The Syrian Refugee Creative Therapy Project
Chapter 7, Part 2 Conclusion:
… Benjamin Swatez and Aaron Wagner each had a dream and were throwing in all their chips to live these dreams while both living in the Skagit Valley of northwestern Washington, only a 20 minute drive apart, without ever crossing paths. Benjamin, the art director/mentor of Chime In and director of Colors of Love: Healing Through Art, came across an international photographer in Goma, DR Congo, while they both were being asked for bribes in order to get back stolen equipment. They quickly became friends; two mazungus laughing down the volcanic stone roads in the red zone of what is said to be the most dangerous city in the world.
Two years later, after Benjamin had gathered a team and set the dates, each member ready and willing to self fund a project with the refugees in Jordan if need be, a local newspaper in the small town of Mount Vernon published an article addressing the amazing work Aaron, the founder and director of Voices of the Children, was doing with Syrian Refugees in Za’atari, Jordan. And that’s all she wrote… Low and behold, drum role… The common denominator: The photographer Michael Christopher Brown. Aaron and Michael grew up together! Within one meeting over coffee Aaron and Benjamin merged dreams and two all-star teams in to one, just like that.
This project started with an outline and the end result looks very different from the original blue print, so much more colorful than one could have fathomed possible. Obstacles are inevitable and variables beyond our control certainly shift by the day; therefore, it is our internal and external response that either breaks a dream or expands the dream into heights unimaginable. This journey has been the ultimate test of trust, flexibility and hard work, inspiring the alchemist within to transform unforeseen obstacles into treasures… And how beautiful the treasure is. WE did with nothing short of a mob squad of love jumping on board! Life long friendships growing, solid work relationships established, a platform secured with multiple projects with the Syrian refugees to come, colors of love showered throughout Jordan, belly aching roaring laughter, AND life changing moments of both tears and explosive smiles shared between youth and staff as one! There are so many people and organizations to thank, and you know who you are, but none of this could transpire without the courageous youth that showed up every day ready and willing to shed the shadow over their lives and dream! “WE have a dream!”
7 original songs, thousands of drawings and paintings, 3 canvas murals of 12 x 5 feet each, 7 wall murals covering more than 4,300 square feet, 27 short films have been made with 97 projected to come and over 40,000 photographs taken by the youth… Yeah!!!! Instead of writing a hundred page manuscript trying to wrap of the lifetimes that transpired within only five weeks, next time you are sitting around a camp fire with one or all of us, ask about the beauty within the eyes of the Syrian youth as they shifted their relationship with death one brushstroke at a time, the joy that illuminated from the hearts and bodies with every musical note, and the power of the fleeting moment, composed of atrocities and miracles, juxtaposed in the masterpieces of the Syrian Life… Feel it! What is your dream? Live it!