Our programs are currently implemented in refugee camps, orphanages and schools in Africa (Burkina Faso, Rwanda), Middle East (Iraq, Lebanon) and Europe (France, Greece).
Thousands of Malians fled their homes to seek refuge in Burkina Faso from the uprising extremism in the surrounding nations.
In 2012, two refugee camps were established in Northern Burkina Faso to house the thousands of displaced Malians. Today, the camps are managed by IEDA Relief and UNHCR in partnership with the government of Burkina Faso.
Acknowledging the magnitude of the refugee crisis, the “Be The Peace Be The Hope” program invited Houston students from 12 schools (CyFair ISD, HISD, Baker-Ripley Charter School, Post Oak School), four community centers, (Agape Development, India House, Taiwanese Heritage Society Houston, YMCA), and 20 Harris County Public Libraries to respond by creating over 600 powerful paintings depicting messages of Hope and Love for the children in refugee camps.
Elise Sheppard, a Harris County Public Library librarian, told us, “Many High school and college students didn’t know there were refugee camps around the world. This had been an eye-opener for them. Many said they would like to volunteer and help.”
In October 2016, our international team of 12 committed educators, art therapists, facilitators, and videographers* implemented the “Be The Peace-Be The Hope” Educational and Healing Arts Program for 10 days in two refugee camps in Burkina Faso: Mentao and Goudebou (30,600 total refugees). We trained 20 permanent camp educators who assisted in the implementation and continuation of the program here.
As Jolie Guifayou, a Burkina Faso UNHCR program Faso stated: “It is a good program, it allows children to know themselves because when we know ourselves, we give ourselves value, but when we do not know who we are, sometimes we think we are not useful. You are coming with a program that puts children's life at the center, it's going to allow these children to imagine, to have hope, to understand that they are not unique in their suffering as refugee children. They will understand that they have value, they will understand that they have roots."
* The Be the Peace – Be the Hope Team in Burkina Faso included Karine Parker-Lemoyne (Head of the mission) Alicia Campos, Curry Glassell, Eisha Khan, Fadila Kibsgaard, Nishtha Joshi, Leila Kengueleoua, Cecilia Norman, Cynthia Ouedraogo, Naiyolis Palomo, Lex Parker, and Dimitri Pilenko as well as Noel Bezette-Flores, Caroline Edmundson and Britain Venner in Houston.
"I want to tell you the story of a little girl named Nuria I met in an orphanage in Burkina Faso while implementing Be the Peace Be the Hope this past December. Nuria is a 6 year-old girl. When we met, I was told that she was mute. So, for the first 2 days of the program she said nothing. She would just smile and nod when spoken to. But the more I observed her, the more I could tell something wasn’t right. I then asked the caregiver if she was born mute. “Has she ever spoken before?” Yes, I was told. “she used to be a very smart and talkative little girl, but she stopped talking after witnessing her mother dying in front of her. Since the death of her mother everyone tried to make her speak but for the last 2 years she had not said any words.
So, touched by her story, I held her as we were about to recreate the circle of trust, and encouraged her to tell me one word, just one word. After 20 minutes of just waiting I asked her “what is your name?” “Nuria” she said so smoothly. I then asked “do you like the work that we are doing with you” “yes” she answered again. After 2 years of silence she said 2 words. Therefore, Be The Peace-Be The Hope exists. I have seen children as young as 7 express their pain. We help them open and allow peace and hope to occur in their lives. We create a platform for the vulnerable ones who don’t have a voice and yet they are the ones who teach us the most important lessons. They are the future and reaching out to them now and giving them tools that will help them succeed and shape their future is why we exist.
What happens in the life of a child and how they cope with it will determine who they will become tomorrow. We can’t help every child, but we will help as many as we can until the end by being the peace and the Hope we wish to see in the world. We are all responsible."
17,600 Malian refugees live in Goudebou, located near Dori in the Sahel region of Burkina Faso bordering the northeastern countries of Nigeria and Mali.
Half of the refugees speak French, and the other half speak Tamasheq, the native dialect of the semi-nomadic Islamic African tribe called the Tuaregs, or “Free men.”
When asked to draw something they feared, most of the refugee children drew scenes of war that they lived through.
One of the first stages of the Be the Peace – Be the Hope healing process was to create a safe place for the children to express painful memories they may have repressed. This may have been the first time any of them had a chance to externalize these memories.
In the next stage of the workshop, our team and camp educators invited the children to move beyond the images of painful memories. To do so, we encouraged them to draw inspiring images of what happiness and hope means to them.
By transitioning from drawings of painful memories to hopeful thoughts, the process gave the children space to express their emotions in a safe way, and recognize their own potential for positive outlets.
It’s very difficult to find time to reflect or to find a release from traumatic experiences when food, water, and safety are your daily concerns.
Electrifying intensity occurred when the kids were able to release these painful memories through the activity of drawing. The children were transformed as they began to smile, became more engaged, and their eyes opened wider.
On the last day of our camp program, we joined the children in a large circle of Hope. In the middle of the circle, our team and the camp’s teachers sung out to them the song that we created together called “You are the Hope.”
The song was written in collaboration with the teachers at a weekend training session in Ouagadougou before we visited the camps.
Typical home tents in the refugee camp i the sprawling Sahel desert
Traditional blackboard wisdom
Camp Youth combining their art with the artwork created and sent by Houston’s Youth.
Designing the Tree of Hope that illustrates the roots as our past acquired references through family, school and community, the trunk as who we are, our qualities and values, and the branches as what we will bring into the world.
The day we left, the kids were invited to walk through a path protected by the elders, the teachers and the Be the Peace – Be the Hope team to acknowledge their participation, experiences, and to offer hope for their future.
The "Be the Peace - Be the Hope" program invites the youth from our schools and community centers to share a spirit of hope, peace and mutual concern with children in refugee camps. Globally, an estimated 8 million children are living in camps after being separated from their home and family. not expecting a safe return.
We respond to this by encouraging children from both worlds to exchange drawings and words of significance combined in an art installation to beautify tents in the camps, educate and inspire hope. The effort will be mirrored in prominent locations around Houston by showcasing a tent replica along with a traveling exhibition documenting the whole process.
Delivered through the powerful medium of art created by children for children, these messages symbolize positive intentions for the future. By cultivating compassion, awareness, and global connection through simple actions, this program expands the youth's collective capacity for dialogue and for uniting forces in order to create the positive change they wish to see in the world, despite disparate situations.
The “Be the Peace – Be the Hope” pilot program culminated in several traveling exhibitions that document the “Cycle of Hope” shown below. Displayed in various locations, including Houston Public Libraries, Harris County Library, participating schools, and the tunnel at Houston City Hall, these exhibitions took viewers on a visual journey from life in Houston to life in refugee camps and back. These presentations have offered glimpses of the entire program through photographs, video footage, and personal art pieces created by the children from both worlds. Participating students from Houston were invited to curate their own mini-exhibitions of the project in the participating schools and community centers.
The exhibited works of art are excerpts of the “art quilts” created by combining the children’s individual art pieces to cover the refugee tents and bring hope to the camps. The photographs displayed were intermingled, presenting children from Houston and from the camps mixed together. In addition to the indoor traveling exhibitions, we had also showcased a traveling replica of one of the “hope tents” in various outdoor locations around Houston. Inside the replica tent , there was information about the “Be the Peace – Be the Hope” project, personal stories by the participating children from Houston and from the refugee camps, and a documentary of the creative journey in action.
As a citizen led call-to-action, we will host a contest inviting the Houston youth to propose ideas and projects that encourage local actions of hope. Entries will be juried, and the winning proposal will be granted funding for its implementation in the Houston community. The idea behind these exhibitions is to demonstrate how hope can travel through different countries and cultures through the compassionate spirits of children. Through this program, children can create bridges between their cultures, using simple actions to plant seeds of hope locally while sharing hope across oceans where it can take root and spread even further.