I am just back from a hot, dry, intense week at the refugee camp working on this project.
You can see more about the exciting developments on the art side here, this posting is about the people and the research.
On arrival at the camp, the vastness is the first thing that strikes you. Rows of shelters as far as the eye can see. The absence of colour. The absence of signs of life. No trees or plants because of the climate. No landmarks, nothing holding up the sky. The single storey shelters spread over the undulating rocky ground like a carpet.
You wouldn’t know there were thousands of people living here. No radios are playing, no groups gathering on corners chatting. There are a few children going to school, some people collecting water. A small stream of refugees trekking across the windy open spaces to the supermarket. It feels very temporary. Very un-owned by the residents.
The first requirement was to understand the dynamics of the place. There are lots of stakeholders (government, NGOs etc) and we were guests. We needed to play by the rules more than we normally have to, We met loads of amazing staff members and volunteers who put hours of effort into the social needs of the refugees. I read some of the English books I’d taken along with some teenage boys keen to improve their language skills. And some young women reading Dan Brown (!) on the tablets they have occasional access to were delighted to see the crowdfunding video we made and recognise the shelters.
I will post pictures of some of the people once we have the permissions / clearance to do so.
I then got to meet the young people who would be working with us to implement both projects. That first workshop was a bit crazy! As you would expect, the children have been through a lot and find it hard to concentrate. Both they and the local staff were a bit puzzled to be asked to draw ‘joy’ – not used to working conceptually. We got there though – lots of calls for nature, love, football and things that ways to make a shelter look more like a home.
From the group of 25 we selected 8 who would be the research crew. For a more robust process given that we were crossing a language barrier, using teenagers and working with some illiteracy issues, I had designed a pictorial research sheet.
You can contribute here and help train a researcher or get involved.