Puppets for Refugees 3

Getting to know each other takes a little time. I thought it was going to be really tough going, but by our 3rd time together at one of the squats, we were getting along fine and the children were soon being very creative. With the boxes we’d picked up on our way to the workshop, a young boy started building; balancing and toppling until this got boring and we worked out what else we could do. After a little re-arranging and assembling, we found ourselves making a dog together: big box for the body; pastry box with silver lid for the head with opening mouth… Pierce a few holes; thread with string; add pine cone for a nose; paint it blue and off he went with his new pet! We’d have been totally lost without a creative activity for us to engage in and make something together.

 

Shadow Play – Playing and experimenting with light and shadows is the most simple and engrossing of activities I’ve ever come across. I love the way it incisively cuts through any preconceptions or limiting self-beliefs about being any good at drawing or being creative – with adults and children. It’s quick to set up see effects; zero-budget costs; open to interpretation; requires no definite structure; easy to participate in and always involves fun and playing together!

We’ve done sessions in various places with sometimes different kids each time – sometimes the same. Quite often with kids not going to school. Working alongside others at places like City Plaza providing activities for children. Toddlers to teens – loving having something fun to do. At times all we’ve had to take is a pillowcase; scissors; card; chopsticks and a lamp…

Keep it simple

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At one place we hung up a white bed sheet for a screen, but I could only use the lamp at if the mains was switched on, which also meant the overhead light coming on and cancelling out any shadow effect. Solution: Make masks. Meanwhile the sun comes out, we move the sheet by the window and make sun-shadows!

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Learning to talk… Greek, Arabic, Farsi – and English! Running activities at Khora means I can get along to language lessons taught there for children and adults. I’ve not attempted learning any language since failing miserably and defeatistly at school. So to find myself sitting in a classroom, nearly 30 years later, faced with decoding the Greek alphabet was pretty overwhelming. Fortunately Janis is a good teacher. There’s nothing worse than resorting to grunting and pointing or being too hung up to say “Marhaba!” – Nothing more frustrating than repeating “Yes!” in English and hearing “Nai!” back in Greek! In a humbling way, this common-lack of shared language makes us more equal and we can only help each other out, laughing at ourselves along the way.

‘A – Effort, D – Achievement. Room for improvement!’ (School report c.1979)

I’ve been to a few Greek lessons now and I’m really enjoying it. Looking back, school was a terrible learning environment. Here, I’m fascinated and intent on grasping a few basics – at least enough to survive politely when buying a loaf of bread. Arabic and Farsi are at least as important to know something of. I’ve only been to one Arabic lesson so far and this might take some time! But the surest way to learn is to talk has to be to ask and try: To communicate respectfully and connect with other human beings. Step out of that ever-so English awkwardness!

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