Expressive Arts Refuge

Expressive Arts Refuge (EAR) has been uplifting the lives of youth in refugee camps and conflict zones since 2016. EAR is a mash-up of musicians, educators and Arabic-speakers who jump in and lead summer music programs, pro-bono, in some of the most challenging conditions.

The EAR team taught and performed with youth and adults who fled war or conflict zones in Syria, Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Iraq.  Some live in Jerusalem.

In our first year, we worked for 8 weeks at Calais Jungle refugee camp in France. We organized 3 concerts on makeshift stages, showcasing refugee youth and adults who performed with EAR musicians. EAR assisted with the production of a play titled To Be or Not, written and acted by refugees. The play toured France to national acclaim.  From 2017-2019, EAR expanded its programs to Athens, Greece; Sour, Lebanon; and Jerusalem.  Our partners included Caritas, Hope School, LEAP, and Jerusalem Youth Chorus.

EAR is entering a new phase. Founder and director Betsy Blakeslee is writing a novel about Calais Jungle with an Iranian co-author. Betsy has been interviewing refugee friends from Calais Jungle to incorporate their stories into the novel. In summer 2020, she will meet with her Iranian co-author to further the novel. Your donations will defray the costs of researching and co-writing with a refugee whose identity and participation must remain confidential.

Each member of the EAR team has self-funded their own travel and accommodations. Rather than start a new gofundme for each year's program, EAR keeps adding new funding to its existing account. EAR has used funds to buy essential items for refugees, and in 2019 to pay Jerusalem Youth Chorus staff to translate, facilitate dialogue, and administrate a teen music camp we co-produced. For the previous programs, Betsy Blakeslee and Tawfic Halaby filled those roles, pro bono, with the help of the EAR team and partner organizations.

The EAR team has included: singer / songwriter Moira Smiley, World Harmony Chorus & EAR director Betsy Blakeslee, Arabic singer and translator Tawfic Halaby,
educator / author / summer camp director Judy Kranzler and her assistant Andy Wyrobek, educator / singer Sydney Lea, choral director / composer / facilitator Austin Willacy, Tami Halaby -- ESL teacher, choral director / singer Dave Watts, singer / facilitator Kym McCourt, and performance artist Tarek Halaby. 

In the 1990s, EAR director Betsy Blakeslee developed and ran expressive art programs to enrich the lives of youth in wartime Bosnia. The EAR team has adapted those programs to new populations each summer.

Thank you for your support!  Any size donation is greatly appreciated. Read more at Betsy's blog:

Thank you!
  • jan cook 
    • $50 
    • 17 mos
  • Jean and Paul Barnhart 
    • $50 
    • 19 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $150 
    • 19 mos
  • betsy blakeslee 
    • $58 
    • 20 mos
  • Karen Burt-Imira 
    • $190 
    • 28 mos
See all


Betsy Blakeslee 
Orinda, CA
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