Whether it be in a London based classroom or out in the Dunkirk refugee camp (a loosely used term), the children exhibit the exact same innocence, curiosity, hesitations and joy. Despite the atrocities of the war torn countries they have fled and the horrors they must have witnessed, their innocence remains uncorrupted. Irrespective of where they are from, the children are our future.
We set up our workshop in the middle of the trees – paints, canvasses, face masks, balloons and bubbles. The children become engrossed in all the colours, textures, smells and sounds; clearly valuing the opportunity and created stunning art, expressive of their emotional state. Some worked meticulously, while others applied random colours but all enjoyed the outcomes.
A three year old boy chose the dinosaur stencil and looked at me questioningly. “That’s a dinosaur”, I informed. “It goes roarrr”. He smiled and exclaimed “dinosaur!” and “roarrr!” repeatedly with each splash of red colour. He had learned and associated something I had taught him, and that was magical.
For some time, the children are transformed away from the squalor and it is easy to mistake them for a happy class enjoying outdoor activities in a park.
Farewells are the hardest for me, though the children and their parents always bid me adieu with bright smiles, warm hugs and an invitation to return again soon.