching, stripes, swirls and zigzags.  Together we stabbed and spotted designs into the animals for a wild but beautiful result!
     Thinking of our fast approaching Young Lions exhibition, I am reminded of the purpose of the neighbourhood group – to provide equal opportunity to children who are not often given that type of treatment.  These animals and all the works they have produced are prime examples of the potential these children possess and the beauty that can come when the opportunity is finally given to them.  Just like their inspiration for the day – Albrecht Durer was given opportunity when his potential was recognized – these kids too can accomplish great things.  I am so thankful to be a part of the process where kids from any background are brought together to work at an equal level, in collaboration, to see where that possibility takes them.



How Lucky I am to Have Something That Makes Saying Goodbye So Hard

 My last day at Hope Home :-( (for now I hope).

It has been 6 months since I visited this magical and peaceful place for the first time and Poni introduced me to the kids. I felt a little bit nervous at the beginning as I never worked with disabled children before but all the nervousness was gone after the van arrived at the gate and we all were greeted by Boonrot's biggest smile. Since then the kids found a place in my heart that they will keep for ever. 

Writing this blog I looked through the picture of all past workshops with Hope Home and it is just incredible how many memories are conserved in the pictures and how the kids have changed and grown up.

Boonrot is the most impressive little person I know. 
He has been very sick for a while but never stopped
 fighting and smiling. Last time we were talking
 about spirit animals with some ARI-volunteers 
and everyone agreed that Boonrot's
 spirit animal would be a brave and strong lion.
Joy, a shy and quiet girl who 
didn't really reacted on volunteers
 is now a funny and always giggling lady.
My buddy Phil has improved sooo much! 
He creates amazing pictures with his feet
 and like a real artist he crumbles and tears
his artworks if he doesn't like them.
 At the Jazz workshop, it was amazing
 to see how concentrated he was trying
 to push the saxophones buttons
 and with a little practice he definitely
 would be able to play an instrument.
Sai Nam is the cutest baby on earth 
and gets cuter and cuter every day.

Yim means smile in Thai but the first
 time we got to know her she was
 crying all the time and we thought about 
changing her name ;-).
 I'm glad that we didn't 
because now as she feels more
 comfortable with the new surrounding
 and all the new people. She has proven
 that Yim is the only right name for her. 
She is an angel, always smiling and
 cheering her happiness with us.
Nam Chok, the little yoga baby, 
got teeth, started biting, crawling, 
walking and....was that the first word
he tried to speak last time we were there?

My last workshop with Hope Home was a little bit violent. Instead of creating something we decided to destroy! We painted pictures for the kids and covered them with plenty layers of coloured tissue and saa paper. The students could tear and remove the paper and uncover the images.

The kids did a very good job!
Boonrot, our peaceful mind, preferred to paint and created a nice and peaceful contrast to the other artworks.

A beautiful last workshop, and I'm so happy that Boonrot is feeling better now so he could give me the same big smile I got when I saw him the first time. It is now the perfect frame for the memories and pictures in my head.

Goodbye Hope Home,
Goodbye ARI,
Goodbye Chiang Mai,
I will not cry because it's over, I will smile because it happened!


Les Petites Picassos

I'm going to take you back to 1907, to the very first birthing of the cubism movement.  Pablo Picasso is hard at work on his "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" and far away in Thailand there is a group of young artists also experimenting with this new art form.

Okay, so maybe Young Lions didn't have anything to do with the creation of cubism - but they certainly caught on quickly to the idea!  This week we introduced our neighbourhood kids to the work of Picasso and the concept of cubism - which is basically the analyzing of an image and the geometric shapes that can be found within it.  A complex idea for a group of 5 to 12 year olds, but our students handled it just fine.

  Becoming the next Picasso is very serious business...

After showing a quick presentation on our topic for the day, and allowing some space for giggles about the ridiculous looking faces some famous artist had made, we told the kids they would be making their own self-portraits in that style!

We used stamps with different geometric shapes and rollers to create the pieces.  One shape could pass as a mouth or nose...or eye or chin...our pretty much anything the kids could think of!  The Young Lions had a blast experimenting with the medium, making a big mess, and being very abstract.

I can never get over the heightened level of creativity and uniqueness found in children's art. They haven't been tainted as much by outside influences yet so I find their art is more pure. The youngest Young Lions made some of the best work.  Of course it's abstract, but it is wonderful to see how they view the world and themselves, and express it.

Another artistic success from our garden and another display of the high class (Picasso level) talent of our Young Lions!

Peaces and Loves - Amy

Happy Songkran, Hope Home!

Hot town, summer in the city!
The temperature climbs to 36 °C and we are all looking forward to Songkran to cool off and refresh ourselves. The Songkran festival is celebrated in Thailand as the traditional New Year's Day from 13 to 15 April. That is the hottest time of the year in Thailand and likely the end of the dry season. But all people around the world know it as THE WATER-FESTIVAL! The people equip themselves with buckets, bottles and water guns and throw water at one another until there is NO dry spot left anywhere. As it is a big holiday in Thailand the most people have some days off to celebrate and also the ARI- team will go on short holidays. But before the holidays start we wanted to celebrate the end of the hot season with our students from Hope Home with our own water battle in the front yard.

Water was the main topic of this workshop. We filled balloons with watercolours and let them pop above a sheet of paper. Boonrot, especially, was amazed by the sound of the popping balloon and the splashing colours 'BOOM-SPLASH'. 

A further highlight were the spray bottles with watercolours - No, that's not quite the right way to say it - a further highlight was rather Paradon's shining eyes when he saw the spray bottles with watercolours. He spent the whole morning spraying, mixing colours and painting. At the beginning of the workshop we offered him four big sheets of paper (A0) but that was not enough. At the end of the workshop he covered five big sheets of paper (A0) six smaller sheets (A3), a table, the ground, two volunteers and himself with bright colours (luckily the cat was not around that day).

The other kids painted with watercolours on drawing and painting paper with rubber splashes and words, which resisted the colours. But all of them got distracted by the balloons we brought with us. 

Yim loves balloons! She spent the morning just hugging the balloon and enjoying the balloon massage that Alicia gave her.
The other kids played a fun collective game called 'Soccer- Volleyball-Push'. The kids were sitting in a circle and tried to pass a balloon to one another by moving their hands and legs as much as possible.
  • Phil was playing Soccer and kicking the balloon up high.
  • Boonrot was playing Volleyball with some help from the volunteers.
  • Joy loved the 'pushing' part of the game – we put a balloon on her lap and she pushed it down with a lot of laughter.


Happy Songkran, Hope Home!
Until next time