For confidentiality reasons, all the names used in our beneficiaries’ stories have been changed. 

Adileh is a young woman from Iran who fled to Belgium with her husband. When the programme started, she had been in Belgium for several months. 

She attended the sessions regularlyShe hardly talked about her experience, was quiet and withdrawn, but had a special affinity for the art medium.

During the first session, the participants were asked to create an art piece about what they think their name means. This gave Adileh a chance to express herself.

She worked with intense dedication. When she held art materials in her hands, she felt happy and grateful to be here.

At some point, she shared that she found the atmosphere of the classroom and the classical music playing, relaxing, saying it allowed her to forget the stress of living in the asylum seekers center for a while.

In a different session, Adileh was asked to create a silhouette of herself, showing how she feels inside and out.  At the beginning, she was happy, laughing and making jokes with the other participants. However, as she continued drawing, she got quieter, and after a while stopped altogether. 

Adileh used to be an architect in Iran. She lived surrounded by her family, in a happy environment. Now she had been in Belgium for several months and missed both her family and career. 

She stood up, grabbed her drawing, and walked to another room to finish it. 

It brought back painful memories and feelings.

After this hard task, Adileh was asked to draw her perfect moment. She drew what seemed to be a perfect Christmas. Long tables with red tablecloths, with hanging lights above the guests heads, all while smelling the pins of the Christmas tree. A day full of celebration and happiness.

She told the therapist that she did not want to share this because she used to be Muslim but now she is Christian. A lot of people didn’t know about this switch and she didn’t want them to find out. It was her secret.

Gradually, Adileh began making friends, and seemed happier in the sessions. She had a little trouble branching out with materials, but seeing her friends use them helped her gain confidence.

There was a session in which everyone was asked to create an environment with the map of there home country.

The session was very open and free, allowing the participants to choose whatever they wanted to draw, with whatever art material they wanted to use. 

Despite being ill that day, Adileh started to gain confidence and began sharing her work with different group members.

In session 7, the group was asked to create a painting with the 4 elements they see themselves the most in. Adileh chose the “water" element.

She shared that she often feels like a waterfall. Sometimes she is relaxed and at other times she is stressed. She is overwhelmed by emotions.

In this situation, she tries to look around the beauty that surrounds her.

As the programme progressed, Adileh was making a lot of progress.

Adileh rarely finished her work in one session. She would take it back to finish working on it at home, but would never bring it back. She laughs uncomfortably and changes the subject when asked about it.

During the 9th session, the participants were asked to create a safe place where they could fall back when they are hurting, using clay.

Everyone was very relaxed.

Playing with clay reminded them of their childhood, when they would giggle with their friends while creating figurines.

Adileh made a fish, representing the Protestant church. She sees church as a place of rest. She feels safe and happy there, as if she was floating in the clouds.

On the last session, it is important for the participants to know what they want to leave behind and what they need to move forward to a happier life. 

Adileh drew what she didn’t need, and what she did.

Then we had a small exhibition where the participants had a chance to showcase their work and show it off to the staff.

Adileh was very quiet and withdrawn when the sessions first started.

She came a long way, and seemed to be more in touch with her emotions and what she needs to do in order to move forward in her life.