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.