Saturday, September 8, 2012

Workshop at the Orphanage Center in Alba'qa Refugee Camp in Amman, Jordan

On July 12th, 2012, driving with Muhammad Abu Aziz, (a local artist and Arabic calligrapher) in a big rental four wheel drive car, we entered a densely populated fertile farm region - where Alba'qa (A suburb in Amman, Jordan) Refugee Camp an Orphanage Center was located - to give a visual art workshop. We proceeded down the traffic congested streets which were crowded with people who were in the midst of fasting for Ramadan on this stifling 106 degree summer day. No wonder there were so many people running around that day—all with the same mission of looking for food to feed their families.

We drove to the center of town which consisted of a farmers market, bus station, and an open air clothing market.    We drove in circles in the labyrinth streets looking for parking and finally maneuvered the monstrous car on a side street adjacent to a  tiny market where the storeowner  almost objected to us parking  in front of his store – until  we told him we were only going to be there for 2 hours.  We proceeded to  walk across the bustling streets to get around the corner of where the U.N's office was right next to the Orphanage center.

As I walked inside the main office of the Orphanage center, I met with the manager who welcomed us to a computer room that consisted of twelve desktop computers covered with light bright blue sacks made out of fine mesh fiber. At the desk was Mr. Alaa Al'zeh who welcomed us and offered us coffee as is traditional in Arabic hospitality.  He volunteers regularly there and said that he once attended this center (  which strives at promoting the health and well-being of their almost 300 orphans that attend their winter camp in Aqaba, and assists  those children to attend universities, get health benefits, and assist in promoting positive outcomes. They are also building and about to open this year a private school which most of the Orphans will attend for free. 

We greeted our 15 or so co-ed mixed age students around an oval conference table with comfortable chairs who shyly welcomed us.  I broke the ice with them using a technique I learned in one of the workshops that I attended at Lesley University and VSA of Massachusetts -  of course I had to do it in Arabic and not in English. I asked them to please stand up and to introduce themselves verbally followed by a body movement that they liked  which we all had to mimic – the outcome was that they all giggled as they did their very personal and creative movements.   It proved to be a lot of fun and  accomplished the goal of making everyone feel a bit more comfortable.  
Muhammad started speaking about what is Visual Art? We talked about common themes and asked students what they want to express within the theme. Then poured primary color paints in half cut plastic water bottles (to encourage recycling) and gave them paper canvas to use for their subjects. They had to work with a topic of "Describe Your Environment" - they all raced to start immediately and were loving mixing the colors and learning about what colors to mix to get the colors they were looking for. At the end of the project a few of the students volunteered their art work and told us they would like to share it with us and show it in Boston.  We will try our best this fall to find a home for them where people can indeed see how talented these children are from Albaq'a Refugee Camp.  It was our pleasure to work with them and to have met such an inspirational center manager Mr. Alaa. Al’zeh--

To view our slide show in Alba'qa Refugee Camp click here:

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