Syrian Refugee Art Therapy Project – Chapter 4:
From the sunshine over the Red Sea, we drove towards a forecast of below freezing temperatures… But the warmth in our hearts followed the river currents of inspiration to Amman, the capital of Jordan. With variables shifting by the hour, we knew not what it would look like upon arrival; however, we transitioned to the north in full faith that something magnificent would transpire none the less… And that it did, with a snow storm of love guiding the way.
We pulled up to Save the Children’s main headquarters, rode the elevator up to the 3rd floor, and stepped into Mohamad Al Asmar’s office. Thank you to Aaron Wagner and Voices of the Children, our team had the honor to connect with Mr. Asmar in his 270 degree window office; the only thing better than the spectacular views is his incredibly friendly and helpful personality. Within minutes we were welcomed like family and introduced to the field team, the amazing project underway and off we drove to meet the centers of Syrian refugees. Due to the weather there were no youth present on this first visit, but the volunteers and staff were full of welcoming smiles and the walls already had childlike paintings on them, sprinkling color in the lives of those who had experienced some darkened grey times.
We awoke bright and early ready for our first day with the Syrian refugee youth, pulled open the blinds and witnessed a full blizzard knocking on the window. Our excitement guided us towards downtown… the rental car and gps helped too. At the Save the Children’s Annex we found all the field staff staying warm beside the heater and two giant brass kettles on the stove boiling with anticipation to warm the bellies. No one was heading out to the field on this day. Without wasting any time we organized an art therapy workshop for the field staff and introduced the first chapter of the Colors of Love art therapy curriculum, written by Benjamin Swatez. Grins from ear to ear carried through the two hour workshop in the main conference room and by the end, several staff members approached us with incredible joy. “This is the first time I could ever draw anything. When are you coming back?” Mustafa said with astonishment. The curriculum was adopted on the spot, a guide for the field staff at 8 Syrian refugee centers within and around Amman. This is our goal… Sustainability and the snow flakes of Amman helped make it possible.
For the entire week we had been welcomed into Samer’s home where he and his beautiful family treated us with the most unbelievable hospitality! Thanks Lea Anne making this all possible, sharing her second family with the team. The second day scheduled for the Syrian Refugee work was also full of snow, but once again the weather created entirely unexpected and amazing experiences to say the least. Glen Shackley used these snow days to edit over 8,000 photographs taken by both him and the youth of Aqaba that he was mentoring. Samer is the general manager of Rubicon in Jordan, the largest animation company in the country, and he invited Benjamin to deliver a seminar on art therapy to help inspire the top animator’s and artists of Jordan to use their incredible talents with a deeper awareness of the effect their artwork has on the human psyche in Jordan and around the world. The seminar was a beautiful exchange of great information and dialogue between inspired artists from Iraq, Jordan, Palestine and the United States. What a brilliant place to work with so many artistic geniuses under one roof.
The day finally came and we walked into Zarqa center for Syrian Refugees… A dream come true! The children glowed with a radiant energy, ready to create their future with one drawing at time. The Syrian children are so adorable. What an honor it is to share the power of creativity with these kids, like sponges, ready to soak up the love for true expression and dream of a world where soldiers swapped flowers, rather than bullets. The attention spans were far beyond the norm and the willingness to reach beyond their comfort zones, take risks with such trust and explore their inner potential brought tears of joy to the eyes. Within one day they went from drawing stick figures to drawing full on portraits using the formulas of the golden ratio and the Da Vinci’s divine proportions. This is just the beginning! What an incredible world we live in… When children can endure such horrors and still find the courage to open their hearts and find happiness… Then we all can.
Written by Benjamin Swatez