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A sense of belonging


This week the team comprised of Art Therapist Anna Kalin, Fawzia Afifi and Naomi Press. We continued our work in both Dunkirk with Médecin du Monde on Thursday and in Calais in the Médecins Sans Frontieres Space on Friday.

The tent in Dunkirk was immediately full with over 15 young children between the ages of 2 and 12, with some young people and adolescents also joining the afternoon session. The paint flowed, drawings, images and collages quickly filling up the lines we hung up around the tent. The children clearly relished this opportunity to play creatively with our team of therapists and volunteers from Médecins du Monde who worked alongside us throughout the session.

Image after image of fragile shelters and tents were created alongside memories of lost homes and places left behind. Children shared their stories and dreams with us, trying to find a sense of place and belonging amidst the chaos and uncertainty of their current precarious environments. One young boy immediately drew the art therapy tent, with himself inside it playing his harmonica and enjoying the bubbles we had brought along to the session.

Older young people were able to find quieter moments with members of the Art Refuge UK team to talk a bit further about their experiences, and take time carefully creating images. One Kurdish young man asked that we take his image and writing with us to find a translation, so that we can bring it back to work again together next week.

Both in Dunkirk and Calais, trust is being built as people recognize the consistency of our presence in the camps each week. In Calais, adults, young people and families come back each week and continue to explore their journeys with us. Many people voiced their hopelessness and their current sense of being lost, which felt important to be heard and worked with. The maps and atlas become increasingly significant objects and points of exchange within our work, and are important for people to orient and ground themselves. Allowing people tangible and visual points of connection within which they begin to make sense of their situation, tracing back their journeys to find roots and beginnings.

This week, an older Sudanese man returned to find us working in the new space after not seeing the team for several months, this was a deeply moving reunion for everyone. He immediately joined in creating alongside us, clearly happy to be returning to a space where everyone is welcome and valued. The creation within the space and the being together in the midst of absurdity, horror and suffering, was again humbling and remarkable to witness. Meaningful connections are forming and bringing depth to the work being shared with us.

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