This week I will start to work in Little Wlebo Refugee Camp – a short drive from Harper where 4,000 Ivorian Refugee’s have been living for the past year. I’m working in partnership with the Danish Refugee Council who manage the camp. The exciting part about this project is the level of impact we can have. The camp is, as all refugee camps, an extreme example of a “total institution” – cut off from other communities and regulated by a higher power. Of course, nothing more is expected of refugee camps, and they are the lucky option when people have to suddenly flee their countries, but the result of this environment is that inhabitants become depersonalized, and humans become numbers… . Refugees face many adversities, and while humanitarian agencies focus on lifesaving activities and protection, we want to address the psychological impact: cultural bereavement, uncertainty and anxiety about their future, post-traumatic stress, and feelings of grief, and loss.
The participants are 30 teenagers who aren’t able to go to school because there is no secondary school set up in the camp as of yet. I will work with them to paint two large murals on a distribution center that is visible from many areas of the camp. They will start brainstorming next week on the type of images they feel are most encouraging to their community. Reminders of their culture, and their future will be important to bring a sense of comfort, and hopefulness to the camp – things that can help combat stress, and help with adapting to the environment. Creating a project for the community will help strengthen the youth’s social supports and sense of belonging in the community. It will also boost their self esteem as they will achieve something the whole camp can appreciate. And through the benefits of the arts, it should help to combat feelings of depression, anger, grief anxiety that upset their sense of well-being.
More to come … .