Vân Dang set up Free Art UK to provide free art sessions with the simple aim of helping refugee children in her area. Sessions are run by volunteers, on a zero budget and with great support from the local community. Just recently, the group embarked on an exciting new project, and we are delighted to have Vân's guest blog to tell us more.

I started an art and craft workshop for children at a refugee hostel near where I live back in September 2017. Two years on, it is now a routine for me to spend my Thursday morning doing arts and crafts with the children. From making doll houses and music boxes to playing with play dough, our workshops cross all the language barriers and are something both the children and our volunteers look forward to every week!

In summer 2019, I was contacted by the author, Peta Kelly. She was going to publish her second book, Earth to Kids, and was very keen to work with a refugee group. They sent us a copy of the book which we read together and went on to create a bookmark based on the story. 

We had 13 children in that workshop and they all took their mission seriously! Each of them made sure their drawing and colouring was neat and tidy to perfection. One child carefully re-wrote a chapter as she said “it’s a lovely poem”, while another asked for new paper to re-draw again and again anytime he made a tiny mistake. We all had a fun morning. 

The published book with the bookmark, designed by refugee children

Participating in the publishing of a well-known book was very exciting, especially as we had the chance to read the book before it even published. Being part of it is an honour for us.

Eight weeks later, the children and their families were moved out of the hostel and new families arrived, but once the book is published I will send each of them a copy. I am sure they would be so thrilled! For me, it is not just a bookmark in a book, but a milestone in the children’s lives (and mine), where their work and thoughts are appreciated.

It’s great to see, despite all the negativity and depressing news we see daily, that there are people who care and reach out to help other people. Peta Kelly resides in America, her assistant is in Finland, her publisher is in London and we all work on this amazing project across geographical borders.

-Vân Dang

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