Syrian artist Seba Barhoum using talents to teach art to Belfast schoolchildren

Seba Barhoum is a Syrian artist. She’s living in Belfast while she awaits the outcome of her application for asylum after fleeing her war-torn country.

The 39-year-old taught art to primary school children in her native country.

She had experienced oppression and war but is now living here with the freedom to express herself.

Instead of sitting around awaiting the outcome of her asylum application, she’s spending her time teaching art to students at schools in the City.

“I feel happy. I like this work” she said. “When I go inside the classroom with the kids, I forget anything outside.”

Seba is one of several asylum-seeking artists and musicians who're being helped by the Beyond Skin arts initiative funded by the Community Relations Council.

The Musicians Artists At Risk Resettlement Scheme (MARRS) project was originally set up by the Beyond Skin arts initiative in response to the Afghanistan crisis through collaborative work with the International Campaign for Afghanistan's Musicians.

It was later widened to include other Countries.

Darren Ferguson who is the Chief Executive of Beyond Skin said the programme helps break down barriers.

He said. “A lot of people are staying in detention centres or detention hotels, so how are they going to meet the wider community?

“And there are a lot of concerns out there about people coming to our shores, but that’s because the conversations aren’t happening so we have been nurturing those conversations, getting people out and Seba is a good example because she is going to a school and pupils and teachers can see her for being who she is as a skilled teacher and artist, not someone with a refugee label and learn more about her and her culture”

Seba said when she first arrived in Northern Ireland she knew nothing about it but she read books, read about its history and studied everything about it because she wanted to connect with the people and understand everything about them.

Seba's keen to return to the classrooms here after mid-term break

Helping teenagers channel their creativity gives her new hope and a sense of purpose.

She said; “When you have a connection between teacher and student and love and trust, it is very important so when I go into the School I feel I am in a dream. I am very happy.

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