The Fellowship of the Fingerpaint

Project Overview

A communication platform for children who live in the same city but are prevented from socializing with each other due to language and social barriers.

Identifying the Problem

Many Syrian refugees live in Adana, Turkey. However, language barriers make it very difficult for the Syrian and Turkish children to interact with one another. This barrier to socialization is only exacerbated by the mistrust that the children’s parents often have for the other ethnic group. This prejudice often leads parents to prevent their children from befriending and playing with children from the other ethnic group. Thus, children living in the same neighborhood are forcibly segregated from one another, which not only prevents them from socializing, but instills further prejudice and stigmatization of the “other.”

Ahmet was inspired by Saif Domozy, a talented Syrian sculptor and painter who fled to Turkey in order to escape violence by radical groups who would harm him for his artwork. The men met in a school where Syrian students attended classes after the Turkish students left. Despite being paid very low wages to do so, Saif and his father led  fun and inspiring educational classes for the Syrian refugee children. Ahmet and Saif shared the belief that art can bring people together and transcend language, ethnicity and social barriers. They wanted to plan a collaborative art project created by the Syrian and Turkish children as a way of allowing the children to interact, and showing parents that there was no danger in such group activities.

Creating A Solution

Ahmet wanted to create a project that would be fun for young children and non-threatening to the parents. After discussing the project’s goals, he and Saif decided on a fingerpainting mural that would be the result of Syrian and Turkish children working side by side. Ahmet then searched for an institution to help raise funds and carry out the project, and was thrilled when Adana Metropolitan Municipality agreed to sponsor the activity. The group leaders decided to hold the project during the April 23rd celebrations, an official holiday in Turkey dedicated to children of the world.

Ahmet and his team purchased 30 meters of cloth to serve as the canvas for the fingerpainting murals, 20 bottles of fingerpaint, and an apron for each of the 100 children that participated. The children and their parents showed up for the event with huge smiles, and worked together to create a beautiful masterpiece. The event was full of laughter, joyful conversation and, of course, paint-covered little hands!

Lessons Learned

Ahmet was surprised to learn that projects of inclusivity and cross-cultural awareness among children can be met with resistance from adults. The head of the school Ahmet wanted to work with did not agree to allow the school’s Syrian students to participate in the project, mostly because the project was not being implemented by a public institution or official individual.  Not wanting to have to forego the project altogether, Ahmet invited Syrian children from a different school to participate in the project. He encourages others who meet similar resistance to think of ways around the problem, rather than give up entirely.

Funding

Ahmet raised $350 for this project, which covered the costs of all the canvas, paint and aprons.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Denmark Denmark 2014

Developed by:

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