Helping Children Through Art: Dubai’s START

“I love art because it makes me go into this other world and forget about everything else. It makes me feel relaxed, I love doing art and I have been doing it for two years. It makes people happy and makes people look and if they buy my art work, that would be fantastic,” says 23-year old James Cassidy, winner of the START UAE Scholarship awards 2011. Despite suffering from Kabuki Syndrome, James has demonstrated commitment and passion for the arts.

A non-profit organization established by Art Dubai and the Al Madad Foundation with H.H. Sheikha Lateefa bint Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum as Honorary Patron, START applies the universal language of art to heal, educate, and enrich destitute children from some of the poorest areas of the Middle East. James learned to paint through START’s weekly “Tuesday groups” at the Jamjar for children with special needs. He will soon travel as part of his 1-year scholarship program to further develop his qualification in art. START’s work throughout the Middle East has already reached out to 3,500 disadvantaged children like James. Through the arts the organization aims to educate and empower children to express themselves. By attending art classes and workshops with established artists children learn to engage with their community and obtain a sense of self-worth. “The first time I knew I was good at art was my first art lesson at START, they have been great, they believed in me which made me believe in myself.  START have taught me a lot, they have taught me how to paint in different ways, some I did not like, but I told them I did not like it and we moved to something else. I have learned so much from START,” says James.

START has a permanent presence in Jordan offering art education to orphaned and refugee children. It also hosts workshops in Lebanon, Palestine, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. Over the next three years the organization plans to set up permanent projects in Sharjah, India, and Palestine whereby year-long activities will be provided for refugee, disadvantaged, and special needs children. Other future initiatives include the creation of a comprehensive educational syllabus and tool-kit for each workshop which can be tailored to children from different cultures or with particular needs. The tool-kit will be developed through the assistance of art teachers, behavorial specialists, disabilities specialists, artists and the START team. A training program will also be developed to encourage local communities to further engage with START’s activities.

A wonderfully enriching program for children in need, START’s inspiring initiatives show positive signs of change for children in need. If art can change a disadvantaged child’s perspective, then perhaps art has a chance at changing the world.

To volunteer, support or get in touch with START contact:

START Dubai Office Dubai office PO Box 72645 Dubai, UAE

Nicola Lee START Coordinator +971 4 384 2011