Shaving Cream Painting with the Young Lions

My name is Petra. I'm 52 years old and I'm from Berlin, Germany.
I know... it's a quite exotic age to be a volunteer - :) !

But for some years now, I have really wanted to do this, and this summer I have fulfilled my dream !
In Germany, I work as a psychotherapist for children from the age of about 4 years up to the age of young adults. I practice psychoanalysis and a special kind of trauma-therapy: EMDR. I work in my own practice, together with two other psychotherapists, one of whom is an art therapist. I like her work very much and she gives our practice a little "something special."

I travelled through Asia 5 years ago, visiting also Cambodia, Vietnam, and Singapor... but in Thailand I really  feel a bit "at home." I like it very much! I like the kindness of the people, they are so helpfully and warm-minded. So I decided to give a bit back and come to Thailand as a volunteer.

So : here I am !

This is me working with Phil at Hope Home! So nice!

The Young Lions is a project with children from the neighborhood and close schools. So nice! We prepared our garden for the kids by laying out tables and mats to make the kids feel comfortable.  Then the kids arrive - some a bit shy, some with a big smile, and just one little boy who decided to stay with his mom and not stay at the workshop!

This week, we make greeting cards with shaving cream. They are so nice! And the kids really love the effect. What a surprise! We will sell the cards at the exhibition this coming Saturday, June 30th, at 2nd Floor Gallery! Please come to buy your own homemade Young Lions card!


Water (and Salt and Flour) For Elephants

Sawadee Ka,

After finally getting the dough elephants dried with many attempts in the microwave, we headed off to the Stratton ABC Foundation, this being my first day working as a volunteer with ARI. My name is Naomi, I have just arrived from rainy Ireland, which much to my dismay I'll be returning to in a month, I'm already dreading the day I have to leave... I hope to go into teaching after my primary degree, hence why I chose to volunteer with Cultural Canvas Thailand through the Experiment International Living program in Ireland. I've also always had an interest in art, however sadly never been entirely artistically gifted, which is why I chose ARI over other programs that were available to choose from. The idea of using art as a form of therapy and also as a tool of empowerment I found to be intriguing, and I was really excited to see how it benefited the many partnership organizations ARI works with.

Initially, I was quite nervous but as we drove up the house, we were immediately greeted by all the children who ran up to the gate with the brightest of smiles on their faces, which instantly filled me with excitement for the workshop that was ahead of us. As we got out of the car, each and everyone of the children, as well as John, welcomed us warmly into their home. The Stratton ABC programme was set up by John who initially arrived in Thailand and set up a guesthouse. However upon witnessing the difficulties faced by many of Thailand's hill tribe communities, mainly in Nam, he decided to sell his guesthouse and set up a foster home for disadvantaged children in order to provide them with a good education in order to secure a bright future which myself and many of the volunteers found to be completely inspiring and touching. As I entered the house, my eyes were immediately drawn to the many of the children's drawings and pieces of art placed on the walls and many of the shelves which was beautiful to see.

We started off by playing the Chilli Chilli game, at first the children were quite shy to go in the middle of the circle and dance, but as the game went on they began to losen up. Sarah and Aimee started off by showing the children the dough elephants decorations in which they would be painting on today. Each of their faces lit up, especially the younger ones, as they viewed the previously made dough elephants. Sarah and Aimee then proceeded to mixing the salt, flour and water and kneading the dough in order to show the children how the elephants were made. The kids began to let out a couple of giggles as the mix got stickier and stickier and covered and stuck to Sarah's hands. The children were then given three elephants each in which they painted with the highest form of concentration in various bright colours with squiggles, circles, stripes and various other shapes.

It was beautiful to see the finished product, but the children's happiness was an even nicer gift!

Red and Yellow and Blue - oh my! : Over the Rainbow at Wat Kukam.

Hello! My name is Jesse and this is my first week with Art Relief International. I am from Melbourne, Australia and am currently in my final year of a Visual Arts degree. Drawn to Art Relief International by my love for art and belief in it's power for positive social change, I flew to Chiang Mai and embarked upon what has already become the greatest adventure of my life.

Our workshop at Wat Kukam yesterday was my first. A little unsure of what to expect, I entered with an open heart and open mind, excited for the day to unfold. Wat Kukam is a school located within a temple for children aged 3-12.  With little art education, Art Relief International attend several times each month to hold creative workshops - and the children absolutely love it!  As we walked in, we were greeted by a class of 21 smiling, giggling boys and girls who were overjoyed to see us. We stood at the front of the class as they rose and welcomed us in unison (still giggling!), later standing to introduce themselves one by one.

Suddenly, after instruction from Wad (our in-country director), they scrambled to re-arrange the classroom desks in a circle. To be present but not understand a word being said (and therefore have no idea what is going on!) makes for a very funny and interesting experience! We all sat on the floor as Wad and Aimee (our Art Director) taught them all about primary and secondary colours. The children repeated the names of each color in English and Thai, so willing and eager to learn.

We then gave each child a colour worksheet and a set of paints and the fun began! At the top of the worksheet were three squares in which the children were to paint the primary colours - Red, Yellow and Blue. Below were sums of squares, in which they were to first paint two squares of primary color and then mix the two to create the secondary. Still giggling, but very focused and so co-operative, the children were fascinated by the mixing of two colours to make a new one, quickly turning to the child next to them to show them what they'd done! A few water spills, lots of naughty laughs and 21 cheeky smiles, the class were very proud of what they'd learned.

I am so looking forward to our next visit to Wat Kukam and am so happy to be involved with ARI!

Dreams really do come true!



Creating Storybooks at Thai Freedom House!!

This week we went to Thai Freedom House School - an evening school for Burmese migrants and refugee children and teenagers. The students were jumping around and having fun in the yard when we arrived so we left them play for about ten minutes before starting the activity.We set up the tables and got the equipment ready while we were waiting!! 

The students then came in, very energized and excited about the task ahead! Our translator explained our activity in detail to the students and Sarah demonstrated the process of book binding to them. This was a follow-on activity from last week, as last week the students designed and decorated the pages for their stories. All the students watched and listened carefully and then started the binding process of gluing their pages onto an accordion style paper cut out. The students got to choose what color they wanted their books to be. They seemed to be delighted about putting their story into an actual book!! They then glued on a front page where they had the opportunity to paint/decorate this page to their liking and of course the authors name was located on the bottom of the front page! The students really felt as if they had accomplished something, which they certainly had! It was amazing to see such creativity and to see the illustrations of each very different book! All the students were encouraged to use their imagination for this booking making process and their stories shone through in the end! 

Some were about the zoo, while others were about friends and family, and a few were about the community they live in!! It was wonderful giving the students a chance to express themselves in whatever form they felt comfortable with. They finished the book binding in good time so had time to start a very new activity, which was brainstorming for a mural! The translator explained to the students that the mural will be created to express what they love about Free Bird and Thai Freedom House and the mural will be added to the Free Bird Cafe. The students then divided an A4 sheet into 4 and were asked four questions 1. What does home mean to you?, 2 What do you love about Thai Freedom House ? 3. What images remind you of Thai Freedom House? 4. What is important to you?

The students created some wonderful brainstorms, and we are so excited to use them as inspiration for our upcoming mural! Be sure to check in soon to see how the mural comes out!


Time for Change at MPlus+

Today Art Relief International went and worked with a group from MPlus+. Today was my first and last time to work with them. When I thought about this, I was extremely excited and sad at the same time. As my time here is getting closer and closer to being done, I am understanding more and more about the effect we are making on specific groups in Chiang Mai.

For me, working with M-Plus was very inspiring and both one of the most heart warming and breaking experiences I have had here. I was able to see these people who are are constantly fighting to defend themselves regain a sense of hope through our project. Our theme for today was "It's time for a change." So naturally we had to make something that would express this through creativity combined with real life situations.

The volunteers at ARI decided to make a project that could be both inspirational and used literally. We decided what would be better to talk about change then making clocks!

Each person would get some cardboard and all the paints and glitter they desired to make the perfect clock for him or herself. We tried to allow all the participants to explore anything they wished they could change in any way, shape, and form. We discuss global changes, societal changes, and even personal changes. Anything from creating a global safe space for LBGTIQ persons to changing our hairstyles.

Watching these people create something that meant a lot to them and symbolized something hopeful was very beautiful. It was a very emotional workshop for everyone. The participants had to open themselves up to complete strangers and the volunteers had to express that it was alright to do that. that we accepted them and their struggles. It was very difficult for me to sit back and watch them pour their emotions on the page but it also made me extremely happy. Each person was using the "Change" theme as a way to release the negative aspects in their lives that they were going through. I am very proud of them for pushing through the pain and finishing the workshop. That accomplishment is something amazing and they should each be very proud.

To start, P'Pbut translated the instructions to the participants for the ARI team.

Then we showed them an example of a clock I had made and explained to them all how it worked with what I wanted to change in my life.

After she explained what my clock meant to me, she passed out a piece of paper with a bunch of personal questions on it for the participants and volunteers to answer truthfully. We all had to fill out the paper and use the answers that we had written as our inspirations for our clocks.

After she translated the steps to follow to everyone in Thai they all had to think of an idea and how they wanted to make a change for themselves and have it be portrayed through their design.

Once everybody had decided what they wanted to say they wanted to change and how to design it they went right to working hard on their projects!

For their clocks they got to cut their piece of cardboard into any shape they wanted and then got to decorate it in any standard or crazy way!

Then, we added the mechanics of the clocks on them and the numbers so they could be fully functioning clocks!

Now every time they look at their clock it will be a personal reminder that it is time for them to take personal action to make a change that they want.

It's all about the LIONS!!!

Good afternoon folks,

Slowly but surely the Young Lions came through our gates for our weekly activity, as bubbly and excited as ever to get stuck into the task in hand!! The faces exploded when they saw the action of the shaving cream being sprayed  onto the boards and they were eager to get their hands on it! Which they did! They were amazed and loved spraying the cream onto the boards and then flattening the cream out with a ruler (some of the younger kids got help from volunteers).

They all got to choose what colors they wanted to flick onto their boards and many different color combinations were made! This is where the messiness began as coloring was being flicked in all directions. The children had no issue with this and really enjoyed the freedom of the flick.TIME TO SWIRL!! All the kids got the end of the paint bush and swirled the coloring into the shaving cream. They then got a sheet of paper and pressed down gentle, pulled it back, cleared off the cream and Voila! The marble effect was in motion. The kids were over the moon with this as it is so simple, yet so effective! With the ruler the shaving cream was smoothed out over the board and new colors were added by the children, then swirled but this time they used the lion cut-outs to press down against the shaving cream. They loved their marbled lion cut-outs!!

The children then shared their marbled sheets to make a collage with them. All the children cut out different shapes and just as they were about to start gluing their shapes onto their sheets, time was up! We all got caught up ion the moment and lost track of time, as we had planned on gluing the Lion's onto cards and finishing the collages, but that just means more fun to look forward to next week!!

Till next week,
Mairead x 

Bubbles + Playdough = Awesomeness!

This week at Hope Home the Art Relief International team through Cultural Canvas Thailand played with play dough!!! Not only did today's activity make us all feel like little kids again, but we also got to see the activity light up the eyes of the kids at Hope Home.

To start out the ARI time made homemade play dough at the office. We wanted to make sure especially with this group that the play dough wouldn't harm anyone if it got eaten or if little hands that played with it got put into mouths. So we made a play dough concoction that was made from boiling water, vegetable oil, flour, and salt. It came out resembling mashed potatoes. We were kind of confused at first, but then we did some research and discovered that it was supposed to look like that and that we needed to mash and roll out the bumps. So the ARI team had to prepare the play dough for the kids by playing with play dough. Needless to say, this was the most fun office work I think I have ever experienced in my life!

Once we got all the kinks worked out of the play dough it was time to dye it!!! We decided to take food coloring and make blue, red, pink, yellow, green, white, and purple for the kids to play with. It was so cool to see the dye color our hands while we squeezed the dough together over and over to make sure that every part of it was colored. Then we packaged it up and went off to Hope Home to visit with our amazing friends!!!

Once we got there we set up outside and brought the kids out. I was jumping at the bit to play with the kids again and have as much fun as we did last time! Then we pulled out the play dough and started fun time. Joy really enjoyed mushing the play dough in her hands for a little while. Her tiny muscles got tired pretty fast with this activity but she did push through to the end to get to play as much as possible. I took little breaks with her during the play dough playtime and brought out some of the instruments that ARI has made with the children at Hope Home in past workshops to excite her and keep her intrigued. She LOVES lots of sound and anticipating when it is going to come. I had so much fun spending some time with her!!

I would shake a noise maker that she made out of paper plates and beads around her and she would laugh hysterically and extremely loudly and bounce up and down. And then we would go back to mushing play dough with her hands. She wasn't too happy about it at first because the dough would get stuck in her little fingers and we had a hard time getting it all out because her muscles would tense up at random times, but then we decided to try it with her feet.

We did this and for the first time I saw her move her little tiny toes! It was so adorable. It was almost like kids moving their toes in the sand at the beach but instead we had the next best thing- play dough!! She seemed kind of confused at first but in the end she loved it!! After I got her used to that feeling and her legs and feet started getting tired I played with her hands and the play dough again and she seemed to enjoy it even more.

Namchok on the other hand did not like the play dough at all. I was really confused at first because I thought that he especially would have had the most fun mashing and molding the sticky putty. Then Aimee, the ARI leader, explained to me that textures with these kids can be a very difficult thing to do with them. Some of them can get scared easily by things that are different and new. I didn't understand this until I saw a reaction that proved it. Namchok was very interested at first and put his hand in the play dough but when he tried to pull it out that is when the trouble started. He pulled out his hand and it had play dough residue on it still and the poor baby started whining and trying to get the dough off of his hands. He just kept trying and getting more and more upset and then when he couldn't do it himself! He put his hands in our faces so we could help him. He literally looked like he was about to cry and then we got it all off and he tried to eat his fingers because he is teething. The look on his face was priceless because his fingers didn't taste very good at all. The dough we made was edible but not delicious!

 After he got over the nasty taste of his fingers, we decided Namchok should stick to playing with the noisemaker that he had made previously. Then we were all happy!

Phil was exceptionally different than any other kid we worked with today. He, by far, enjoyed the play dough the most!! He was squishing it in his hands and mashing it in his toes. I still think that their might be random pieces of play dough stuck in his clothes or somewhere in his chair. Needless to say, Phil had a great time working with Conall and making messes :)

Sai Nam was very sleepy today. He didn't really partake in any of the activities, but he did mess around with some of the musical instruments that we had on hand from previous workshops. He was very content lying on the floor with his pillow. We were just happy that this week he was awake even if it was just barely.

Today, Mairead was working mostly with Boony and he was pretty happy to see her! He started moving his head and smiling really big when she walked up to him and started talking to him :)

Boonrat worked with the play dough for a little bit but within a few minutes Mairead could tell that he was having a slightly hard time with it. Eventually, after a little while of the volunteers attempting to help him as much as possible, he seemed to get bored. So, for him we put down the play dough and picked up the bubbles!!


I had no idea how mesmerizing the bubbles were going to be for all of the kids!! Joy could not take her eyes off of the bubbles and didn't know what sounds to make. Her jaw just dropped and she just looked as if she was having the time of her life!

Joy and Boonrat really loved bubbles!!!! They were laughing and moving and smiling the whole time. It was really amazing to see them moving that much because during my whole time here I had never really witnessed that. It was like they were finally having more than just fun and they finally found something that made them more than just normally happy. From what I saw today, I would guess that these two would grow up to be bubble scientists because it was definitely something they were interested in and allowed them to have a lot of fun!

It was so great to see them being caught in the moment and laughing at the volunteers when the volunteers got bubbles popped in their faces.

 Namchok wanted to try to touch all the bubbles so Aimee put him on her shoulders and let him pop some! He was just so mesmerized with how they all looked when they floated :) 

Until next time,