Our staff thought up an innovative way to engage the children with an activity that would take them away from time spent on their phones: a drawing competition. Children brought their drawings to a drop-off point, with many more children participating than staff had expected, we received drawings from around 150 children. The staff spotted that lots of children were creating drawings about COVID-19, alerting the staff to the huge need for psychosocial support to process trauma related to the pandemic. There were some very artistically talented children. Others drew about leaving, some about the army; so many things that the children felt were reflected in their drawings.
This is a success story of something that has worked better with the COVID-19 restrictions! Whenever art therapy was trialled in the past, appointments were erratic and difficult to run consistently. Now, people attend their appointments, finding their slot, queuing up and knocking on the door, keen for their session. Our experienced social worker in the Arbat Refugee Centre has been referring children for art therapy since October 2020. After art therapy sessions the children are referred back to our social worker and gathered into groups that will work together.
Currently our art therapist works 3 days a week, delivering 3-4 sessions a day. She works in a big room with children and/or families, never more than 6 at a time. Family units vary in size e.g. a Mum and varying numbers of children, a granny with a daughter, some children with special needs. All the children receiving art therapy are on the child protection caseload. There are lots of happy faces and this is a place of refuge for the Mums.
The lockdown and school closures meant our child-friendly spaces had to be closed for a long time and only small groups can currently attend sessions after re-opening. Schools were shut in March 2020 and did not re-open during the year. Creating and distributing leaflets was a creative way that our staff approached the need to provide educational resources to families in the camp. Each leaflet contained 2 activities: one fun, informative activity for the whole family to share, and one focused activity for the children. More families asked for leaflets because they heard from other families that they were useful and interesting.
The last page of the leaflet contained a “did you know” section, which raises awareness of child protection issues and children’s rights in an accessible way. People started sending our staff pictures (like the one above). In many photos, their whole family is participating in a suggested activity. 12 different leaflets were created and distributed to more than 1,050 families, with more than 3,700 people benefiting from them.
Creating new leaflets has continued in 2021 and we continue to provide educational resources, safe spaces for children to process trauma and activities that promote self-expression.