Angry Birds Take Flight at Wat Pa Pao

We held a workshop with the kids in Wat Pa Pao bright and early Monday morning. Our theme for the day was 'Foam Pencil Toppers'. A generous neighbour of mine gave me a big bag of pens and pencils to bring with me before I left home, so I decided to bring these with me to the workshop and give them to the children for their pencil toppers.

We had samples of various characters for the students to make, including a strawberry, a flower, an angry bird, a butterfly and a person. However, there was a clear winner among the children - every single student made an Angry Bird! Angry Birds are so popular here due to the Angry Bird game app that they are on sale all over the place in all sorts of incarnations: teddys, bags, key rings, t-shirts, birthday cakes - you name it you can get an Angry Bird version! When they had finished the Angry Birds, most students tried something else so we did have a few strawberries and butterflies floating about by the end of the workshop, too.

The pencil toppers turned out really cute and colourful and the kids seemed to enjoy the workshop a lot! Success :)

Til Next Time!

Gone Fishing with Healing Family

Hi Rose here again!

Last Friday, we held an afternoon workshop with the residents at Healing Family Foundation, a foundation for adults with special needs. The residents had obviously had a good morning because when we arrived they were giddy and full of fun. We had prepared a craft workshop for them, creating a fishing game.

Each of the residents were given five fish to decorate however they wanted. It was so good to see them enjoying themselves so much. No two fish were the same, and residents had a good giggle gawking at their neighbors' fish. When they finished their decorating, every fish even got a googly eye or two!

We helped the residents to attach their wormy bait to the end of their fishing lines. By using magnets and paperclips, all the residents were able to cast their line and reel in a fish! They each had a go at fishing in our makeshift sea! It was lovely to see the residents having such a good time and to give them all the opportunity to get up, stretch, and enjoy an afternoon of fishing!


Returning to School for Life

Hi everyone! Susan here again at the end of my third week.

This week with School for Life we had to finish our stuffed animal key rings from last week's, how should I say, difficult workshop! In preparation for the workshop we did some fix-up jobs on a few of the stuffed animals and returned all the unfinished pieces to the children. Now all that was left to do was decorate! Much to our surprise a large number of unfinished pieces remained unclaimed until the end of the lesson. The children seemed embarrassed to admit to their stuffed animal. Not sure if this was due to our lack of sewing skills in fixing them up or their lack of wanting to stand out - afterall, saving face is very important in Thai culture. The few children eager to decorate their keyrings went with Rose and used googly eyes (always a favourite), feathers, other material, markers and glue to make faces on their animals. They turned out really nice in the end (even after the previous week's somewhat disastrous start)!

The rest of us worked on making personalized accordion style notebooks. The covers were made using two pieces of cardboard which each child covered in collage style using old magazines, scrap paper and markers. They really seemed to enjoy this and took great care in cutting pieces the fit the card exactly. With School for Life there seems to be less of a tendency to copy each other. We left the paper inside the notebook blank so they children can use the notebook for whatever they like. Some of the younger children drew pictures, others wrote stories.

This week at School for Life was much more relaxed and had a nice calm atmosphere. The children could work independently and all had a personalized notebook to take away from the workshop. A success!


From Switzerland to Chiang Mai!

I have been volunteering for two days at Cultural Canvas Thailand in the Art Relief International program and it was one of my best experiences ever!

But first I want to introduce myself, my name is Jacqueline, I am 24 years, coming from Switzerland and I study social work. I am traveling on my own around Thailand for 4 weeks and I am really interested in people from different cultures and countries. One of my biggest hobbies is being creative in every way that is possible. So this is why I started to get in touch with Art Relief through Cultural Canvas Thailand, which I read about in the Lonely Planet. I share the belief of theirs that art is an essential tool for both healing and growth. So now I am really happy that I could be a part of a great team with a good spirit and many  skills. I felt always very welcome and free to ask all my questions.

The two days helped me to realize what goes into volunteering, in fact, and to see how this organization works. I can really imagine coming back here to volunteer for much longer than now, after finishing my studies. Because these days have given me the chance to get in touch with the culture of Thailand and with the Thai people. The moments I spent here refreshed my mind once again and kept me thinking about life.

A lot of these moments I felt during the workshop of making storybooks with students in Wat Pa Pao. Students were asked to make storybooks - on each page a different question about their life. On page one, they drew themselves. On page two, their families. There are a lot of things different compared with Switzerland. It begins with the location of the classroom and it ends with every single child. I was very impressed - about the good drawing skills the children have, even though they haven’t lessons in it. They just draw with every kind of pencil, they don’t care! They are very self-confident and very creative. During the workshop the kids looked always very happy, but were working hard at the same time. For me that was very interesting to see, because I think that is what we should do more in Switzerland. :) I am really happy to joined in this experience here and I want to say thanks to all!!

Card Printing in Wildflower Home.

Hi everyone! Susan here again. This Monday afternoon we went to Wildflower Home.We have been doing a series of workshops on woodcarving and printing with the end result being hand printed cards that the women can sell. This week we reached the final stage of this four week project.

First we mixed some printing ink with turpentine to make it a little easier to work with. Before letting any of the women start their printing each participant had to put on a pair of rubber gloves and also a mask to cover their mouths. The fumes from the turpentine and ink was quite strong and the ink could stain their hands without the gloves.

The women were very interested at first. They were using wood carvings that they had created themselves in previous weeks and so were very interested to see how they would turn out. The printing proved a little difficult for the women. It took about 3 attempts at printing from the one block before a usable print was made, but the end result was worth the effort! One of the women started mixing different coloured inks and rubbing with her fingers instead of a palate knife to take off the excess ink. The effect was amazing - a technique none of us had thought to use!

Once we had enough prints made and let them dry for a few minutes we started making the cards. We used locally produced paper in various colours and had brought a colour wheel for the women to choose their colours carefully. This seeemed to work well, they all studied the colour wheel before deciding on which paper would go best with their colour print. The end result was beautiful. The women had a wide variety of cards made and lots of prints left over to make more.

Learning Jai Yen at School for Life

Hi! It's Michelle again.

On Friday afternoon the ARI team and I went to School For Life. Our plan was to assist the children, who presented with very good sewing skills the week prior, to make stuffed animal teddy bears with key rings, which they could then decorate.

Unfortunately, when we arrived at School For Life we were informed that our class from the week prior had been double booked and we would have a different class instead! Despite our best efforts, these students struggled significantly with the activity and very few students finished. Some students appeared to not have the understanding of sewing that was needed, while others were very particular about the quality of their work and we simply ran out of time! We collected the materials from the children and agreed to bring them back next week so that we could do some more work on them during the week, so that the children could still have a finished product. We were all so busy trying to help the students along, that we even forgot to snap some photos! Bad on us!

As they say in Chiang Mai,  jai yen yen! It means keep a cool hear, which is a really wonderful lesson to take away from this workshop. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow and fly with the punches, as we did today at School For Life!

See you next week, School for Life, and this time we will be ready for you!


The Beach Waves Hello to Home Home

Hi. This is Michelle again. We visited Hope Home on Wednesday this week. Hope Home is a place where children living with disabilities, in particular Cerebral Palsy and Downs Syndrome, reside. It was my first time visiting the home, and I found it quite challenging as I have limited experience working directly with children who have significant disabilities. However, I also found the nurturing environment provided and the level of skill of the staff at the centre to be quite inspiring. They knew the children very well and responded to each individually with each child's needs in mind.

Here I am making silly noises with Nam Chok!
With rainy season among us, we decided to take a bit of a voyage this week with Hope Home and, so, our focus for this workshop was to provide the children with a sensory experience of the beach. We assisted the children in creating beach scenes using card with sensory items such as sand, glitter to represent water, cotton wool for clouds and twigs for the bark on the palm tree. The sensory items allowed the children to participate in the activity using their tactile senses, even if they were unable to actively contribute towards the picture in the traditional sense. Supporting our theme, we also had beach noises playing and the music of the Beach Boys even made an appearance!

Phil admires his handy work.

I was working directly with Phil. I quickly learned that Phil becomes quite frustrated using his hands and much prefers to do his art work with his feet. Phil actively took the chalk and paint brush in turn between his toes and coloured the paper. He also enjoyed playing with the sensory items between his feet and listening to the music.

At the end of the session, we had completed three bright and beautiful beach pictures for Hope Home to hang up. I think that the other volunteers would agree with me that it was a relaxed and enjoyable workshop. See you at the beach!

In the Jungle with Wat Ku Kam

This morning we went to Wat Ku Kam where we held a workshop with the kinder-garden class. We decided to do a themed class with ten minute activities in an attempt to keep their attention. Our whole workshop focused on the rain forest. We began by showing the children a short video clip from the Lion King in Thai and then we separated them into 3 groups.

I took the Frog Puppet group!

They were very enthusiastic for this activity and even more so when the other kids saw what the first group had produced! They were full of energy and it was fun for us, as volunteers, to see them having so much fun.

Susan explained the next station to each group- a memory game with pictures of rain forest animals. They quickly picked up the game and were shouting out the English names for each animal. MON-KEY!

The next activity involved colouring in rain forest images with Sarah which were then stringed together to create a rain forest vine. The whole workshop went well and were were very pleased with how well the children took to it!


Masking the Quiet at Wat Ku Kam

Hi everyone!

My name is Susan. I am a new volunteer here, I arrived last week from Ireland with Rose. I am a primary school teacher in Dublin, but I have taken a career break for this year to come work here and also do some travelling. This is the first stop on our trip. We arrived in Chiang Mai last Sunday. After a week of heat, rain, new foods, new house and lots of great new people, we are now settling into some real work!

Today we went to Wat Ku Kam and made some animal masks with a class of 10 year olds. As with last week, the children in this temple school are very enthusiastic about art projects. This week we had no translator so to get the point across about masks and changing appearance, we had prepared a worksheet in Thai which each group could read out loud. To reinforce this message we had some pictures of masks from other cultures. The children seemed really interested in these pictures and found some of the more unusual designs very funny to look at.

Now onto the fun part! Each child picked an animal mask template to cut around. Cutting the eyes out was a little tricky for some, but with the help of the volunteers, everyone managed it. We had a variety of materials which they used to decorate their masks - paper, tissue, crayons, markers, glitter, ribbon and feathers. By the end of the workshop this quiet, calm class had transformed into some crazy looking animals!

Even after a lot of tidying up, glitter was now everywhere! Sarah was covered from head to toe - 50 shades of glitter! It was then time to take the group picture. The masks seemed to boost the children's confidence. The shy, quiet group were now jumping around, laughing, chatting and posing for lots of pictures! I am looking forward to returning to Wat Ku Kam next week and meeting a new group of children from this temple school!

Bag for life for School for Life

Hi, my name is Rose and I come from Ireland where I work as a nurse. As part of a career break and trip around the world, a friend and I decided to spend two months working with Art Relief International here in Chiang Mai. I have completed one week now and feel like I'm starting to settle in. So far the I have loved working with the various partner organisations.

On Friday last, we travelled to School for Life, a school which provides a home and education for 160 children from difficult backgrounds. Here the children are provided with classroom education and skills training in areas such as agriculture, customer service, bicycle repair etc.

The idea for this workshop was to make personalized tote bags out of old t-shirts. Through this project, our aim was to show students the value of recycling and give them a bag that they can use after the workshop. The students were allowed to choose a t-shirt and were then assisted by the volunteers through each step in tote bag production!

We were told that the children had very high competency when it came to hands on projects, but this did not cover the range of talents we witnessed. The students already knew how to sew and did so very well! They had so much fun decorating the bags with different materials including beads, fabric paint and feathers. They were very creative when decorating the bags and each one was different. As well as being a fun workshop, the students learned that recyling can be a practical everyday thing where, out of something old, they can make something new if they apply there talents and creatvity to it. Also, because the children are in a foster care system, they have very few items that are personalised or that they can call their own. Allowing them to create and decorate their own bags to suit them gave them not only a memory, but also a meaningful product to keep that is all their own.


Rhythm and Movement at Healing Family Foundation

Hello, my name is Michelle and I arrived in Chiang Mai a week and a half ago and began volunteering with ARI last Monday. I am a Social Worker from Melbourne, Australia and chose to participate in ARI after working with children in the Child Protection system for a number of years. I wanted to experience a different way of helping children, in particular, but also to learn some new skills and an understanding of a new culture along the way! Unfortunately, I was feeling unwell last week and believe that it has taken me some time to adjust to my new surroundings, so I feel like this is my first opportunity to really get involved with the projects. 

On Friday afternoon, we visited The Healing Family Foundation, an organization that supports adults who are living with disabilities to learn new skills and to provide a sense of social inclusion. When the volunteers, myself included, arrived we quickly realized that the participants are very talented weavers and were incredibly impressed by the woven items that they had made. Needless to say we were all excited to purchase some items from them at the end of the workshop!

The purpose of this workshop was to assist the participants to develop their sense of rhythm and movement. We therefore decided to make “recycled junk instruments” with the participants, by providing used drink bottles with popping corn or rice in them, so that they made rattling noises. 

The participants were each provided with a bottle and an array of art supplies were provided so that they could decorate their bottles. Both the participants and the volunteers appeared to really enjoy this. Once we had finished decorating the instruments, we made a circle and sang some songs, including “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” and “Chilli Chilli”. We then went around the circle each creating rhythms with the instruments which were repeated by each participant and the next participant after them. And we finished by making a marching band around the building. Lots of fun was had by all!


Saying Goodbye to Hope Home

Hi! Its India again for my last blog post as I leave this weekend! :( 

Today we went to Hope Home again. It was quite emotional because it's my last week and it is sad to leave the kids - especially my favorite little girl, Joy. 

Today we used sugar chalk as our medium for drawing, which is just chalk soaked in water with sugar. The chalk softens and enables the children to draw with it, even with their disabilities. It was something new for the kids but they seem to really take to it and enjoy it. We used this technique to create a small Hope Home story book, where each child creates one page that we then bound together. On each page we had stencils involving things personal to that child and we also had their names stenciled. The children then colored freely over the page and afterwards we removed the stencil leaving beautiful pages for the book. I think this project was great, because the book was a collective effort and was something special for Hope Home to cherish and keep.

The children seemed to all have a great time today. The home was filled with bubbles, music and laughter. I worked with Joy again today for the last time. Even though it was sad to be saying goodbye, we had great fun. She was giggling away as usual at all the silly high pitched sounds, and we attached a bell to her extender, which she was crazy for! She seemed to really enjoy the chalk and when it came to finish, she wanted the chalk back and to keep going! I felt like there was more awareness with her today, which was so great to see. I feel like in three weeks she has made little steps of improvement. I was so sad to leave her and all the kids. I felt really emotional but gave her a big kiss on the cheek and said my goodbyes.

I have had the most amazing time here with cultural canvas and have met some awesome people and it's going too be hard to leave it all behind. I've only two days left now and it's gone so quickly. I feel like I've only been here a week! The project is amazing and I have enjoyed every single workshop and did not expect to enjoy the experience as much I have, because I'm not artsy! But it has surpassed all my expectations. Bye for now!

- India


Hands In at Wat Ku Kam

 Hello! Edmond again. I am absolutely loving my time here! We had another brilliant workshop today at Wat Ku Kam, which is a temple school a bit outside the old city of Chiang Mai. When we got there, the kids were so exited to see us which was really cute. But the first thing I learned today was that the noise a class full of exited Thai boys and girls is really very loud!

Following the success of our workshop at Wat Pa Pao last week, our workshop today was to make a class tree with the kids hands as the leaves. The tree can be displayed in their classroom and would have a little part of each of them combined into one community class project. The kids loved the idea and were dying to get going!

Once they got started, they dived in and for a short time there was silence, but, of course, it didn't last for too long! Each child made a tracing of their right and left hands. Then they cut them out and  decorated them. Each kid had some really cool ideas and the hand leaves looked really good when we added them to the trunk we had brought with us.

We then tidied up the class room which - as you might imagine - took quite a bit of time! We said our goodbyes to the kids and, thought I was sad to go, I enjoyed the workshop so much and know that the kids did, as well!


Carving Out New Ideas at Wildflower

Hi my name is Katharina and I'm from Bonn, a small city in Germany. I got here three weeks ago and I just love it so far. Thailand has been an amazing experience. I find it a country with a lot to discover and a very interesting culture. For me it has been a totally different world and I love the idea that through Cultural Canvas Thailand I am not only a tourist in this country, but also I get a real insight into the life of Thai people. I have always wanted to do some volunteer work after finishing school. Since I have chosen to study physics, I enjoyed it a lot to be freely creative in this program. Each target group responded so positively and have been so thankful, which made me feel really good about the work I am doing. I have learned that Thailand is called 'the country of smiles' for a reason. The laughter during our workshops is more than payback for my work here.

On Monday, we returned to Wildflower Home and continued our work with the woodcarving. On my first visit to the home I found it a very peaceful place where I enjoy to come. It is really interesting to work with these women since they are - like me - quite young but have way more severe things to handle compared to me. I can only try to imagine how difficult it is to handle work, school and raising a kid at the same time. This might be why they seemed a little bit tired today. We decided to vary the workshop as the women seemed a bit bored on the flower theme and started to cut new creative motives (we even had a Christmas tree which is going to be a really interesting card). When we told them that we are going to be printing the cards next week, they all seemed very excited. I am honestly sad that I am not going to be able to see the finished products and meet these women again, but I thank them for all they have given me.


An Extra Helping of Joy!

Hi - it's India for my third blog. I've just finished week two of volunteering, because Thursday and Friday it's Buddhist Lent, so we have an extra long weekend! But my two weeks of volunteering have flown by I've had so much fun!

This morning we went too Hope hope again and it was great to see the kids again. They were all really happy and excited today! I thought it was nice too see Boonrat, because he was ill last week but was able to join us for today's workshop. Today the children at Hope Home were creating butterfly mobiles made out of coffee filters. So, we got the kids to decorate the filters with watercolors which produced a cool effect. It's a workshop that's been done before, but the kids enjoyed it so much we decided to do it again, and they all seemed to have a great time!

Today, I worked with Joy again and she was giggling away at usual at the volunteers making silly high pitched noises - it's so cute! She really enjoyed the painting today, just throwing the paint freely onto the coffee filters. The butterflies looked really cool when we were finished.

We also got the kids to play all the instruments and played around with balloons. It was such a fun workshop. I can't wait to go back and see them all next week!

So that's week two done for me. I've only got one week left now and I don't want it too end!