Why we need your help and what you can do
Tibetan refugee children have important needs beyond the obvious material ones of food, shelter and medicine. One of these needs is the opportunity to play. The Art Refuge Programme provides refugee children with a protected time and space in which to play and make art. They are supported in this by adult facilitators who have undertaken the same journey into exile and therefore can understand and relate to the children’s fears, anxieties and need for comfort. For these children, whose lives have been disrupted, playing and making art is an essential therapeutic activity which can help to reduce stress and establish normalcy. Clearly, play and art activities of and in themselves, cannot change stressful circumstances. What such activities can do, however, is enable the children to engage in meaningful interactions, thereby helping them to cope with stressful experiences through shifting the balance of social, environmental and psychological factors in a positive direction.
Why do we need your help?
Art Refuge is the only organization officially working with the children in the reception centres in this way, and we therefore have a unique role to play in their transition from Tibet. Currently, we depend entirely on donations. All of the contributions recieved go towards ensuring the centres and the local tutors are enabled to support the Tibetan refugees. This means providing the required supplies for the activities, maintaining the classrooms and most importantly paying for the local tutors to work with the children.
What can you do?
Volunteering in the Art Refuge Programme
In the past few years we have had many people volunteering in the Art Refuge Programmes in Nepal and India from all over the world. Our volunteers typically have training in psychology, education, and/or the arts. Especially though, they have a commitment to working with and for children and creating a safe, supportive environment.
The volunteers collaborate in planning activities, adding new ideas where appropriate. They also help set- up and give assistance to the facilitators and children during sessions. Additionally they assist the facilitators with assorted tasks - such as taking inventories of supplies and collecting stories of the children’s journeys.
The minimum time commitment is at least one month: anything less than this is too distracting for all concerned and not conducive to the creation of a safe, stable environment for the children who have already experienced much loss. The volunteers have had an extremely positive time with the children. Many have gone on to sponsor children. Others have felt so changed by their experiences, that they returned home to study medicine, social work or nursing.
Comments from previous volunteers
“I did lots of laughing in (the Program). There were some funny moments where kids were just being kids and causing mayhem and laughter. The Tibetan people are so beautifully relaxed and always laughing or making fun of each other in a very sincere way. I loved dancing with them the most. Because they are mostly all shy, it was hard to get them moving but when some of them did, everyone was ear to ear smiles.”
“The children were wonderful, respectful, kind, crazy but caring- I was treated as very special and felt very welcomed by the kids. I refer to them as the saving grace, having the charm to make all my differences and sense of not belonging disappear.”
What were the most rewarding aspects of volunteering: “The magic of the children.”
PLEASE NOTE: We are currently recruiting for volunteers for 2014!
Volunteering in the UK
Art Refuge UK depends on the generosity of our supporters who raise funds for us through individual donations or through arranging fundraising events. For ideas, see our special section on fundraising.