Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

Happy New Year from Studio Syria. We send best wishes for a brighter future to all refugees living far from home. Thank you to all who donated to our programs. Here is a quick recap of what we achieved in 2014.

Jean and Laurie taught graphic novel workshops in Zaatari Camp near the Syrian border in Jordan. Young adults received training and art supplies to take home after the workshops. We partnered with IRD for this program and want to send a big thank you to Julie Whittaker.  Earlier in the year we taught children in Zaatari with the help of Save the Children Jordan.

Studio Syria worked with many generous knitters and crocheters from all over the world to donate hand made hats and clothing to refugee families. We partnered with our neighbours in Seattle, the Salaam Cultural Musuem, who shipped hundreds of hats for us and distributed at their amazing free medical clinics in Jordan. Thank you crafters for sending us such tangible love to pass along to those who need it most. See pictures of all the hats on our Facebook album here

Laurie Balbo man handled thousands of balls of yarn (donated in Seattle) and held workshops in partnership with Collateral Repair in Amman sending proceeds from sales back to refugee families. Thanks to Karen Fardel and Tracy Bonaccorso (with her trusty van) for wrangling the yarn on the Seattle end.

We spent a day teaching art with the Salaam Cultural Museum and their medical team in the Jordanian town of Salt.

When Jean posted on Facebook that she was teaching kids in freezing weather who had cold feet, Studio Syria supporter Christine Tappert in Duvall, Washington, stepped in to raise money for socks which Jean was able to purchase and distribute in Amman - all with a turn around of a couple of weeks. One of the joys of being a small and lean organization!

We distributed hundreds of education kits to Syrian refugee children living in Zaatari Camp and in farm fields and urban lots. Thank you to the artists who contributed to our activity booklet - Anna Witte, Dave Badders, Chris Rollins, and Kutaieba Alsamman who translated it into Arabic. And thank you to the Pollination Project who granted us money to print more of these popular booklets. 

We spent a day with the ebullient folks at  Dar al Yasmin teaching kids how to make their own books.

And Jean spent a wonderful day teaching in a vacant lot in the border town of Zaatari Village, partnering with Samantha Robison and AptArt.

From Studio Syria to our wonderful supporters we send a huge thank you and 'shukran'. And from the many people we had the joy of working with this year, whether in Zaatari Camp, a dusty farm field or in an empty city parking lot - thank you for your resilience, your patience and the creativity you shared with us this year. We send heartfelt wishes for a speedy end to the violence in Syria and a return home in 2015. 

Please help us to continue our work in the New Year by donating at

Thank you from our hearts!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Teaching Graphic Novels in Zaatari Camp, September 2014

Studio Syria has returned to Zaatari Syrian Refugee Camp in Jordan. We partnered with IRD who provided transportation and access to their amazing big tent. Jean and Laurie taught a couple of workshops to young adults about how to write and draw comics and graphic novels. 

Laurie Balbo, with Studio Syria, is a child magnet. Here she shares her camera with some children at Zaatari Camp.

Jean had the pleasure of teaching a young man's English class how to write comics and graphic novels. We all had a wonderful time with much laughter and English spoken. Everyone was given art supply packs to take home including good quality paper, ink, brushes, pencils, erasers, rulers, pencil sharpeners and blank booklets.

Jean used this book as an example of a graphic novel as well as many others via a slide show.

In an attempt to soften the rocky ground IRD has laid sand and artificial grass inside the giant tent.

A group of young women were joined by some young men from an art club. The focus was intense and at times the tent was almost silent - except for the sound of the power generator and the wind tugging at the tent walls. 

"I dream to be a war man to protect my country". When we asked him who he wanted to fight against he said "ISIL".

This woman is a medic. She drew her hospital coat in the lower right corner with her head removed from it - showing that she can no longer wear it.

This mother drew a bird sending a letter home to her son, fighting in Syria. 

The Studio Syria education and activity booklet was as popular as ever with the younger crowd. 

Thank you to all who donated to Studio Syria this year and made this mission possible. We continue to raise money and plan further art workshops and education supply distributions in the spring. Please donate at 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Hats for Refugees

Jean is in Seattle until July but Studio Syria still touches the lives of Syrians living away from their homes. We just received pictures of children wearing handmade hats donated to Studio Syria and distributed in March by Seattle's Salaam Cultural Center. If you want to see the whole album of donated hats and the families who received them please check out the album on Studio Syria's Facebook page. Thank you to everyone who has donated. The hats keep coming and we'll keep sending them to people in need. You are warming heads and hearts.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


In January Jean visited the artists at AptArt as they worked on murals in the communities near the Syrian border in Jordan. This one addresses the issue of Jordanians sharing their country with more than half a million of their Syrian neighbours.

"Using some Spanish flair and the idiom “my house is your house” Ruben Sanchez and the team taught children about respect, hospitality and sharing. Inside the circles of colour children from Syria and Jordan drew pictures of what their house meant to them. The extended arms represent the relationship of generosity and gratitude between two people of different nations during this difficult time."

A group of young men gathered to watch the fun as the mural developed. The young guy on the left is Jordanian and his best friend is Syrian. He was happy to point out that about half his group of friends were Jordanian and half Syrian - a perfect embodiment of the sentiments expressed by Ruben's mural. Here the symbolic becomes tangible in the handshake of two friends from different countries.

Meanwhile Jean led an art workshop in the parking lot with some younger kids. (images below photographed by Samantha Robison)

The finished mural reads "My Home is Your Home".

Great work AptArt and a nod also to ACTED who sponsored their wonderful work. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Education Kits and Our Activity Booklet


There are nearly 2 million displaced Syrian children struggling with life away from their homes. About three quarters of these kids don't go to school full time - if at all. Studio Syria wants to help these children to remember the joys of learning so we have begun distributing education kits after we teach workshops. The kits contain pencils, paper, pencil sharpeners, notebooks and colored pencils. Recently we have added our specially designed activity booklets which contain coloring pages, alphabet and reading lessons, basic math problems and a specially written and illustrated story complete with creative writing prompts. 

Laurie and Ghadeer stuff education kits at a medical clinic in Salt, Jordan.

Jean distributes Studio Syria education kits to Jordanian kids too since it is increasingly important to assist host communities who are straining under the influx of refugees. These kids live in the Ghor al Safi.
Seattle based children's book author Anna Witte wrote and illustrated a story specially for our booklet. The adventurous tale of children's empowerment ends with a message of hope - and some creative writing prompts. Studio Syria is grateful to volunteers like Dave and Anna - and to Kutaieba Alsamman who translated the whole booklet into Arabic - a huge contribution.

Small distributions like this one in Zaatari Village work best so that we can make sure each child gets a kit and no one feels left out.

Seattle based artist Chris Rollins sent us original drawings that we turned into writing prompts urging the children to imagine and write about strange and friendly creatures.

Studio Syria partnered with IRD to develop appropriate materials including this map of Zaatari Camp illustrated by New York based David Badders who shows the four schools in the camp with pencil icons. The message tells children how to register for school and the map is surrounded by math questions encouraging counting and critical thinking. Only the booklets distributed inside Zaatari contain this map.

Studio Syria has already distributed 500 education kits and will continue to make as many as we can afford. Each kit costs $3.50. We gratefully accept donations on our web page

What We Achieved in January 2014

We worked with four new partners this January as well as spending a day with our wonderful old friends from Save the Children Jordan in Zaatari Camp.

As always Save's staff were helpful and hard working as we welcomed kids to their trailer on the edge of the camp for a pastel drawing workshop. We had an open door policy and saw a lot of mothers and toddlers - some of whom stayed with us all day. Unlike our last visit though, boys were not allowed into the trailer so we made sure they had a little art space outside. Too bad our drawing boards were back at base camp - but our paper was thick enough to allow for some artistic fun on a very rocky surface.

Zaatari Camp is situated in the desert and miles and miles of rough grade gravel has been laid down in an effort to reduce dust storms.

Studio Syria also spent a day with a pop up medical clinic visiting the ancient town of Salt. The clinics are organized by Seattle's Salaam Cultural Museum and doctors from all over the United States and Jordan who bring staff and medicines to locations where refugees are living in "host communities". The clinics last for a day and then move on to other locations since there are about half a million Syrian refugees living outside the main camp throughout the country.  Here you can see women registering for medical examinations.

While the parents were being treated their children enjoyed a hat making workshop hosted by Studio Syria's Jean Bradbury and Laurie Balbo.  

Below you can see Dr Hugh providing psychological counseling to refugee children through the SCM program. 

Some Jordanian girls like to wear bunched ribbons under their hijab to be fashionable. It made a fun place to attach a paper hat. 

Studio Syria handed out education kits and activity booklets that we made specially. The kits contained pencils, sharpeners, colored pencils, notebooks and paper. 

A highlight of our time in Jordan was the chance to work with the team from AptArt who are partnering with ACTED outside Zaatari Camp in the towns of Mafraq, Irbid and Zaatari Village. Samantha Robison and Luc van der Walwrangle guest artists and swarms of children to produce extraordinary murals with messages of hope and guidance. Jean hung out and held an impromptu pastel workshop in the adjacent parking lot. She also handed out education kits to the participating children, half of whom were Jordanian and half Syrian. 

Another wonderful group of people we worked with this month is Dar al Yasmin who travel from Amman to Zaatari Village every couple of weeks to bring children's activities, support and supplies to a group of Syrian refugees living outside the camp. Jean joined them and led a book making workshop on a very cold day up in that northern border town. Seeing so many bare feet in the bitter cold prompted friends of Studio Syria to raise extra money to buy socks which Jean distributed later in the month. As you can see the cold didn't stop these girls from having fun with their books.

Our final method of outreach this month took the least amount of organization. There are thousands of Syrian refugees camped informally throughout the country of Jordan, including the farming town of Safi where Jean was teaching for UNESCO. It was easy to walk over to one of the small encampments after work and join the families for tea. Jean and her friends handed out education kits since the children were not attending school. They heard stories of the destruction of Hama, where this family is from.

Studio Syria will do more outreach like this in the future - as well as partnering with aid organizations to continue to bring creative education opportunities to displaced Syrian's and their host communities.

Thank you for your support in 2013. We operate on a very small budget supported by donors like you. Because we have no overhead and work as volunteers we are able to channel all our donations directly to the people who need our help the most. Please know that your support has been effective and is greatly appreciated.