Those who have lived through war will forever be haunted by its images. The bloodshed, the violence, the destruction, the displacement—these traumatizing experiences permanently imprint themselves in a person’s mind.
But there are certain coping mechanisms that can make life a little more bearable. In Greece, for example, there’s an art therapy program that is helping Syrian and Iraqi children recover from the horrors of war.
Kayra Martinez from Durango, Colorado runs the program out of her own home. She lives just a few miles away from the Nea Kavala refugee camp in Idomeni, Greece. Every day, she brings at least a dozen children into her home and lets them paint whatever their heart desires. As a result, her living room has now been transformed into a permanent art studio.
“I think this is the first time that their voices are being heard,” Martinez stated in an interview with NBC News. “For right now, this is their happy place.”
Sometimes, the images they paint are cheerful—sunshine, family homes, sailboats, and mountains. Other times, the images are quite dismal and consist of bombs and warplanes.
Mahmoud Ismail, a 14-year-old from Syria, says he paints to get things off his mind. He’s much more comfortable communicating through images than he is through words.
“We remember what it was like in Syria,” Ismail stated. When asked what his dream was, Ismail quickly replied, “Go to America.”
The children’s paintings are now part of a traveling exhibit in the U.S. Each piece of artwork is sold for $20 each, with all proceeds going towards funding more art supplies.
Among the many who attended the exhibit, the Timm family stands out for one special reason: they chose to bring their 7-year old son Bryce along.
“We talk about the refugees a lot,” said Sarah Waywell-Timm, Bryce’s mother. “So that he would understand that there’s children out there who don’t have what he has.”
Bryce even got to choose his own painting—a painting of a house; a symbol of safety, security, and shelter.