The HAT Program Piloted with Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

We have exciting news! We have been working to adapt our Healing Arts Toolkit for use with refugees, and in March our HAT curriculum was piloted with Syrian refugees in Lebanon. One of our partners conducted an arts program for teens in Beirut and also in a tent camp in the Bekaa Valley near the Syrian border, reporting back to us that it was an amazing experience.

The feedback she provided will help us fine-tune our approach with refugee communities as we examine what worked well and where they needed to make adjustments.

The favorite activity was drawing on chalk cloth while listening to instrumental music that was provided by one of the Lebanese leaders. The participants explained that music in their culture is associated with dancing. Listening to peaceful music while drawing was a completely new experience, and they loved it.

During the drum circle time, the participants struggled to imitate the rhythms included in the curriculum, but once the leader switched to a rhythm that they recognized from their culture, they almost instantly picked it up.

Our partner had brought along simple canvas backpacks, and on the last day the teens decorated these and then had an awards ceremony. They were extremely excited to go home with a certificate and full backpack. In addition to the drum and journal, she also gave each of them a box of crayons, a box of chalk, a piece of chalk cloth, and a bag of hot chocolate mix.

The cocoa mix wasn’t originally part of the plan, but was a great example of necessity leading to creativity. It was a challenge to find and collect empty cans in Lebanon for the drums. But when they found cheap cans of hot chocolate mix, they bought 30 and emptied the contents ahead of time, enabling the participants to create their drums and also return home with a treat.

In the Bekaa Valley tent camp they only had two days with twenty-four teens. They met in a tent that was used as a school. Like in Beirut, the teens were very engaged and loved the program, in spite of limitations.

Our partner reported, “We received great feedback from everyone involved everywhere we went. Recognizing and sharing their feelings was pretty new, but doing this around art really helped. The need for this is huge! Not only are there almost 2 million refugees living in Lebanon, but there are few organizations there helping them with emotional regulation, interpersonal skills or self awareness. One volunteer working in the tent camp told me that almost any activity or play quickly turns violent amongst the boys. They’ve been taught few (if any) skills to cope with what they’ve been through.

There are likely leaders from Syria, Jordan and Lebanon who would attend a First Aid Arts training hosted in that region. Having been there, it’s my dream to help make this happen. I thank God for First Aid Arts and the opportunity I had to share it with Syrian refugees! I’m committed to help in any way I can.”

As you can imagine, all of us at First Aid Arts are filled with gratitude by this report, and we’re more eager than ever to see the healing power of the arts reach into refugee communities around the world, bringing hope and beauty where fear and pain have dominated for so long.

Thank you for partnering with us in this exciting work.