Syrian refugee children enjoy an art-filled day in Richmond

A group of Syrian children who recently arrived in Canada were treated, Wednesday, to a day of creating art at a Richmond art and early learning facility.

Syrian refugees used pastels to create artwork to frame and put up when they're finally settled

A group of Syrian children who recently arrived in Canada were treated, Wednesday, to a day of creating works of art at a Richmond art and early learning facility.

The session at the Arts Connection, a business in Steveston, was a welcome break from daily life in a nearby hotel, where Syrian families are staying as they work toward getting properly settled in Canada.

"I imagined what it would be like for the parents and staff to handle children staying in a hotel all day long for a several weeks," said Arts Connection CEO Linda Shirley, adding that it must get pretty boring.

Shirley and organizers for the event were left scrambling Wednesday morning, when the 14 children they expected turned into 22.

Anas Shaib came to the session with his eight and nine-year-old children. He said, through an interpreter that it had been four years since his family fled their home in Syria.

For two years they lived in a rented house in Turkey before making their way to British Columbia. Shaib said he knew nothing of the current state of his Syrian home but assumed it was pretty rough.

"I think from this experience, I feel the impression that I get is the future that I came for, the future of my children seems to be a prosperous one," Shaib said.

A Syrian girl currently living in a Richmond hotel puts the finishing touches on a picture of a butterfly that she plans to mount in her new home. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"My daughter drew a picture of a heart which represents peace, love and this is what she feels she wants. My son drew a picture of a house and, of course, this is what he expresses he wants, as well, because he'd like to have a home and live in a house."

The children's pastel artworks were put into solid frames when they were finished, giving them a sense of permanency and stability in a world that has recently seemed anything but.

"That picture is going to capture the moment, or the afternoon they spent here. They're going to take it with them and it's going to represent, you know, a new beginning. It's going to represent their dreams for the future years," said Amal Ballu, a resettlement assistance program counsellor with the Immigrant Services Society who facilitated the session.

An Arts Connection instructor and three Syrian refugees put a finished picture into a frame so it can by displayed at the children's new home, once they've moved out of a Richmond hotel. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"It's not just a picture, it's a whole experience that they will take with them, and that will last for years to come."

When Shaib was asked where his children will hang the pictures once they've moved into their new home, his answer came quickly.

"In their bedroom, obviously, above their beds because it's going to be a souvenir for them. It's going to be a nice memory for them," he said.


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