Choose Your Moves, Young Lions!

Growing up, I remember fortune tellers being one of the most popular recess or lunchtime games. Also known as "cootie catchers", we used our amateur origami skills to predict our futures. First, we'd pose a yes/no question. Then we'd choose a color on the outside flaps and spell it out, opening and closing the mouth of the fortune teller for every letter. We picked a number on the inside, counted it out, and then picked another number. The answer to our question was underneath the number flap: "yes", "no", "maybe so", "no way", 'try again", "I think you know"... We could spend hours asking questions and choosing our destinies!

I decided fortune tellers would be an awesome way to teach our Young Lions some English words, and get them out of their seats at the same time! What was also exciting to see was that the kids were familiar with fortune tellers, and some knew how to fold the fortune tellers already. It was amazing to see this connection between their childhoods and my own (maybe I'm not so old school, after all)! But for this workshop, we used the fortune tellers for something totally different: instead of writing answers to yes/no questions, the Young Lions wrote down English words they could act out. They'd take turns choosing their moves, and at the same time they learned those moves in English.

The Lions loved it. In no time they were dancing, smiling, jumping, and hiding - which was great for their limitless energy. It was a great way to get the kids moving and playing together. They also had a game they could take home with them and use to teach others English words with colors and moves!
It's great to see that even the silliest childhood games can be educational and fun at the same time. What a great first workshop for me to lead. Thanks for making it so fun, Young Lions! 


Unfortunately we will be stopping the Young Lions after school program for a few weeks since we have recently moved our office to a new location. Although we will truly miss the friends we've made in our old neighbourhood, we are excited to reach out to some new children who are ready to take on the role of being a Young Lion. 


Say Whattttt?! Africa in France??

Africa, oh Africa how the world loves thee, your music especially!
As a lover of music, daily I expand my ear's palette by listening to different genres, from various cultures and languages. For my workshop with Wat Pa Pao, a school that we visit every Friday to work with a class of P5 students, I was inspired to do focus on this after spending a day listening to French music for hours! The styles of French music range from classical to modern sounds, reflecting the country's diversity by immersing influences from other music styles.

One of France's popular international artists Stromae, mixes genres all the time and it is apparent in his song "Papa ou t'ai", (Dad, where are you in English) which includes techno synth pop beats, and drums from Congolese music! To stay true to my love of dance, I decided to take a page from Just Dance's book and fuse African dance moves with this French pop song!

At the beginning of the workshop, I showed the students a 5 minute video depicting the history of French music. They were bored at first, as classical French music is slow and soulful, but as the music became more modern, it sped up and the students became more engaged. They actively participated in our discussion of the music and even created vocabulary words of: Beat, Genre, Rhythm, and Congo! However, much like me, they were really anticipating dancing!

Young children adapt quickly to things presented to them, and the African dancing wasn't any different. Many giggles were voiced as I showed them the moves, the double arm swing and jump especially, but after only a few times of practice, they all got the moves down perfectly. The two boys in the classroom made me modify a few dance moves for them because they were "too girly". I tried to explain how many men in Africa utilize their entire body (hips and all) while dancing, buuutttt they weren't having it, haha!

As we recorded the video of the student dancing without my lead, a rush of pride filled me up! They were AWESOME and even adding some moves and variations of their own! They were so excited and continued dancing, then excitedly wrote down the name of the song for later listening! This class of students from Wat Pa Pao stole my heart that day!
- Jamelia :)


A Journey of a Thousand Miles...

They say that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and that is exactly what happened at our last workshop with the boys at the Juvenile Detention Center. Since our lovely volunteer, Tony, headed back to Germany on Sunday, we decided to give the guys a chance to send their thoughts and feelings with her on that 8,000+ mile journey. How did we accomplish this? By making watercolor postcards! We started off by teaching them two new watercolor painting techniques - sponge textures and wax resist with white crayons.

Once the boys understood that they had the chance to make their own unique designs, they excitedly set to work on their creative process. It was a very peaceful and fun time, and the innovative nature of many boys came out as they tried out their own techniques by combining sponges, paintbrush strokes, crayons, and markers. They took ownership of their work, and some even begged for more postcards that they could design and keep for themselves!

We then encouraged the boys to reflect on a message that they would want to share with someone they love back at home, as well as a message that they would want to share with a stranger all the way across the world. The boys especially enjoyed the thought of having their words read by people in Germany, and some were even disappointed that the size of postcards did not give them enough space to write everything they wanted to say!

This was a wonderful workshop to see how well connected these guys are to their inner feelings, and for us to feel more connected to them too. I am sure that whoever is lucky enough to receive one of their artistic postcards is in store for some genuine beauty of expression.

- Shellie


Kids are the Greatest Dreamers

How do you see yourself in the future? What goals do you want to achieve? What's your dream job? Which one is your greatest wish? What do you need to be happy in the future?

When you get older sooner or later you will be asking yourself those questions, like everyone else all over the world is doing as well. But what happens if you ask kids between five to twelve years old? Kids are dreamer, they have a big imagination and sometimes they live in a whole different world. Apart from the haste of life, competition and adult life, they live day by day. Kids laugh about 400 times a day, while adults only laugh 15 times per day. So why should we want to grow up? What do kids dream of?

I started this experiment with the boys and girls from the temple school at "Wat Muen Ngen Kong", where most of the participants are about five or six years old. We made frames out of popsicle sticks and decorated them with different drawn designs. I asked them to draw a picture of themselves in the future and to create some kind of "future photo". Some of them drew nurses or doctors, others dreamt of being a soldier and some to go to space as an astronaut. There were also pictures of happy families in front of their houses. Simple, but they know that what you really need in life is love.

- Tony

All That Jazz at Wat Pa Pao School

As a passionate music geek in jazz, symphony, and movie soundtracks, I decided to create a workshop for the students at Wat Pa Pao that would give them the chance to learn about and experience the emotive power of instrumental music that can be so valuable in telling a good story. With this in mind, I launched into the workshop by giving the students a brief historical background on jazz music. Then, we listened to individual clips of the major instruments used in jazz bands, and for each one I asked the students to analyze the different musical sounds and to give me characteristics of the trumpet, piano, saxophone, double bass, and drums.

It was exciting to see the students really listening to these instruments and identifying the qualities of their sounds! It seemed that this way of thinking about music might have been new to most of the participants, so it was a bit of a challenge to find the words to describe the sounds they were hearing. Nevertheless, they engaged with the activity and displayed that they could distinguish between the soft smoothness of the saxophone, and the sharp, fast, and loud nature of the drums.

After the students understood how each instrument has an important role in communicating the mood and lending to the story of the song, they had the chance to create their own individual instrumental stories, or movie scenes, to go along with Duke Ellington’s “Black and Tan Fantasy”. We passed around the colored pencils and paper, and the participants simply listened to the jazz song first to hear the interaction of the instruments, create characters for each, and brainstorm a story. The kids were magnificently focused, and the room was peaceful and chill as we replayed the song and let their drawings develop.

In fact, the students were so focused on creating their stories to “Black and Tan Fantasy” that many were not able to finish in the time that we had. But there’s more to come! We made sure everyone had their ideas written down and that they knew the name of the song so that they could continue their creative process throughout the week, and show us their finished products during our next visit to Wat Pa Pao school. I don’t know about you, but I am ecstatic to see the results!

Until next time : )



W.I.L.D.F.L.O.W.E.R African Dance!

After a deep group conversation with fellow ARI volunteers about the beauties of African culture, music, and history, I felt moved to expose others to my passion for African culture! What better way to be introduced to another culture than through dance? African dance styles influence many countries' dance styles, especially Latin America, as well as most of today's popular choreography.
Upon finding a YouTube video by The Dance Hall displaying a few of the current and traditional African dances from A-Z, I thought it would be so cool to spell out W.I.L.D.F.L.O.W.E.R through the corresponding dances!

The workshop went AMAZINGLY!! From the moment we viewed the YouTube video, the women were enthusiastic about participating in the workshop! We warmed up for about 5 minutes, and immediately jumped into the dance! The first letter was W  for the Wati Dance! The Wati utilizes both the arms and one leg for balancing, which was very fun for the girls to try out! Haha after a few attempts, we stopped balancing and just placed our foot on the ground and twisted our leg for effect! The girls got many of the dances without modification, but a few they did not have the mobility necessary, so we all contributed adequate changes to the dances :)

Here are the remaining letters and corresponding dances:
            I = Ikoku
            L = Logobi
            D = Dialgati
            F = Flekele
            L = Logobi
            O = Oriental (Belly Dancing)
           W = Wati Dance
            E = Epukay (Fan Dancing)
            R = Rimbaxpaxpax

As we added even letter to the dance sequence, the giggles, smiles, and sweating only increased! Although they may not remember the names of the dances, they surely got to experience a taste of the fast-paced world of African music! I wouldn't have had the workshop go any other way!

Final Product, Bloopers (by me!) and all!

Jamelia :)


Fruits, Trees, and Cuddly Things at Baan King Kaew Orphanage

A train of children aged 2-3 appeared in the horizon of Baan King Kaew, eagerly inching towards the volunteers. Smiles on their faces as they grasped for our attention. We countered their happiness with warmth, as we introduced colour pencils and fruit templates. At first, the children were ambitiously colouring Tang-mo (watermelon) in blue and Som (orange) in green. Soon, however, they were wailing and throwing colour pencils elsewhere, filled with excess morning energy.

Most of the volunteers, including me, just smiled and wondered at how the children were reacting to the activity. After 45 interesting minutes, the half-coloured fruit templates were collected, cut out of shape, and hung onto a prepared paper tree. The children, now focused on the legendary "Pepo" with her flowy hair in the wind, sat down and wistfully waited for the next set of instructions. Pepo started explaining the names of different fruits, in Thai and English, by using the templates that were hung on the tree. Pepo encouraged the children to chant the fruit names in both languages to help them remember this day. To finish our visit, a photo was taken to remember the of the exchange of gifts of soft toys brought by the members of the Bangkok Patana School Interact Club.
- Akshil


Colourful hands and high fives!

Another happy day at Hope Home...

Our wonderful volunteer Shellie came up with a great idea for the kids from Hope Home, a home for children with varying disabilities, and she called it "colourmixing handprints". Unfortunately she became sick on the day of the workshop so we took care to do this activity with the children.

We brought fingerpaint to colour Phrao and Little Guy's hands - you could see the amazement on their faces! Wether it was the tickling of the paint brush on their hands or it was just the shining paint, but we were amused to see their facial expressions. Everyone got to explore with the texture of the paint and the beautiful colours for a great sensory experience.

We let the kids make a handprint on a big sheet and then we were giving each other high fives while the colours mixed - then we made a new handprints with all the colours. It was so fun!

- Tony


Introducing Elizabeth Hash

Hello, world!

My name is Elizabeth Hash, aka Ellie, or Frizzy Lizzie, or just Hash - whichever you prefer! I come from the good ole state of Texas. I'm currently a senior at Texas Tech University, and I'm working on three bachelor's degrees: English/Creative Writing, Psychology, and Environment and the Humanities. I currently work at a local hospital in my hometown as an artist volunteer, and at my university's outdoor adventure program as a trip leader for caving, rock climbing, and canoeing trips. I'm planning on graduating this May, but not without going on a few more adventures!

And that's part of what brought me here to Chiang Mai, Thailand. Adventure can bring out the most beautiful and most honest aspects of people, and what better way to express and embrace those aspects than by making art with others? When I found Art Relief International, I knew it would be one of the best ways I could ever learn to grow and express with others who come from backgrounds completely different from my own. That's what the best adventures are all about! Investing in others, and learning about ourselves in the process.

What really drew me to Art Relief International, however, was my passion for art volunteer/art therapy programming. I am currently writing my undergraduate thesis, which emphasizes the immense value of having arts programs in communities and how those arts programs help individuals and groups alike heal and grow. Art is one of the most rewarding, revealing methods of healing, and I hope to introduce art to different programs all over the world one day. To write this thesis, I started working at a local hospital to make art with long-term child inpatients and antepartum inpatients (women with high-risk pregnancies). I fell in love with art volunteering, so, I packed my bags, flew to Thailand, and joined Cultural Canvas Thailand/Art Relief International.

Unfortunately, because I'm still in school and have to actually go to school to graduate in May, I'm only able to be part of ARI for three weeks. But ARI's mission embodies everything I have become most passionate about during my time in school, and so I plan to use every second of it to make a difference and inspire change in every way I can! I am fully convinced that along the way, ARI is going to inspire change in me as well. This is going to be one of my favorite adventures of a lifetime!


Should volunteers learn Thai or should we rather teach the Thai people English?

This past Tuesday I had my first workshop in the new year and as a special I started my first long-term project with the Young Lions as part of our after school community art class.
As time passes and - unfortunately - I'll have to leave ARI soon, I wanted to do something different than a regular workshop. Mostly, our daily workshops change something for the moment, our participants start thinking about certain things and make up their minds. With the end of the workshops the thoughts usually also stop. I wanted to do something that lasts longer!
In the past four months I've met many people and, regardless of whether at work or in my free time, I
had to realize that most of the Thai people aren't able to speak English. Especially at work it makes me really sad, because this language barrier builds sometimes an emotional barrier. Most of the time we aren't able to communicate with the participants, exchange our ideas, help them with problems or just have a chat. What can we do?

I think that all volunteers should learn a little more Thai than we do (we only know the basics), but that's a nearly impossible realization. Some volunteers just stay for two or three weeks and often that's even too little to get used to the culture. My planned long-term project is pretty much based on these thoughts. English has gotten more important in the past years and its importance will also grow in the future. So, we should try to give our participants a chance to get more used to this Western language and teach them English.

I want to start with one of my favourite groups, the Young Lions. Young Lions is a wild group with many capacities and curiosities and there are many options to work with them as they are pretty open to do just about anything. This project is not a huge one, but a project that can make a start to change something. I'll use easy learning styles that can be included in our actual art workshops - because we shouldn't forget that Art Relief International's main focus is art! 

Young Lions while brainstorming about words that they want to know in English.



Wat Pracha Kasem Viral Dance Moves Session

As part of a Bangkok Interact Club trip, myself and four others visited Chiang Mai to volunteer with Cultural Canvas Thailand in their Art Relief programme. As part of this programme, we visited Wat Pracha Kasem Hill Tribe School, to teach kids viral dance moves. We taught 4 sets of dance moves to two different age groups. To reflect on this great experience, we decided to write a rap:

As we woke up early in the morn’,
Rushed thru breakfast, thru our drivers blaring horn,
We took the van to the hill tribe school,
To teach them some dance moves we found cool.

First up were the little ones.
A few were shy, but they all had fun.
We started with the Whip/Nae Nae,
Then Albatross made the day.
Next up was Jackson’s Thriller,
And PSY’s Gangnam Style was a killa’.

When all rehearsals done,
We brought the kids together for a dance battle run.
It was green vs. purple, two sick gangs,
The former: Team Samakee, the latter: Team Chang.
It was a fierce battle, all guns blazing,
But everyone’s a winner; the moves were ‘mazing

We broke for lunch,
Played football with the bunch.
We started our second session,
With new moves for the lesson

Then we were back to Whip/ Nae Nae;
The Superman from Soulja boy got a little craz-ay.
Not as wild as Psy’s Daddy dance, though,
But the Party Rock Anthem stole the show.

Blue vs. Red this time in the older kids battle,
They kept coming into each other’s rooms to meddle,
Team blue was Poh-Ha-Samakee, and Team red Peter Pan.
All chanting team names as they danced.

It was soon time to end the day,
We gave Books, Pencils and Toys as gifts - a fitting testament to our stay.

Reflection: Overall, it was a great experience interacting with the kids, and it's certainly an experience I would like to have happen again. I learnt just as much as the kids did, and it was sad to say goodbye.

Written by: Akshaj (Achu) Balasubramanian


Songwriting Games with the Juvenile Detention Center!

Happy New Year!!!

I was granted the amazing opportunity to lead ARI's first workshop of 2016 on January 4th! The workshop involved individual and group songwriting exercises with 20 male students from the Juvenile Detention Center in Chiang Mai. The aim of this workshop was to use fun activities to introduce the students to writing lyrics with songs in mind, open channels of transparency through group collaboration, and improve their creative communication skills. I personally had not had the chance to work with these guys, so I was extremely nervous about bringing them activities that required so much openness!

The first activity was an Object Writing exercise! Divided into 4 groups of 5, each group was given a word (feather, umbrella, mirror, pillow) to write about in 5 minutes. They could write about anything that came to mind, as long as they never stopped and incorporated the 5 senses in their writing. Many of the guys ended up with cool stories, including napping under the stars, flying away like a bird, and even drawings of themselves in a mirror.

The next activity was a fun group Scaffold Game! The 4 groups had to change the lyrics of the chorus of each group's choice of song, with funniest logical lyrics being the winner! At first, the guys didn't quite understand what the assignment entailed, so the volunteers and I had to perform a remixed Happy song by Pharrell Williams. As silly as we looked, with me dancing and singing the new lyrics and the others performing the words to our song, the boys enjoyed the mini-show and got right to work! The genres of the songs the guys performed ranged from Thai-Pop to Country, and after 30 minutes of brainstorming and practicing, each group performed for everyone! Everyone did an amazing job! Highlights of the performances were the following: One group did an awesome dance sequence to their song, and another group had a member perform his own original song! I was impressed and smiling so hard it hurt!

As a wrap up activity, the entire group got into a circle and participated in the Exquisite Corpse Game (I don't understand the title either lol). The game starts with a random sentence and the first person has 1 minute to make a response by adding an additional verse line. The person must fold the paper so that only the recently added line is visible, and pass it to the next person to add their response verse. This continues on until each person adds a line to the collaborative story, which in the end makes for an interesting read!

Our stories (we started 2 stories on opposite ends of the circle going in different directions) were absolutely hilarious! One story, starting with "Life is like a box of chocolate" went into a story about cops saving kittens, and hoping to see a loved one soon! The second story "May the Force be with you" went from a hot, strong man to unrequited love and then to missing out on a special day of eating candy, like Hansel and Gretel! The creativity, laughs, and camaraderie in the room between the students and volunteers because of these stories was endearing! 

The guys killed these activities and I could not have been more proud! 

- Jamelia  :) 


Sensory play at Hope Home

Hello everyone, This week we went to Hope Home to try a modified version of the Colorful Sense Feely trays workshop that we had done the week before with these children who each deal with different disabilities.

We realized last time that the participants wanted to touch and explore the actual contents of the trays. So this time around we ripped the plastic barrier off. And used a deeper tray where we put marbles, shaving cream and food dye to create a feast for the senses. And then we also brought a cup with bubbles and a straw to blow and make bubble art. What a wonderful way to spend our time at Hope Home giving each child the opportunity to make a mess and experiment with the different textures of the trays. 

Each child responded according to their personality but overall it was so much fun letting them explore and feel the shaving cream squish between their toes only to find beautiful shinning cerulean marbles.  Then have all the colors of the rainbow mix to create a big mud bath where they slathered the cream all over their arms, feet, and hands. It was good to see that such joy can be experienced with the senses. Happiness is definitely in the small moments we are given each day. 

- Marichelle

It's a good thing they can't fly. Oh wait.


Since it was the last time for me visiting the cuties at Baan Kingkaew orphanage, I told everyone that I wanted to run the workshop so that I could implement my little plan. For this workshop I wanted them to have wings so they could fly to the Netherlands and visit me there!

I didn't know what kind of wings would be best suited for such a long distance, so I let them choose between different sorts. So we had dragon wings, angels wings, fairy wings, bird wings, butterfly wings. It was basically survival of the fittest. Charles Darwin would have been proud.  So after some hardcore decorating with stickers, markers and coloured pencils, we tested the wings by throwing the children in the air and spinning around. No children or volunteers were harmed in the process. 

May the force be with you,


ARI 2015 Year in Review

Happy New Year from ARI! While our team takes a break to relax in the South of Thailand, to visit family in their home countries, or to travel around Asia, we've also been reflecting on 2015. As the year comes to a close, it's hard to believe that my first year with ARI as the new art director has past so quickly. As I try to make sense of time, I am so amazed at the amount and variety of projects we've done with our wonderful participants and at how many international volunteers I've had the chance to meet and work with. Coming from Europe, North and South America, we've come together to work towards our common goals with the rest of the Cultural Canvas Thailand staff. It's been a lot of fun getting to know these guys, especially Dan Hales, the new assistant director who has become a true friend far from home. 

We kicked off the year strong with two visiting groups who spent a week with the ARI team learning about and getting involved in our program. Students from LaGrange College and the Patana Bangkok International School took part in lots of fun filled workshops at Wat Pratcha Kasem Hill Tribe School, Baan Nokkamin Foundation for girls, and other Wat schools in Chiang Mai.  As the year progressed we welcomed more visiting groups to spread the word about our efforts in the community and about the healing power of the arts. Each time we give these talks I'm reminded of why I am doing this work and am so grateful to be where I am, making art and helping people! 

It's been a year of learning and growth for ARI as we come closer to determining the needs of our participants and are aiming to offering our services to different groups in the community. At Hope Home, where children with disabilities find love and support, we have been focusing on music as we see that each child responds positively and curiously to sound. With our Young Lions after school community art lesson we focus on creating games for everyone to play together in our courtyard. With our toddlers we are including lots of role play to encourage them to explore self expression and with our Elderly group we aim to do projects that are easy for those with impaired vision and shaky hands. I'd Like to give a big thank you to our long term intern Inge Janssen who has written out some very useful information for future volunteers that will help us to evaluate how the participants are responding to our projects. She has been a tremendous help in assessing our program and in keeping us very goal oriented. Inge we will miss you! Our new partner organizations this year include a rekindled relationship with the Stratton ABC Foundation, Warm Heart Foundation in Phrao district and Baan Tammapakorn Elderly Care Centre.   

We've had some dedicated volunteers this year who have taken on extra projects during their time with us including a complete revamping of our supply room into a productive work space, several mural projects at the office, up to date information manuals and guides about our partner organizations, and a poster to advertise our weekly workshop at Urban Light (a drop in centre for boys victimized by sex trafficking). We are so grateful to have help in making our work environment more productive and fun! In July, the dedication really showed when our team wrote and implemented our first ever teachers training to help school teachers include art in their curriculum and promote sustainable arts education.

Our annual events were a huge success including an indiegogo campaign and satellite fundraiser where past volunteers, family and friends hosted parties around the world. Our exhibition Right of Passage was the most attended to date and included installation artwork from 10 of our partner organizations, hip hop and Chiang Mai Drama Centre performances, and a dancing crowd.  

Thank you to the worldwide community of supporters who continue to encourage us to make a difference by believing in the power of the arts. And thanks to you for reading and checking in on what we're up to! May you continue to look on the bright side of life :) 

Emma Gabriel