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Opening up spaces

This week the team compromised of art therapists Naomi Press and Jess Linton, who worked together in France for the first time since their memorable collaboration for Art Refuge UK in Nepal pre-earthquake.

Thursday morning was spent in DUNKIRK alongside Médecins du Monde France. Within minutes of setting up it became apparent that a therapeutic art making space would be used extremely well by a community of all ages in real need of support and simple opportunities to attend to more than their basic needs of keeping dry, keeping safe; surviving. Over 16 people attended a short pilot session in a slightly chilly tent, that quickly filled with creativity, painting and discussion. A film team in France at the end of a two week journey across Greece; Macedonia; Germany; Belgium, commented that they observed our space as memorably rare and encouraging in it’s ability to support people to play, be together, be creative, find some escapism and support within the bleakness around them…

Children, young men, mothers and fathers with young children and babies joined us to paint, reflect, express and process. Naomi and Jess noticed the transformation, even if a small one, of a space, into a brighter, more colourful one – brought by the art materials but also the human spirit when able to play and imagine.

In CALAIS, Naomi and Jess worked with our new partners Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in their clinic; promoting a woman and children’s group every Thursday afternoon and an open group all day on a Friday. 20 people attended our open door session on Friday, with many returning from last week. A 16yr old boy from Syria returned to spend a full day with us, seemingly appreciating a quiet, calm space to just be. A table of model making and 3D work seemed to offer an important new dimension to an otherwise grey, flat, motionless world in the camp, and a small group of Egyptian youth returned again to spend the day making models and drawing with us and were able to be kept safe with us whilst MSF and @L’Aubergedesmigrants worked together to find them a night in a sheltered young peoples centre. The team has observed how effective it has been to work with MSF translators, who add to the solidarity of the growing group; which celebrates its strengths as a collective of supportive individuals from across the world: Afghanistan; Egypt; Eritrea; Ethiopia, India; Iran; Iraq; Kurdistan; Sudan; Syria (this week alone).

We would very much like to thank The Lapid Trust, MdM, MSF and a number of generous private contributors who have enabled our work to continue. Many thanks and please keep in touch,

The Art Refuge UK Team

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