How Art Therapy helps children believe in their tomorrow

21 April 2024|Paula C Aguirregabiria / JRS East Africa

How Art Therapy helps children to believe in their tomorrow

Lora was only 10 years old when she arrived to the Child Protection Centre in Addis Ababa.

Original from Eritrea, with no father, her mother left her and her older brother scaping from insecurities in 2015, when she was only 7 years old. The mother scaped to Nairobi.
Lora and her brother were living with their grandparents in Asmara, but they were obsessed with the idea of encountering their mother.

One day, their grandparents gave them some money to buy some things in town, when they saw a bus going to Addis. They thought that from Addis it would be very easy to find a bus to Nairobi and encounter their mother.

So they used the money of the grandparents to hop into the bus and ran to the Kenyan capital in search of their mama. But the journey was not as easy as expected…

Art Therapy helps children
Art Therapy helps children

 They reached Addis in the middle of the   night, no sign of any bus to Nairobi, no idea where to go, what to do…

 They were completely lost. They were 10 and 12 years old by the time.

As these kind of signs of God’s will, a good-souled, old Eritrean woman found them in the station. They were able to understand each other because they all spoke the same language.

“Who are you, children? What are you doing here alone?” wondered the old lady. After listening their story, she just took them to her place. Secretly, since her landlord specifically prohibited her to host anyone.

Next day, the old lady brought Lora and her brother to UNHCR, where they were referred to JRS’ Child Protection Centre, as the main partner working in child protection.
The children were traumatized: alone, afraid, abandoned… having seen atrocities back home and frustrated for their failed plan.

The first days in CPC they were terrified, they were not able to smile.

Art Therapy helps children
Art Therapy helps children

The CPC made a great job by finding a foster family for them, from Eritrean Origin as well. And engaged them in the Day Care Centre activities at CPC: English classes, music and art therapy, karate… and soon were able to be enrolled into formal school thanks to the support of JRS Case Management team.

Art Therapy helps children
Art Therapy helps children

This paiting was done by Lora one year after their arrival to JRS. When Zemen, the Art Teacher, asked her about it, she explained:

“The back is black because of the pain and suffering we left behind… the past is dark, and the girl cries… But now, she is looking in front, and she has hope: the small white light in her eyes, because there is hope in her gaze. I have hope in front of me.”

The children spent 2 yeard in Addis, while the team at CPC were trying to locate their mother and solving the legal issues for them to be accepted to enter in Nairobi.

In 2020 JRS team was able to send the children to Nairobi to encounter their mother. They have been happily together since then.

You can know more about our Child Protection Center by watching this video:


* for protection issues, the names of the people represented had been modified.