Sa-wat-dee-kha, Namaste, Hello,

Sa-wat-dee-kha, Namaste, Hello,  
      May this post find you happy and well wherever you may be in the world. 
My name is Marichelle but you can just call me by my Thai nickname Malli  (Jasmine Flower). I hail from a small town called Bend, located in the state of Oregon. Where there still are more trees than people and the most delicious water you'll ever drink. ( OK I admit I'm a bit biased).  
   I would describe myself as a curious individual, that loves to create and learn. I have a great passion for learning about new cultures and the ever-changing world around me.  
The things I enjoy doing are volunteering, organic farming , African dance, horseback riding, archery, writing poetry, meditation, yoga and reading. 
    My relationship with the arts is very strong. As a child I was endowed with the ability to create. Whether it was painting, drawing, writing, singing, dancing it didn't matter as long as I was able to express myself. I felt a release that has made me appreciate and always come back to it. This love of the arts has surrounded me and has become a driving force in my life. By making every effort to be involved in the arts and make connections in my community and the world at large. For I believe it is a vital tool that we can use to overcome obstacles and create a more diverse and understanding world for our children to inherent. 

  I am also an alumni of the wonderful Independent abroad organization of Carpe Diem Education. Where I took a gap year and spent 3 months traveling in Northern India, learning, volunteering with different NGO's and doing academic studies. Where I focused on Buddhist Philosophy, India's modern Art movement, Aboriginal Art and Psychology. During that time, I fell in love with life and its mystery's and began to see my dream of becoming an Art Therapist as a reality.   
       My dream began with an intention but since has manifested into actions. And now I find that my journey has taken me to the beautiful free land of Thailand where I have been traveling for the last three weeks, becoming more familiar with her people and current issues that face the minority populations in Thailand. That being said I am beyond grateful  for the opportunity to work with Cultural Canvas and the Art Relief International for the next month to learn and grow and where I hope that I can contribute to others and help them find the sunshine in their lives.   



Collaborating on the Debris Project

When Lee Lee first approached us about Debris I got really excited about the ecology and the message of her international project. Aiming to teach about the global impacts of single use plastic on not only the environment but on us as humans, her logic is to bring the message to youth. They are the young questioning and open minds of the future who will help us to unveil just how harshly this material is affecting everything. Lee Lee collects images of the pieces that have been created and continues to set up interactive installations at galleries and educational institutions around the world to bring awareness to the cause. 

While she was doing a residency in Chiang Mai, we got the chance to meet with her and learn more about Debris. During our first workshop with her, we also learned that she keeps the art making process very open ended. She first teaches about how marine life are suffering from ingesting toxins from the plastic, which then translates to chemical burdens in land dwelling animals and humans. Once the participants have understood this, she asks them to create a piece of art inspired by these teachings. She brings along bottle caps, straws, and other forms of plastic that she has collected in Chiang Mai, making the project very localized. Usually, she says, she allows the student to collect used plastic from their homes during a specific time period for them to really understand the amount of plastic that we actually use. Another important material she encourages for this project is fused plastic bags that make a stronger plastic and can look quite beautiful. She teaches older students how this process works and encourages them to use their creativity to find beauty in this so called waste. 

After collaborating with Lee Lee at Wat Meun Neun Kong during our weekly visit to host a drop in after school arts class, we could see that this project could raise a lot of awareness about the use of plastic. I come from North America, where plastic usage is beginning to be understood and it's common for people to use their own bags for groceries, and to use a stronger bottle to carry water instead of buying something off the shelf, among other things. But in places like Thailand there isn't a lot of awareness about the usage of plastic and every trip to a 7/11 or a street food vendor means you'll collect more than one plastic bag before getting the chance to say you don't want a bag in the first place, not to mention all the wrapping and packaging of each item. The awareness just isn't there. So we tried to bring the project to all of the public schools we work with in Chiang Mai including Wat Pa Pao, Wat Kuang Sing, and Wat Ku Kam hoping that we could bring some awareness to them in a creative way. 

The students all responded very positively to the process. They seemed to get inspiration from all the plastic and focused intently on their pieces. Because of the ever changing nature of the ocean, Lee Lee allows the students to combine different materials in different ways without glueing them down. We tried to be quick with our cameras to catch some of the interesting creations that the students experimented with. 

Once we had reached out to the students, we sent the photos to Lee Lee for her to rework them. We had the opportunity to include the Debris project in our annual exhibition so we showcased the photos outside of a large metal framed bottle filled with plastic (all collected from what we used at our office). This was such a collaborative piece that so many people got to be a part of and we are so happy to have been able to bring this project to the community in such a way.

We also got the chance to work with John and the kids from the Stratton ABC foundation who were working on their own very special version of the project. The kids came up with the idea to create a plastic demon made solely out of plastic. When we arrived to give them a hand they were just finishing this step and were looking for ways to keep him strong and supported. We added some wire to secure his body to a chair and his head to his body and when we returned the second time, Chevy the demon had skin and a face and he was alive and well. We all painted his environment outside on one of the foundation's walls where he is emerging from the flames of a plastic landfill, ready to warn us about the dangers of plastic. 

A big thank you to Lee Lee for reaching out to us here in Chiang Mai. 
We hope the project continues to educate and inspire people to make a change, daily. 

Emma Gabriel
Art Director- Art Relief International

If you'd like to learn more about the Debris project, check out Lee Lee's website at 

To release your creature into the 'Ocean' art installation, send a .jpg of your piece to the.debris.project@gmail.com, or tag it in Instagram @the_debris_project.

Animal Kingdom

Hi Everyone! 
A new adventure at Baan Kingkaew, our little 2 year old orphans.
We decided to do a workshop in which we would make animal masks and later engage the kids in drama/imaginary play. Since they didnt move one single body-part the last time we tried to do a similar thing with them, I was kind of nervous this time around. It seemed like a christmas miracle when the children were crawling, growling, meowing, jumping and laughing while acting out the animals.

There were mice, tigers, elephants, cats, dogs and pandas all over the place!
When we asked them to make a sound like a tiger, we got a 'RAAAAARRHW'. When we asked them to make a sound like a mouse, we still got a 'RAAAARRRHW'. Where are those oscars?


fingerprint zoo with Young Lions

Most kids love animals, so, for the after school community art class with the Young Lions I decided to draw a zoo with them - but without utilizing brushes, markers or something like this. It is always awesome when you are able to use your body in art instead of working with items. I wanted to share this experience, so we created our animals of the very same shape: the fingerprint. Just by adding some lines and blurs there suddenly appear cute characters! 
- Tony


STEP! with Thai Freedom House

On the 10th of November, I was given the honor to host the workshop focused on Joy and Laughter with the group of students from Thai Freedom House. Coming from a background of dance and performing stepping routines in my sorority, Mu Sigma Upsilon Sorority, Inc. I decided to show the kids that music can be made from anything, including your bodies! The art of stepping, coming from African roots and popularized by African American sororities and fraternities, is a form of percussive dance in which the participant's entire body is used as an instrument to produce complex rhythms and sounds through a mixture of footsteps, spoken word, and hand claps.

The goal of the workshop was to have the kids learn a two-part step routine, with a bass beat and step performed simultaneously, and a competition afterwards between two groups! Things, as it happens to any lesson when working with kids, did not quite go as planned. With a big class size, various ages, and various rhythmic capabilities, the learning curve for the step was much slower than hoped during the 2 hour workshop.

Practicing and perfecting the step :)

However, with improvisation, we shifted the focus to a big class wide collaboration step. So, we divided half the class to learn the first part of the step, and the other half to learn the second part of the step. After a few practice rounds with each group, we were finally ready to create our step masterpiece!

Although the workshop did not go exactly as planned, there were a lot of laughs, smiles, step music making, and overall fun! I am so proud of the group for trying with so much enthusiasm! Success in a nutshell to me!

Jamelia :)

Urban Light Halloween Workshop!

Today I led my first workshop with Urban Light.  I was pretty excited to have a Halloween theme.  As a face painter, it is my busiest time of year as people know who to go to when they want some scary painting!  Urban Light were having a Halloween party, so it was all about party prepping.  We made decorations and had a face painting demo.

First up was trash bag spiderwebs.  I was really pleased that we had quite a few participants and the staff were all eager to join in.  I was pretty nervous as I was teaching the workshop in Thai (even though I had a skilled translator by my side!)  Luckily it was mainly demonstrational.  They were a little hesitant to begin with, but it was really nice to see how accomplished the guys looked as they completed their spiderwebs.  The trash bags are pretty slippery and can be quite difficult to work with. 

The real fun began when we started the face painting.  It was quite hard to get a volunteer to paint on at first, but the look on their faces after I handed them a mirror after it was done was priceless.  One even declined a wet wipe and chose to go out with his zombie face, proudly might I add. 

The men can be a bit reserved so I was really happy to see them having fun.  There was a nice communal vibe amongst them and the staff.  I hope their party was a success and their spooky creations went down a treat!


Greetings from Western Australia!

Hey, my name’s Claire.  I’m volunteering with Art Relief International for three weeks.  I have always been involved in the arts in some way.  From fine arts, to interior and spatial design, graphic design and tattooing.  I also taught art to kids and have a face painting business.

A snippet of my art

I’m very interested in the role art therapy plays in working with emotions that we sometimes cannot find the words for.  I first discovered art therapy when I would instinctively use it to cope with the deterioration of my husband who had Motor Neurone Disease.  I’ve seen firsthand how scary it can be to have the world you once knew change right in front of you.  I put a lot of energy in thinking of new and creative ways to help him feel included, when his disability felt like such a setback to him at times.  We had trips around Europe in the backyard, complete with flight tickets, souvenir stands and cheesy music…  Petting zoos…  Whatever I could bring to him, I did!

After going through such a life changing experience, I became more interested in healing modalities.  That combined with my love of art just seemed to naturally translate to art therapy.  I’m looking to study when I go back but wanted to experience it firsthand before that.  I’m really loving the workshops I’ve been doing so far.  It’s been really helpful to have a Thai background as it’s a massive bonus to be able to speak Thai with the different groups.  I especially enjoy working with the kids.  I think no matter what, the most important thing is to feel like you are being seen and heard, even if your voice feels so small.  Art as a vehicle for self expression is a very powerful thing!



Making Murals and Collaborating on the Debris Project with Stratton ABC Foundation

Mural painting was a huge success with the kids at Stratton ABC Foundation. They are not strangers to mural painting at all, they have a big fence around their property which they have covered in various painted images. I was so impressed and excited that we were going to be able to do what I had planned for us to do: Make a 3D mural that the kids can interact with afterwards! I planned for them to make an angel wing mural. They did such a great job! The atmosphere of the day was light and fun and it was such a pleasure to work with these kids.

Working hard on painting the dragon wings, and measuring to make sure that they are the right size for the children.

I was so happy that one of the children were inspired to create a second mural, dragon wings. Of course! Dragon wings for boys and angel wings for girls. He designed them all by himself - such an

 One of the girls at the home had her 15th birthday the week that we were coming and I thought that it would be nice to celebrate it a little with her, so I found a no-bake cake recipe and made it as best that I could with Thai ingredients. It was so delicious - sugar and chocolate, everything that is good in

The workshop was a total success and the kids had a great time as well as the other volunteers. I was so thankful that we were able to work with this organization. The day was full of laughs, paint attacks
(on me by other volunteers), cake, water balloons, and amazing mural making. 

 We almost finished the dragon wings, they look awesome! We left some supplies so that the children can finish them on their own.

Another project that we had helped the kids with a few weeks before was the creation of a demon made purely from recycled single use plastic. The kids worked on making the core of the body out of water and juice bottles then covered the whole thing in fused plastic from shopping bags.  We helped them to stabilize the body and make him strong, and to paint a mural outside to create a special environment for him. There is nature and a landfill where he emerges from the fire to give warning and awareness about the impact of plastic usage. This collaboration was part Lee Lee's Debris project which does exactly that: raise awareness about the impact of single use plastic.  To learn more about this international project check out


Chevvy the demon is now traveling around northern Thailand with John, the founder of Stratton ABC Foundation to raise awareness about the organization and to raise some funds. You can check out his page here!


Thank you for helping make this workshop so wonderful for me. I had a blast!
- Natalie


Jones, Jamelia Jones :)

Hi everyone!!

As you read in the title, I am Jamelia Jones, a Jersey-born, Georgia raised girl ready to take ARI and its mission by storm! As recent graduate from The University of Georgia with two bachelor degrees in Criminal Justice and Psychology, most people wonder how I ended up in the creative arts field in Thailand. Well, I sometimes feel the same as I sit in the office planning workshops, ha!

However, the arts, especially music, dance, creative writing, and poetry have been a part of my life since I was a little girl. Growing up, I was very shy, and I used music, writing, and dance to create "characters" that expressed my emotions and thoughts in ways I could not. These activities were outlets that brought me out of my shell, and created a lively, giddy, and outright outrageous individual!

Three major experiences have been the leading factors in my journey to Thailand: my faith as a Christian woman, an internship with the Athens District Attorney's Office working with the Juvenile Victim Advocates, and volunteering with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Athens along with other youth organizations in the area. During these experiences, I realized the need for society, especially our youth, to be brought back to a powerful and inspirational environment that cultures love, peace and serenity. The arts, especially positive music and engaging songwriting, are the best vehicle, in my opinion,  for the global movement I plan to begin! If the creative arts influenced me to be more open, imagine what the arts fueled with the love of the Creator within me can do? Thus, the 3 months I have with Arts Relief International is the perfect opportunity for me to challenge myself, learn, and grow into the leader I am meant to be!

In a room full of people, I laugh the loudest, love the hardest, and the most willing to take any adventure presented to me. Thailand, you and I are about venture on a wild ride, and I couldn't be happier :)

Making Poi with Young Lions

Yesterday The 27th of October I got the chance to lead my first workshop. How exciting! I decided to make poi with the kids. Poi are used as part of a performance dance and originate from the Maori people in New Zealand. I've always had loads of fun playing and performing with poi and I thought that as the Young Lions are an energetic bunch they would enjoy something that would keep them physically busy.

I definitely had a case of the first time nerves, but there was no need to be nervous at all. The Young Lions are a group of kids from the surrounding neighborhood who come once a week to the office for an hour and a half to take part in a fun workshop. The number varies every week, it just depends on who feels like showing up that week.

I was glad that there weren't too many kids this week because poi making was more challenging an activity than I expected. As there were only a few kids I could give them all the individual attention they needed to make their own set of poi.

The low numbers also meant that there was lots of room in the yard for them to play with the poi, swinging them around and making patterns, without them hitting one another.

Each kid successfully made a set of poi which they had loads of fun playing with after the making part was finished. They then learnt a few poi moves and after the workshop had a new skill and a new toy for them to play with and take home. All round I think it was a very successful workshop.

The time went so quickly and when I was told that it was already time for the kids to have their frozen juice and head home I couldn't believe an hour an a half had passed already. Time flies when you're having fun!

Look at that face of concentration! 

Poi in action

Riona :-)