x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Labour-camp residents discover art of recycling

Charity organises art workshops for cleaners to enjoy in their off time.

ABU DHABI // Watercolours, collages and jewellery made from papier maché are unleashing a group of women's creative talents after a hard day cleaning offices and toilets.

At least 100 workers live at the West Coast ladies camp in Mussaffah. More than half are Filipino, with the rest from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Indonesia and India.

Twenty women have been attending Camp Creative since it was launched in February by Labor of Love UAE, a small charity that helps the capital's workers.

The initiative aims to provide them with a means of artistic expression, a recreational activity, a chance to learn a new skill and a way to build self-esteem, according to Angel Wesley, the founder.

"I've got some talent in jewellery-making," said Michelle Monroy, 35, a cleaner from Butuan City in the Philippines, who made a necklace and bracelet using recycled newspaper. "It usually takes me two hours to complete a piece. I'm happy that many liked my work."

Michal Teague, an Abu Dhabi-based public artist, painter and teacher, runs art workshops at the West Coast camp on the second Saturday of every month.

The sessions focus on using recycled material. Some of the women may eventually see an opportunity to turn their new-found skills into a small business.

"I have experienced the impact of using art to enhance well-being and strengthen communities," said Teague, who is from Australia. "I wanted to find a way to use those skills here." She has worked on community projects in her home country, the UAE and Turkey.

With the help of community volunteers, she completed two murals for the outdoor play area of the Future Centre for Special Needs in Mohammed Bin Zayed City. She also helped children create two murals at Abu Dhabi Art.

"The idea for Camp Creative came out of wanting to give back to the people who work to make the UAE such a great place for us all," Teague said.

When the programme gains enough support it will be extended to other labour camps.

It is seeking volunteers with a knack for sewing small bags, restyling clothes, crocheting, knitting, storage ideas and other arts and crafts skills.

Camp Creative would like donations of acrylic paints, canvases, storage tins and boxes that can be decorated, plain T-shirts, jewellery-making items such as beads, wire and thread, and wool crochet hooks and knitting needles.

Jacqueline Wood, the founder of Abu Dhabi Women's Group, is supporting the initiative through the group's arts and crafts bazaar at the Cristal Hotel, off Muroor Road in Abu Dhabi, on May 17.

Proceeds from the table and entrance fees will be used to purchase supplies for Camp Creative.

Those who wish to donate art supplies can email laborofloveuae@hotmail.com or visit www.laborofloveuae.com.