November Drawing Contest (Umphium)
In October this year, Room to Grow Foundation announced its first writing and drawing contest for children staying in the three dormitories in Umphium supported by the group.
There were around thirty entries in each category from children in all three projects and a lot of excitement generated by the contest.
Some common themes emerged from the pictures. The first was copied images from books which speaks to me quite strongly about the effects of the educational system. When schools make children memorize answers and when lessons consist of copying things directly from the board, I think it weakens the ability of children to think creatively, express themselves originally and to have confidence in the results when they do something entirely on their own. Still some of the results are interesting – in some pictures, copied images are put together in new ways, or added to an originally drawn background, taking them out of the their original context (some kind of Mother Goose book, I think) and making them belong more to the children.
The second very noticeable them I observed from among the pictures is that of the village. Many children drew their village, or a traditional Karen home in the jungle. To me this says that what makes them happy is thinking about life outside the refugee camp.
There are several pictures of cities and modern things, which after all the pictures of the village and the jungle, seemed at first strange. But one picture really offered me a clear insight into why children might have drawn helicopters and skyscrapers in a picture of happiness. To me, these pictures say that a future in which their state sees economic development is a future which makes them happy. And as pictaresque and lovely as the pictures of the bamboo huts may be, particularly to a Westerner used to cities, the skyscrapers have a kind of power, too, because that kind of future is one in which young people can look forward to jobs and health care and a university.
Finally, there are the pictures of things inside the camp that make children happy. One girl drew portraits of her friend’s faces. Another drew himself thinking of playing football and eating food.
I hope you enjoy the pictures drawn by the students of Day Chae’s, Kyaw Kyaw’s and the Section 13 Boarding House in Umphium. The stories are currently being translated and will also be available here on the blog in December or January.