ABU DHABI // Start, a Dubai-based children's charity that helps underprivileged children through art therapy, began a three-week summer camp for orphans and refugees in Amman this week. The organisation has been conducting regular workshops in the Jordanian capital since December. For the next three weeks it will be offering the therapy to children living in three SOS Children's Villages - an international orphans' charity - and at refugee camps all over the country.
Laila Demashqieh, the manager, said: "Start is the only access these children get to anything creative. "When they are allowed to think creatively they release their emotions and often it makes them more confident. "Then they start to bond with each other more and it can help them come to terms with their own lives." On Sunday, the camp began with a group of 20 orphans aged between 14 and 17 from the SOS Children's Village in Amman.
They were given artistic tasks in the Start house studio and then a tour of three nearby galleries including the Dar al Anda. The following day Miss Demashqieh, Sonia Brewin - the founder of the charity who is in Jordan for the Start project - and a team of volunteers travelled to the Baqa'a refugee camp to conduct a workshop with 40 Palestinian refugees. Under the theme of mapping and journeys, the children were asked to create their own art pieces.
Some drew maps of places they had been, others depicted where they wanted to go and many just drew pictures of the things that were most important to them, such as their families. Alex Carroll, 20, a graphic design student from Australia who is about to start a month-long placement with Art Dubai, said the work was difficult but rewarding. "Most of the children have no grasp of the English language so I have to get over that with sign language or using the art to communicate," she said. "It is a powerful method."
The camp will run for three weeks with the volunteers revisiting Baqa'a every week as well as continuing the workshops in the capital. The summer camp will be followed by visits to Iraqi refugees living in Al Salt in the north, and regular weekend workshops will continue from the centre in Amman. Start was established in March 2007 by the Al Madad Foundation and Art Dubai, with the aim of helping children overcome trauma or disability through art. It is funded by donations and takes artists from the UAE to visit children throughout the region.