September 29, 2023

Connecting with Afghan Youth through Art

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Nova Community College art professor and TSOS Washington DC team member, Annie Gedicks, shares pieces from her personal art portfolio.

It is often our individual talents and passions that lead us to story projects. That was the case when a local organization Nova RAFT (Resettle Afghan Families Together) told us about a group of Afghan youth who were using art to express their experiences from evacuation to resettlement. That germinated an idea of hosting an Art Workshop with TSOS DC-Community Liaison, Annie Gedicks, who teaches art at Nova Community College.

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The youth gather around for a closer look.

Nova RAFT mobilized community volunteers to help furnish apartments for more than 300 Afghan families between 2021-2022. Many of those families were re-homed near the William Ramsey Recreation Center where the Nova RAFT volunteers continue to support the families with English as a Second Language, paperwork, career guidance, tutoring, and youth activities. The rec center is a bright welcoming place filled with hanging flags from many countries.

There Annie led the creative youth, ages 12-18, in art exercises exploring the themes: creating your own language, identity, and belonging. In the first activity, the children utilized an outline of their hands to express feelings or abstract ideas. One young woman used education as a theme for her hand art, explaining that “education makes everything bright and if we are educated, there will be lots of doors that open to us.” There is hope in their faces and a familial feeling in the group. In fact, they affectionately call Dan Altman, the founder of Nova RAFT “Uncle Dan”.

Another TSOS volunteer, David Merrell, helped lead the youth in a Tunisian Collaborative Art exercise and it was fun to see the children add their own style to the collaborative painting.

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Dan Altman, founder of Nova RAFT, holds the collective art finished product

Nova RAFT and its sister organization Fresh Start Refugee Assistance Center welcome volunteers and donations to support refugee families in the Alexandria, Virginia area. Consider ways you might get involved.

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