All Hands On Bark at Wat Pa Pao

Hey! Its India again, here for my second blog post! This morning we went to Wa Pa Pao which is a Buddhist temple school just outside Chiang Mai. We had about forty kids in the class, ranging from 4-15... it was a bit hectic, but great fun!

Monday Morning Workshops can be tiring!

Our greeting by the girls at Wat Pa Pao!
We got the kids to create a class tree that will stand as a class symbol, in the hope that it would represent class unity and give the kids something to be proud of. So, we had the kids to trace round their hands on a piece of paper and decorate freely with crayons, glitter and paper. This gave the kids a lot of freedom and a chance for their creativity to shine. Each of the volunteers worked with a small group and guided them. When the children had finished decorating their hands, we got them to write their name on it to create a sense of identity. We then got the children to stick their hands on the pre-cut tree acting as leaves! It produced a really colourful and beautiful effect.

This was by far my favourite workshop to date (although I've loved them all!). The kids were so smiley and they all seemed to really enjoy it! Everyone was really enthusiastic and got stuck in and the tree ended up looking really cool. At the end of the workshop, all the kids wanted to take lots of photos and were doing loads of funny poses.

Avril poses with a student in front of our class tree.

One little girl who was about five kept following me round and giving me loads of hugs she was so cute! The older girls were really chatty, and, overall, I just had a great time along with all the volunteers. The kids seemed to have a blast too! I think it was a really successful workshop, and I cannot wait to go back to the school!

Hope the fun continues tomorrow! We are going to School for Life, which is a residential school for kids who are orphaned or in foster care. I'm really excited to be working with them and giving them the chance to try something different!


Creating Cards at Wildflower Home

Hi! It's Hatty again for my second blog.

Yesterday we went to Wildflower Home which is a center for single mothers and their children. It is a really beautiful place and feels so relaxing and secure, which is exactly how these women need to feel.

Today we did wooden block printing to make cards that the women at Wildflower Home can sell and therefore begin to generate an income, both for themselves and the center.

This method involved carving patterns of wild flowers onto a wooden board. We then covered them with ink and printed the images onto colored paper. Once dry we mounted these beautiful and unique images onto saa paper card. These cards are personal to each Women and the repetitive process of printing helps them to relax and gives them some form of structure to their day.

I really loved the Wildflower Home. It was very tranquil and a very special place.


Let's Go for a Spin at Healing Family

Hi there, my name is Hatty and I arrived here last Thursday afternoon. Chiang Mai is a city full of culture and seems so creative and inspiring. I live in Cheshire in the North of England, my home is in the middle of nowhere, so the contrast to Chiang Mai is massive. I will be going to University in September to study Fine Art. I am passionate about painting, in particular portraiture. My ambition is to become a successful practicing artist in the future. I chose to participate in the Art Relief Program as I believe that art is a beautiful and inspiring subject, if I can infect others with just a little of my enthusiasm and passion for art then I would be over the moon. 

Myself helping P'Jaew with her Wind Mill!

Today we went to the Healing Family workshop, working with adults with disabilities. For this workshop we created windmills that represented each participants personalities. On each quarter of the windmill was a topic, such as age, hobbies, favorite color, etc. So we decorated each section in relation to their favorite things, making this a very personal task. We cut images out of magazines and used colored paper and pencils to make the windmills look beautiful and vivid. Once the decoration was finished we assembled the windmills, making them 3-dimensional.

The end result worked really well, this task encouraged them to be creative using color and texture. It was so rewarding to see how proud they were of their products and I felt so inspired that such a simple concept could make such a difference, it defiantly puts everything into perspective.

I am having such am amazing, and life changing time already, the thought of doing this for two more weeks fills me with such excitement!


The Young Lions Animal Mask Making Party!

Hello everyone!

The other day we had an intimate experience with our Young Lions making animal masks.  As we waited for the kids to arrive at the workshop, all of us volunteers eagerly began making our own animal mask.  While we were doing so, the children started to trickle in.

This week, we had a surprise visitor - a little girl about the age of two who stayed for a portion of the workshop.  The little girl took crayons and attempted to make a drawing. It was really adorable!

We encouraged the rest of the kids to decorate their masks however they felt. When they finished the decorating process, we helped the kids to cut out the animal mask, and to secure elastic to either side of the mask.  The creations were then complete when the young lions and volunteers put their masks on and had a small photo shoot!

We even were able to play 'Red Light, Green Light' and the 'Bang Bang' games wearing our new animal masks.  The workshop was a success as each kid walked away with a fun creation that they wore home!


A Little Joy and A Lot of Hope

Hi my name's India and I'm from north Wales, a small village called Holt. I'm 18 and about to go study astrophysics. I got to the volunteering house on Sunday and have already had amazing experiences. I chose to volunteer with Cultural Canvas because, I will get to work and interact with lots of different groups of people. I chose the Art Relief programme, because I love working with kids and one day in the future I might want to take up teaching, so I felt this programme will give me an insight into what its like. I have also always wanted to volunteer! I am not very artsy (at all), and so was quite nervous about coming but the the other volunteers put my mind to rest and assured me not to worry. I have had two workshops so far and its not been a problem that I'm not from an art background. 

A Joy to work with!
So today I had my second workshop which was at Hope Home,  a home for disabled children for respite or full time care. I was a bit nervous before I went today as I find its always emotional when you meet disabled children. But I had such an amazing time and it was so nice to see the kids respond to the art - smiling and having fun at the workshop.

Brittany and Namchok cosying up!
For today we created sky themed paintings. We had prepared sheets of paper with transparent stickers in cloud and bird shapes that were stuck onto the paper. We then worked with the kids and helped to guide the kids hands to fill the page with different colored paints. Once the paint dried we peeled of the stickers allowing the cloud, birds, planes and hot air balloon shapes to shine through against the funky backgrounds.

Here I am, hard at work getting our paintings finished!
We had roughly two volunteers for each child. There were four kids we worked with all together Joy, Phil, Namchok, Sai Nam and Boonrot. I was supposed too work with Bonroot today, but unfortunately he was feeling a bit under the weather, so Avril went and played with him inside and I got to work with the most gorgeous little girl called Joy. She is five years old and staying at hope home for respite care. I worked with another volunteer Anna. One of us held up the paper and the other helped guide Joy's hand around so she could paint. As time went on in the workshop we found out that Joy loved hearing high pitch noises as she was painting. And once we started making all these funny high pitch noises, she was getting really excited. She was smiling and giggling and we were having so much fun too. I think a smile is the most rewarding thing anyone can give you and she had such a beautiful smile. She got three paintings done all together and they were so cool and we showed them to her afterwards and made some more funny noises and she kept on smiling. By the end of the workshop all the kids were pretty tired, and so was time for us to go but I had such an awesome time with them.

I am already having such a great time! Everyone here is so friendly and its been so easy to settle in and be away from home on my own for the first time. Ive got another three weeks to go and I can't wait! :)

- India

Stratton ABC House Tie Dying

Hello, this is Anna.

This past Tuesday, the volunteers arrived at Stratton ABC House with shirts and a variety of different colored dyes, in hopes to make tie dyed shirts.  We demonstrated the process to the kids, showing them a technique of scrunching up part of the shirt and tying these scrunched up areas with rubber bands. We then showed the kids how to squeeze the dye onto the scrunched up areas of the shirt in an interesting pattern.  It was fascinating to see how well behaved these children were as they sat in a circle and watched our demonstration.

After we showed the kids how to make this tie dyed pattern, they immediately started on their own shirts. The kids didn't need much guidance with this project.  I mostly just observed the children at work,  fully focused, creating their masterpieces.

After completing the tie dyes, we brought out the papers we had created last week using the marbling technique. We showed the children how they could use the papers to bind beautiful journals that they could sell to help support themselves and the Stratton ABC program. They finished results were absolutely beautiful!

When the journals were completed, we all stood up in a circle and played the Bang Bang game.  The children were quick on their toes with this game often beating the volunteers.  One child played the drums as we continued to play Bang Bang, allowing for a fun atmosphere.  After several rounds of bang bang, the volunteers said goodbye and we were on our way.


Wat Pa Pao Spins Towards Their Futures

Hello! Today we went to Wat Pa Pao, a temple school just outside the old city beside the moat.
The school was amazing with classrooms gathered around a central temple which the kids played around and with Buddhist monks strolling through the grounds!

The kids were very very friendly and happy! They seemed really exited to get to do some art, which is not usually on their curriculum. We decided to make paper windmills that they would decorate three separate wings with representations of their present and future goals. The kids loved the idea and jumped into the work making beautiful designs for their windmills with patterns and cut outs from magazines showing perspectives on their lives!

We went rounds through the classroom giving a hand where the kids needed help and helping them choose a picture to cut out from the magazines they were using to create images of their goals.

We ran a bit short on time, even though it seemed we had only been there just five minutes... Time flies when your having fun!

With the clock counting down, we helped the last kids finish up their windmills and said goodbye to everybody. It was a great day and I cannot wait to go back to visit again!



Ins and Outs at Violet Home

When we first arrived at Violet Home, we entered a room filled of men laughing and joking with each other. Violet Home is a counseling service and community center for HIV+ persons in Northern Thailand. One man made a grand entrance, dressed in quite a dramatic ensemble.  The other participants in the room laughed at his entrance and a few of us volunteers giggled along. I was really able to sense how comfortable this community felt around each other, watching as they held hands, hugged hello, and greeted each other warmly. 

Shortly after we arrived, a Thai woman from a government health service came into the room to give a presentation, lasting about 10 minutes.  I didn't understand what she was saying because she was speaking in Thai, but I was most interested in the interaction between the men during this presentation. A few times during the presentation, one of the men would make a comment, and then the rest of the men would start laughing. Aimee told us later that, from what she could understand, the presentation was on encouraging the participants to get the HPV Vaccine.

After the presentation was over, we introduced the art project to the participants.  The project was to create two self portraits, that would be combined into one presentation. One portrait, made using a mixed media technique, would be on transparent paper, which would then be layered on top of the other portrait. The top portrait was suppose to represent how the world perceives you while the bottom portrait was suppose to represent how you see yourself on the inside. The men were joking and laughing with each other as working on their pieces. It was so lovely to see them distracted and having fun with one another as a community. After the masterpieces were complete, everyone lined up for a group photo.  I was upstairs washing out glue trays, but when I came back, everyone was all lined up.  One of the men said to me, "Anna get in the picture."  He placed his hand on my shoulder pulling me into the photo. It was so lovely to feel like, even just for a moment, a member of this beautiful community. After the photo session the men gave us warm smiles as we said our goodbyes, leaving the lovely masterpieces hanging in the Violet Home window.

Emotional Day With Our Young Lions

Hey! My name is Edmond. I'm a volunteer from Ireland. I arrived in Chiang Mai five days ago. It's taken some getting used to the heat and the style of life here, but I love Thailand. It is a beautiful country and I was amazed by the friendliness and openness of the people! To have the opportunity to come to Thailand and have the chance to lend my skills to helping people over here is so brilliant!

From my first impressions of the city, I was amazed at the amount of temples in the city - nearly every street you walk down seems to have a temple on it and monks are a constant presence as well. The markets are another thing that stuck out with delicious food available on every street corner.

The Young Lions workshop was on this Thursday and gave me my first opportunity to meet the kids participating in the program. They came over after they finished school and trickled in through the gates while we set up mats and tables for them to sit at and began to do some drawing while we waited for the rest to arrive. When they all arrived, we began the workshop making small cloth 'emotion bags.' The student could open the bags when they were feeling angry or sad or unhappy, and they would put a piece of paper in the bag, which they had drawn a picture on representing a happy thought. This way they could get rid of bad emotions by placing them safely in the bag.

The kids were really sweet and seemed to really enjoy the workshop! They loved picking out the different materials their bag was to be made of and each kid's bag was very individual!

After they had finished making bags, juice was given out and we played some games with them before saying our goodbyes as the kids left. It was a great day and I can't wait til the next time we work with them!


A Home Filled with Hope :)

Hello, I am an art student from California.  I am volunteering with Art Relief as I am very interested in a therapeutic approach to art.  It seemed that Art Relief was an opportunity to be exposed to an idea for art-related career.

Here I am, helping Phil outside to start painting!
The two hour visit to Hope Home, a home for orphaned children with disabilities, turned my day right side up.  Five children live at this home: Boomrat, Phil, Joy, Namchuck, and Sai Nam.  When we arrived, the volunteers split up, focusing their attention on one specific child.  The child that I spent most of my time working with was Phil.  By spending individual time with this child, I was able to have a better understanding of his needs.  It was clear when Phil was having a good time as his face would light up with a huge smile.  I couldn't help but laugh when I saw him at this place of joy.

The volunteers helped to guide the children through an art project.  Each child was given a piece of paper with a different landscape drawn onto it.  Phil, the child that I was working with, was given a piece of paper that had a drawing of the sea, while other kids were given a jungle drawing, a garden drawing, and a variety of other landscapes.  Along with the drawings, the children were also given stamps of different objects made out of carrots or potatoes.  Phil was given a stamp of a coral plant and a fish to go with the theme of his sea drawing.  One other volunteer and I helped Phil to begin his creation.  We placed the carrot between his clenched hands, and held our hands around his, gripping together his hands and the carrot stamp.  We then guided his hands dipping the carrot into the paint and then pressing the stamp onto the sheet of paper.

At first, we encouraged Phil to make these stamps using his hands, but after much frustration, we allowed Phill to grip the carrots with his feet, pressing the carrot dipped in paint onto the sheet of paper.  This process started to get messy as Phil would dip his toes into the paint along with the carrot stamp.  He would then smear his toes onto the piece of paper.  This free formed art gave Phil so much joy which rubbed off on me.  The volunteers also used bubbles, balloons, and home made instruments to light up the children's faces.  We then put the children in strollers and took them out for a walk.  The volunteers would run with the strollers and the kids would open their mouth wide with a big smile.  All of the volunteers seemed to form a special bond with the child they worked with.  It was a special feeling being at Hope Home and I cannot wait to share more experiences with these children next week.



Fly Away, Thai Freedom House

Greetings from Chiang Mai! My name is Avril and this is my very first blog for ARI. I cannot put in writing how amazing the workshops are over here. The people over here are the friendliest, most appreciative people I have ever met. I look forward so much to the workshops every day, they are truly sooo rewarding.  Today we went to Thai Freedoms House (Burmese School for Burmese kids) for the last day of the school term.

So in preparation for today's workshop we decided to make some dough birds that the kids could potentially sell at the opening of the Thai Freedom Cafe (cannot WAIT for that night!!) The process of making the birds was errr ... interesting to say the least. We ended up creating somewhat deformed creatures that more closely resembled chicken nuggets than beautiful song birds!! Thankfully, just the right amount of birds survived the microwave, so luckily we had just the right amount for each kid. The process was quite the experience though. Note: Gluten rice flour does NOT work in making Salt Dough ornaments, unless you want to create deformed bubbly birds :( !! So we packed up our "birds" and off we went in the van to Thai Freedom House. This was my first visit to the house and the minute I walked into the yard, I was greeted immediately by a wave of energy!! The kids were the most enthusiastic kids I have ever met - truly inspiring!! The house itself was covered with art. It gave an immediate first impression of a safe haven for these Burmese children to have fun and learn.

OK! So we started the workshop by playing the much anticipated game of BANG!!! (Played a little too competitively on the volunteers behalf perhaps).. Anyhoo, the kids LOVED it!!! We all got so into it we had to move inside because the noise level of enjoyment got out of control. So now that we all played our game, the kids showed us how to play a Thai game... It involved us volunteers looking ridiculous trying to keep up with the kids dancing, but it was so cool seeing them play their own games. So after playing, we handed out two birds to each child. They decorated the birds  beautifully!! Far better than we ever imagined! It's amazing what can be done with just a bit of paint and a ton of imagination! As we laid out the birds to dry, we played another game of Bang. So Fun!!!!

Now that our birds/my chicken nugget were drying, we went back inside and gave out each kid a worksheet. Because it was our last visit there for the term, each kid had to draw their favorite memories from the workshops or their term at Thai Freedom House in general. I was amazed at how good they were !! They got into it so much, each so different, each so individual and special!! Many of the students drew memories from painting the mural the past week, which was lovely to see. The youngest kid, surely only five drew the cutest picture. It was ridiculous how perfectly detailed it was. Some of the kids asked us to translate some words to English. A few kids wrote "Thank you, teacher," which was very cute!!!

A truly AMAZING facility for very, very special kids. The hardest thing I found today was leaving this house. You can really get a sense of belonging in this facility, something that is so rare and special when it comes around for Burmese refugee kids. A safe haven and special community hidden in the city of Chiang Mai!

Over and Out, Avril x :)


Young Lions Go A Bit Wild

This week in Young Lions we had a free art class with the children.  They were given white pieces of paper and tons of colourful crayons and pencils to be as creative with their drawings as possible. As a bit of a change, the children were free to do whatever they wanted to do, which was a nice break and allowed the children's creativity side to come alive.  The volunteers got really involved and show the children different techniques like leave printing and other techniques, which the children loved. This allowed the children to experiment with colour and techniques which we haven't done before.  It was a great learning experience for all involved and it was great to see such great teamwork.

Another activity we had was a Photo Booth, which has been very successful in previous workshops.  The Photo Booth had various settings which made sure that the children had countless amounts of fun that seemed to be never ending.  Bam Bam's laugh could be heard for miles as they pulled out their funniest faces and posed for the camera. It was clear to all that they really enjoyed themselves.The photos are adorable with the children smiling from ear to ear in every photo.

We decided to put the children's  seemingly never ending energy to work with game, so we played Red Light, Green Light, 1, 2, 3! and BANG! We all had such fun and it was great to connect with the children through the medium of play. The volunteers tried to keep up with the children's energy but we were no match for them leaving the volunteers often gasping for breath and losing every game we played.

Everyone loves BANG!
I really enjoyed this workshop and children are just so lovely that it is hard not to have fun and mess with them - it makes me feel like a kid again! Young Lions is a great project and I hope in the future even more children get involved.



Meditations on Moving

Hello my name is Jayson it’s my last week with ARI. I’ve been here for two weeks already and time has zipped past and now I’m nearly at the end of my placement. Ugh. Too Quick. I have been slack when it comes to updating this blog. Maybe I’m just a lazy guy but in my defence we have been very busy around Cultural Canvas Thailand/ Art Relief International. The last few weeks have seen plenty of successful and inspiring community arts workshops take place with a diverse range of focus groups.  Decorating elephants at Starratton ABC, playing with shaving cream with our Young Lions after-school group and the creation of a community mural at the Free Bird CafĂ©. We have also been kept busy taking care of business. Busy business that is. At the present moment we are in the process of moving offices across town. We’re still based in Chaing Mai however we just found somewhere a bit more cosy, not to mention our new neighbour is a charming man who will make you your own fitted pair of trousers for 300 Baht ( 7 Euro / 9 Dollars) Perhaps we could invite him to help out in our next fashion workshop? It’s a little awkward as we take apart one office and set up the next. Were kind of working in two places at the once, If the red cellophane is in one office and the yellow cellophane is in the other than how are we going to make orange cellophane. I guess what I’m saying is that moving is hard work, and after a while all the boxes look the same. Then come the other aspects like cleaning, painting and sorting out shelving. As Petra our German Volunteer remarks,  “I don’t want to clean the old office, I’m from Russia, I understand nothing” But don’t mistake me to be complaining, When it comes too unpacking I have found pleasure. In snoop through old things and I like to rummage through boxes playing with every thingy-ma-do I get my hands on. I found a film camera that takes four photos at once and plan on having a lot of good times with it. Other boxes are filled with creative surprises and little crafty treats that inspire us for future lesson plans. 500 + condoms which we might make puppet out of for use in a sex education workshop, another tub filled with bells and whistles if we want to make musical instruments with and then there is a prop box complete with snazzy hats and elf costumes and everyone loves to dress up a snazzy elf wearing a hat Setting up and organising is almost like a new beginning for ARI, we end the day covered in paint and sweat but our minds buzz with ideas about future possibilities and the potential we have for further workshops. I won’t be here when the new place is set-up, that’s part of the ephemeral nature of the volunteer program but if I was to leave behind a condom puppet prototype then hopefully the next group would feel focused, charged and inspired. j x