Art Classes for Syrian Refugee Kids
The Inside-Outside Project in Europe gives refugee children a voice through their art and portraits, and our classes give them skills for psychological resilience. We will follow the refugees' trail from Turkey to Europe, teaching art classes and documenting the refugee experience through photographic portraiture and children's art.
March 28 – June 18, 2017
Take a boat trip from Turkey, across the Aegean Sea to Greece; from there, go through Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, and Austria into Germany. This is the trail through Europe that most refugees have taken to find a new home, a safe country where help and jobs are the easiest to find. Some have found new lives in Germany and the Netherlands, but many others are trapped along the way.
This is the second phase of the Inside-Outside Project. Before, we met children in Turkey who recently fled the war zone to safety. This time, we will travel the refugee trail to work with children in each country — including some of the children we met in Turkey! In each country, we will collaborate with local humanitarian organizations, and we will donate lesson plans and art supplies.
(Video: David speaks at the World Affairs Council in San Francisco)
The program teaches refugee children expressive arts skills to help them deal with their difficult lives. Our program combines art classes for refugee children, portrait photography, and teacher training with a public awareness campaign featuring the drawings and portraits of the kids we work with. We get people directly involved with refugee children by connecting American and European classrooms with refugee children to share art and experiences.
The Inside-Outside Project discovers, documents, and frees the children’s inner voices. We teach them new ways to express and deal with the difficulties they face. We teach them how to rediscover hope for the future.
Who We Are
The Inside-Outside Project is led by David Gross, a photojournalist with 18 years’ experience. David covered wars in Kosovo, Macedonia, and Iraq. He led the previous phase of the project in Turkey and Beirut to create the drawings and photographs presented here.
Mieke Strand is also a photographer with a background in art history and education.
This project is a collaboration. We have reached out to our professional network, and professional journalists and activists across the Balkans volunteering their time and connections.
Where the Money Goes
The money you donate will be used to pay for art supplies for children, food and lodging, translators and fixers, and travel costs for a 1,926 mile (3,100 km) trip by car through from Athens to Amsterdam. We may also have to pay for lodging for professional art therapist volunteers.
The project begins March 29, 2017, when David leaves for Europe. We return to the USA on June 18, after almost three months on the road.
Why This Project Matters
We hope you will support the project, because it is an important gift for the children who have lost so much, and have so little. Sure, an hour respite from daily life in an art class may seem like a small thing — but don’t you remember important events from your childhood? Moments that stand out, when you discovered something new and powerful, perhaps a life lesson that changed who you became? These art classes have that power for children in need.
Because, the work we do isn’t just fun for the kids — we are giving the children psychological tools for resilience. We are giving them ways to express and handle the fears and the anger that children feel when the world is unjust. We are giving them time to rediscover hope for the future when everyone around them only talks about the war.
We believe in this work. We’ve seen how important — how positive — these classes are for the children, in Turkey and Lebanon, and we’ve seen how it moves people around the world.
We have been working on this project since 2013. We have volunteered hundreds of hours into the project, including designing and printing exhibitions, designing web sites, creating training programs, and testing art exchange programs with schools. We’ve paid for exhibition prints, travel, web servers, and more. But it is not enough!
We will appreciate whatever you can donate. One of the things we hear most often from refugees is that it helps them to know people are hearing their stories, that we haven't forgotten them. Your donation will bring their stories to the world.
Please support this work. It will mean a lot to us, and even more to the children.
We thank you, and they will thank you.
We are currently assembling the print rewards! If you have a print reward coming, then you should have received a survey from us a few weeks ago, with the available print options. Thank you to those of you who have made your selection already!
We sent another reminder today. If you did not receive either email, and you would still like your reward print, please send us an email. You can email Mieke directly: miekestrand (at) gmail.com
Thank you again for your support!!
-David & Mieke
We're excited to announce that there will be an exhibition of work from the project at the Art Gallery at Cal State-East Bay. The opening reception will be Sept. 26, 5:30 - 7:30pm, and we'd love to see you there!
You'll find all the relevant information in the attached flyer.
Thank you again for making this work possible!
All our best,
David & Mieke
It's been awhile since our last update, and we have a lot of news to share!
The first news is that we decided in June to extend our trip by a month. It took awhile longer than we had hoped to set up classes in each country, and it was important for us to work in our last 2 countries: Germany and the Netherlands. Refugees in these countries have, for the most part, reached their desired destination, unlike those we met in Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Austria. Their experiences are an important piece of the story.
In Germany, David was able to teach classes at 4 different schools in Berlin, 1 in Cologne (Köln), and 1 in Rottenburg. The attached images are from a class in Cologne (Köln).
The first is a portrait of Khatira, 19 years old, from Afghanistan. The second is a portrait of Khatira holding her drawing of a "Bad Day" memory, and describing it to the class. Khatira's bad day was one of fighting and violence in her home town in Afghanistan. The final image is a Thank You note to David from the class in Cologne, written in German. They thank him for sharing a fun time with them, and say they'd love to have him return in the future.
Thank you again to everyone who has made this work possible. We return to the U.S. in a week, and we'll continue to share the inspirational stories we've heard along the way. You all have had a very important role in touching the lives of the children and young adults we've met, and they are all most grateful, as are we.
Greetings from Vienna!
On Sunday, David will be starting classes here with a group of Syrian refugee children. We've included a photo of the art supplies for those classes: paint, paint, and more paint!
We're also very happy to be working again with one of our partners from the first round of the project: Tamador. Tamador is a Syrian psychologist who taught classes with us in 2014 in Turkey. She now lives in Vienna, and we are so fortunate to be collaborating with her again.
Thanks again to you all!
Mieke & David