Tuesday, April 19, 2011

DC Charity International Charity Spotlight: Donate $5 today to Art Relief International

This past December I spent the month volunteering with
Art Relief International (ARI), an international arts education organization that works to transform the lives of struggling social groups in Northern Thailand by offering them the opportunity to express themselves through an artistic lens.

ARI has recently launched an exciting project – The Young Lions Global Art Project. This project reaches out to children living in the neighborhood around our office in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Many of the children who attend are Burmese or hill tribe. Their families are extremely poor and have moved to Chiang Mai with the hopes of making more money. I had the opportunity to visit with these children during my stay and can attest personally to the impact art relief has on their lives.

After school, these children walk the streets selling strings of jasmine flowers to help support their families and put food on the table. With so much time spent trying to survive, these children have little time left to be kids.

The Young Lions Global Art Project gives these children space and time to express themselves creatively and to be children. Each week the children are introduced to a different country and culture from around the World, learning special things about that country and partaking in a creative project inspired by it’s culture. Some of the past projects have included, Tanzanian war shields, batik scarves, woven notebook covers, tie-dyed bandannas, Jackson Pollack style t-shirts, and Chinese style watercolor paintings.

Through art they have been able to reach out to the families and children in the neighborhood and build a rapport, which allows us to give the children a chance of, not only self-expression, but also to play, build friendships, and develop positive relationships between Thai and Burmese minority groups.

What They Need
The Young Lions Global Art Project has been such a tremendous success that they would love to expand and reach out to those groups who do not have the opportunity to come to us – Those living in Chiang Mai’s many construction camp slums.

In Chiang Mai there are approximately 120,000 Burmese refugees and migrants. They come in the search for freedom from fear, oppression, military brutality and violations of their human rights. The reality of what they face here is a lot different. Jobs for Burmese migrant workers are limited and many work on large construction projects for small amounts of money. These workers are utilized for cheap labor, but are not given rights or residency by the Thai government. As a result, they have no choice but to live in ramshackle accommodations on the labor camps. Without residency rights, the children cannot attend school and often help on site during the day.

Art Relief International believes we can use art as a tool to build a relationship with this community and a means to provide educational and creative opportunities for these children. The Young Lions Global Art Project would love the opportunity to partner with a local construction camps to implement a 12 week art curriculum in which the kids learn a variety of skills and techniques including painting, pattern design, drawing, crafts, 3D art, and textile work. The project will also incorporate useful items such as clothing and school supplies and provide a small snack.

How You Can Help?
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