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Healing-with-ArtMy group of eager artists created a garden of flowers

By Kulsoom Rizvi, Children's Rights Correspondent for Safeworld. July 2014. Photos by Kulsoom ©

Kulsoom Rizvi reports on her recent trip to Erbil, northern Iraq, where she was volunteering at the Akre Refugee Camp.

On the walls of a dreary, rundown Saddam-era prison are vivid murals of stories, hopes and memories of children shattered by the Syrian war...

Rise-volunteerRise volunteer Lucy (left) shows examples of shapes and patterns for murals to a group of young artists.All of these murals were created by Syrian children and youth through The Castle Art Project, run by Rise Foundation. Rise is an Erbil-based NGO meeting the needs of Syrian refugees living in a number of camps and urban locations around the Kurdish region.

Children and youth have become the worst victims of the three-year Syrian conflict, bearing witness to unspeakable horrors, suffering both physically and psychologically. They have experienced first-hand conflict, destruction and brutal violence.

Over a million Syrian children are registered as refugees. Roughly 75 percent are under the age of 12. Children represent 52 percent of the total Syrian refugee population, which is close to 3 million people.

To help them cope and overcome the trauma they have been through, several NGOS, like Rise, have created psychosocial activities and creative art projects.

The project provides a creative outlet for youth to express themselves and forget for a second that they’re refugees. It gives them a chance to laugh, have fun and be a kid again.


Akre-refugee-campIn Akre refugee camp, located in the Dohuk region of Kurdistan, a group of young girls brainstorm murals ideas for some of the bare walls in the camp. With The Castle Art Project, youth first spend time discussing and developing their ideas for the murals. They create sketches and art pieces and then choose the most suitable ones to paint on the wall. Girls-painting-portraitsSyrian girls finish painting portraits of men with traditional Arab headgear. Lorin, an art teacher from Syria who now lives in Akre, helps oversee the project.

The younger children were gathered to paint the some of the building’s columns. My group of eager artists created a garden of flowers:











After a few hours of painting, the children started a volleyball game with Rise volunteers:








 Also Read: Fleeing Syria - The Refugee Children of Shatila, Beirut - by Kulsoom Rizvi


Kulsoom Rizvi is an American/Pakistani freelance journalist. She has a masters in international journalism with a concentration on humanitarian reporting. 

Kulsoom has worked with children for almost five years with qualifications in early childhood development and child mental health. I'm currently the associate digital editor for the International Rescue Committee based in NYC.

Follow Kulsoom on Twitter: @klrizvi