Our village park is of no comparison to the glories of London’s Hyde Park or New York Central Park. In fact, if you blink you will have passed it by but nevertheless it is a park, and a central gathering spot when the heat of the day begins to release its grip in the late afternoon hours.
Last Thursday we held a very sweet event there initiated by our Music Academy kids whose joy is simply spilling over. They wanted to take their music outside and play to children who maybe do not ever hear music. They spoke with our artists and thus Art in the Park was born, taking the Performing Arts to Shariya village.
As we were to discover this was a “first” on many levels. It was a first for our Shariya Camp students who had never crossed the invisible border into the village. It was a “first,” to my shock, for the village residents who had never seen such an event and lined up along the fence or on the sidewalk recording every minute with their cell phones. It was a “first” and definitely not the last.
Salam. Director of Art.
“I had never been to Shariya Park. This was my first time. I had driven by but never stopped to even look at it. When we decided to hold our art and music event in that park, I was so happy as I knew that people from every corner of the village visit there, as do all ages, from young kids to the elderly.
My students and I wanted to host an event where we could bring some joy to children and make a positive impact upon the community. My students were amazing, although they would have loved to sit and paint, they engaged with the village children who came, they helped them find paper or a canvas, they helped them to mix colors and decide what to paint.
It was so interesting because our camp kids have become used to seeing artist stands, and canvas frames as these elements are an integral part of our life and scenery but the children from the village had never seen such a thing. Some did not know how to even sit in front of a frame, some were scared of the blank white canvas, and some preferred to sit on the grass with a piece of paper and paint.
I was surprised to see that every child who came to the park wanted to draw, and all were happy and content whilst drawing or painting. We did not need to “control” only to guide and supervise.
I saw a ten year old girl crying, tears pouring out of her beautiful eyes. I asked her why she was crying, she replied that she had ruined her painting. When I told her that no painting was ever ruined, she stopped crying and sat to work on how to transform something that she saw as ruined into an even more beautiful painting.
It was encouraging to see the villagers flock to the park as word spread that there was Art in the Park. They came to see, they came to sing, and to record the event with their phones. They all said that this was a new thing in village culture and was a great support and service to our community. For me it was pure joy and delight to bring happiness from the camp into the village.”
Salam. Director of Art.
“The wisdom of bridges comes from the fact that they know both sides, they know both shores...” Mehmet Murat Ildan
Natik, Director of the Hope Academy of Music.
“Hello everybody, I am Natik, I was born in Shariya village and only connected with the refugees when I began to work with Springs of Hope Foundation. It has been a long journey for me, crossing many cultural differences, learning about a new community though my music students.
My students are so enjoying playing to people that they wanted to give music to kids who maybe never hear music or never sing. We made Art in the Park purely to give others a chance to be happy, and to sing. We know that there are many traumatized people in the village, not just those who fled Shingal. There are poor people who have no access to either art or music, both those from the village and those who have made their home there since 2014.
I am very glad that my students, all of whom live in tents, are now thinking about how to help others. They were saying that although many in the village live in houses, they are in poverty, sickness with a background of much suffering. It made me happy to know that my students want to make others happy.
There is nowhere like Springs of Hope in the village, nothing, no one to introduce the arts, or to invest in children in the way that we do in The Hope Centre. The atmosphere of the park changed. Mums with babies stopped to watch and listen. The police enjoyed every minute. Children came to me asking how they could register for art and music courses with us. Fathers came asking to bring their children to the camp. The atmosphere of the park was full of laughter, happiness and complete peace. It was a very special event. I am proud of our work.”
Natik, Director of the Hope Academy of Music.
Aras. Music student.
“Art in the Park showed me yet another way that SOHF sees and takes care of everyone in the community. Today we took our joy and shared our love with the kids of the village both locals and those from Sinjar. I believe that we made memories today, memories for kids who only have bad memories, memories for kids that never saw anything like this and went home laughing. Shariya changed today. We changed today.”
Aras. Music student.
Ayman. Music student.
“The children came. They came with empty faces. They came with faces covered with suffering. As we played music, as they painted, as our art students encouraged them and showed them how to paint, their faces came alive. Then Adnan and Radwan began to sing, it was like at first they didn't know what to do, then something came on fire inside them and they began to sing with all their strength. Innocent kids who have suffered much came alive. It is impossible to speak of this event, there are no words.” Ayman. Music Student.
“The wisdom of bridges comes from the fact that they know both sides, they know both shores...”
Mehmet Murat Ildan
“In my opinion Art in the Park was a very special and memorable event. Until this point, all our events had been held inside Shariya camp for our students, ie refugees and survivors of ISIS. This event was different, we took our camp students to make an event inside the village which had never seen anything like it. We reached out to and engaged with both those born and raised in the village, and with the IDPs who live in the village, both in tents and houses. Word spread fast and parents brought their children from all corners of the village, literally bringing our village together for the first time. Shariya is a strategic location, being enroute to other villages and to Duhok. I saw those, Muslims actually who were driving by, stop, get out of their vehicles and watch for half an hour or so, recording everything. It was the first time in all my years as a parent in the village, that I saw parents bringing their children to the park to take part or simply to check out what was going on. Women with young babies in strollers stopped to take photos and to chat about the positive impact upon the children. They came up to me asking when the next event would be. I see that in this event, we touched the entire community and began to build a bridge of relationship between the two very separate communities, those from Shariya, and those from Sinjar. Several men came to me thanking us and saying that they needed such events, “there is nothing for our kids, whether four years old or fourteen, there is nothing for them, there is no role model. Please bring such life to the village. As I watched I saw this new thing arising, I saw parents relaxed and happy, children focused, sitting together, working, sharing together. No one was relating to each other on the basis of origin, Shariya or Sinjar, they were relating on the basis of creativity and sound, suggesting colors and shapes, teaching each other the songs. I saw us crossing a bridge leading to integration and unity. Without knowing it, we woke up the entire community, showing them that there are new possibilities for their children. We showed them the joys of community, the power of community and how easy it is to cross that bridge.” Dr. Saeed
Since Art in the Park, our phone has rung non stop, with parents from the village asking for Hope to come to the village. “Bring ‘Hopey’ to the village” is the cry. Since Art in the Park a steady stream of parents and children have walked from the village to the camp asking to be part of our Community of Hope. Parents and children who in eight years had never visited the camp.
Art in the Park, we realized that it was less an “event” and more a “bridge”. It quietly tore down walls of prejudice, suspicion and fear between two wounded communities. We are in a place of quiet pondering on how to continue to be bridge builders, bringing life and hope to both shores.
For those of you who track with the regional news, you will know that the federal legislations of the past few days have shaken the region. For those of you who pray, please do.