Illustrator Nick Sharratt helps Syrian refugee children tell their stories through art

Double-shift schools, Education in emergencies, Refugees and internally displaced people

The award-winning illustrator and author ran a drawing workshop for children aged 12 to 14 at an informal settlement in the Bekaa Valley, then visited Theirworld pilot projects in Mount Lebanon and Beirut. 

Illustrator and author Nick Sharratt travelled to Lebanon with Theirworld to teach Syrian refugee children how to express themselves through art. The drawing workshop ran in an informal settlement in the Bekaa Valley with 25 children aged 12 to 14. 

Nick showed his books to the the budding journalists and told them about his work. They played games involving illustration and Nick gave them tips on drawing characters and animals, encouraging them to express their hopes for the future through drawing.

All the children, who attend the Beyond Association Centre Press Club, drew pictures of what they would like to be when they grow up including journalists, doctors, teachers and musicians. 

They also recited poems which they had written for world leaders, demanding their right to education – Theirworld shared these at the United Nations General Assembly in September.

Nick has created illustrations for more than 260 books, including over 40 by award-winning author Jacqueline Wilson such as The Story of Tracy Beaker.

He said: “It was a moving experience meeting Syrian refugee children who have been forced to leave their homes and schools due to the conflict. During the visit the children and I connected through pictures and humour. 

“They were full of curiosity and enthusiasm and it was wonderful to hear them laughing and giggling and watch them having fun like all children should. I shared some of my drawing tips and they all created their own illustrations. 

“We had a great time and lots of them told me afterwards they now planned to incorporate pictures into their stories and journalism.”

Nick has been an active supporter of Theirworld’s #YouPromised campaign, aimed at reminding world leaders not to break their pledge to get every Syrian refugee in school this academic year. 

Theirworld has been working in Lebanon to get all Syrian refugees into school since 2013. Through research, advocacy and the #YouPromised campaign, we are working to ensure the policies, funding and programmes are in place to allow every Syrian refugee child to get an education and achieve their potential.

Nick – whose books have won many national and regional prizes and who was the official illustrator for World Book Day 2006 – visited Lebanon to see the situation first hand.  

He said: “These children and their families know how important it is for every child to have an education and they’re committed to making this happen. 

“World leaders have promised to get all Syrian refugee children into school. I’ve now seen first-hand how vital it is that this promise is kept. These are children who have been forced to leave everything and just want a chance to learn, so that they can look to the future with confidence and with hope.”

Nick, whose collaborations have sold more than 40 million copies, then visited Theirworld pilot projects at Mtein school in Mount Lebanon and Jnah primary school in Beirut. 

He engaged Syrian and Lebanese children aged five to seven by sharing his picture books with them, playing fun interactive games and showing them how to draw lions and crocodiles. 

Sarah Brown, President of Theirworld, said: “Nick has a wonderful way of engaging children of all ages through his books and drawing. He is able to use illustration to communicate with young people from all walks of life regardless of the language barrier.

“Many Syrian refugee children have experienced things no child should witness, so it was a joy to observe them in the classroom so excited to draw and listen to the stories. 

“The importance of having fun as part of a child’s development could not have been more evident than watching Nick Sharratt at work. The power of learning and play for stimulating young minds is crucial to their development.”

Lebanon has become home for over 1.5 million refugees from Syria, over half of which are under 18. 

The Lebanese government have worked hard to create more than 150,000 school places for Syrian refugee children – but there are still thousands of children out of school at risk of early marriage, child labour and exploitation. 

Theirworld has been working in Lebanon to get all Syrian refugee into school since publishing research in 2013 which first proposed the innovative “double-shift system” as a viable means of expanding access to education. 

Through research, advocacy and campaigning, Theirworld is working to ensure the policies, funding and programmes are in place to allow every child to gain an education and achieve their potential. 

Theirworld runs pilot projects, including a Tech Hub at Mtein school and a daily snack distribution to more than 1500 students which are supported by the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery. 

For more information about Nick Sharratt, visit his official website.

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