At a time when conflict and crisis have increased in intensity and scale around the globe, there is a need for innovative solutions to help people to heal and rebuild their lives.

Investing in the psychosocial wellbeing of those who have experienced conflict is a crucial component of restoring societies, yet it is often overlooked.

We are filling this gap.

Our projects result in the following outcomes:

People feel connected to others and that they belong to something larger through shared values, responsibilities and interests

People advocate for themselves and others through public art

People’s behaviors reflect a greater belief in the equality of all people

Social Capital & Competence:
People are able to build and manage relationships and social situations in constructive ways

People process and represent their emotions and thoughts, and reconnect with their bodies

People are more resilient, motivated to effect change, and able to handle hardship

“Colors of Connection is doing important work with adolescent girls and young women in conflict-affected communities, such as in the DRC, by providing safe spaces and supportive environments in which young women can build self-confidence and leadership skills, as well as expand peer networks by developing their own artistic skills, and collaborating with other young women on a community-based art project of their own making and design.”

– Elizabeth Graybill, International Rescue Committee – DR Congo

Stories of Colors of Connection’s Impact

Social cohesion to overcome deep divides in society

“Before [the project] I was afraid of the other ethnicities, to be together with them. But attending the class changed me, now I understand them and can work together with them. And they understand me better too.” Issa, age 17 Goudoubo Project Participant

Colors of Connection’s projects utilize the arts to bring people together and to overcome animosity and fear between people. In this project, participants came from different ethnic groups who were engaged in violent conflict in their home country of Mali.  Through art the participants were able to communicate beyond language barriers and usual forms of communication, which allowed them to appreciate each other’s humanity and respect each other’s culture. They were able to tell and listen to each other’s stories, developing more complex narratives and more nuanced understandings of identity.

Location: Goudoubo Refugee Camp, Burkina Faso, Malian Refugees

Amplifying a community’s voice and needs.

“Other images in Goma stigmatize and victimize women. But, the images that you have created with this project have given value to women. These images show another side of women and women’s issues.” Community Leader

Before Colors of Connection’s projects in Goma, much of the imagery of women and girls depicted them as fragile victims as opposed to people with strength and agency in the face of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV). In response to the community’s concern about this, Colors of Connection worked with a group of teenage girls to create murals and portraits that show the strength, beauty, and courage of the women living in this part of the world – not the opposite.  This story highlights the importance of listening to what a community’s concerns are and working with them to address them. It also shows what a key role art can play in addressing human rights issues. Art can be a powerful and appropriate medium to shift societal perceptions.

Location: Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Adolescent Girls

Nurturing hope and promoting self-determination

“This project was an example for all the partner (organizations) and for the community because it has shown that with will power anything is possible.” Muphtah Ag Mohamed, Community Leader

When Christina first arrived in Mentao refugee camp the community leadership was very skeptical of the project.  Some even didn’t want to participate because they were more focused on meeting basic needs such as health care and food. But by the end of the project they felt differently. As a result of the project, the community felt encouraged, motivated, energized, and empowered. The project addressed other powerful needs – a sense of hope and self-determination – that had gotten lost amongst all the other immediate needs of living in an undersourced refugee camp.

Location: Mentao Refugee Camp, Burkina Faso, Malian refugees

Catalyzing further positive change for participants and communities

Before the Courage in Congo project, there were only two women in the city of Goma trained in visual arts (painting and drawing), one of whom we hired to work with us on the project.  After the project was done, she decided, along with the other project assistants, to continue arts training for young women twice a month. Today M’Shujarts! is the largest group of young women visual artists in Goma, and perhaps even in the larger region of Eastern Congo. The group includes 15-30 of the participants of Courage in Congo, as well as a few other new young women, and has thus far participated in several artistic public events in Goma.  

This shows how one opportunity can spark continued growth and positive change in the lives of the youth and communities where we work.

Location: Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Adolescent Girls

“I am touched because I didn’t know our youth were capable of doing all of that.”

– Alassane Ag Azezane, Goudoubo Refugee Camp community leader

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