If your house is anything like mine, you’ll not be short of works of art. I could probably decorate the entire downstairs with my daughter’s ‘interesting’ squiggles, scrawls and splodges because, sentimental fool that I am, I just can’t bring myself to throw any of it away.
Most of us stick a few proud pieces on the fridge and bury the rest away in a kitchen drawer (or large container), but two Dubai mums have come up with a novel way of harnessing your kids’ artistic talents, creating beautiful gifts and keepsakes while, at the same time, raising money for schools and charities.
Petra Segger and Lilian El Yordi are taking their Drawings by Me kit into schools and nurseries across Dubai, helping them raise funds with the creation of personalised cards, calendars, coffee cups etc featuring your kids’ original artwork. Clever, eh? I join Petra on a trip to Jebel Ali Primary School (JAPS), where a Year 5 class is champing at the bit to get stuck into their exciting project. Thrilled to be designing something permanent, many are creating festive scenes to adorn Christmas cards, while others are sticking to a UAE theme to make all-year-round gifts for friends and family. With an entire table groaning with coloured pens and pencils at their disposal and a blank sheet of A4 paper in front of them, they soon dive in.
Olivia Baldock, aged 10, knows exactly what her drawing will be, and starts by tracing around her hand before adding mini Santa hats to the tip of each finger. ‘I do an art lesson with my mum out of school and we draw lots of hands with shading which gave me the idea,’ she explains. ‘This is going to be a Christmas card and I’m going to send it to my sisters in England. I think I might add snowflakes in the desert because that will be a bit funny.’
Camping-crazy Niamh Bone, also aged 10, can see her design on a coffee beaker. ‘I’d like this to be a travel mug because I love going camping and I love nature so I could take it with me when we go camping back in the UK. It normally rains there – yay! I love the rain and snow, which is why I’ve drawn these big blue drops and snowflakes.’
It’s amazing watching the kids’ imaginations spill onto the page. Some draw purely from their mind’s eye, others require a gentle nudge or something to copy (camels, understandably, prove to be a little tricky). But all the results are individual, unique and bursting with charm.
‘I was hoping to make this into a calendar,’ says nine-year-old Callum McMillan, desperately shading in his red and white chequered canopy as the lesson draws to a close, ‘but it’s not that good, and I accidentally
coloured in the camel’s eye. But I’m still quite proud of it. To see it on a real calendar would be really cool.’
Adding an extra dimension to any art class, it’s easy to see the pleasure the kids get in producing their own pieces. ‘It’s inspiring for them. It gives the kids great self-esteem to say “I created that” and the results
are definitely something they can be proud of,’ says class teacher Sarah Turner.
Sharing their child’s efforts with friends and relatives and creating unique cards and gifts easily fills parents with pride, and the school wins too, because it gets to keep the markup on the products sold.
‘We’re a non-profit school so we’re always on a fund-raising drive,’ says Ina Schomper, community liaison officer at JAPS, ‘and this is a way of students contributing to the funds raised for the school. It’s important that they get involved, and, as we also support The Little Wings Foundation, it teaches kids to reach out.’
Petra is delighted to see their project, which began just over a year ago, in action. ‘Schools – and nurseries in particular – have been very receptive to the idea,’ she says. ‘You often see bake sales etc, but this is something a bit more meaningful, and the fundraising programme is really easy to implement and doesn’t require any financial commitment upfront. It’s motivating for the kids, and it helps raise funds for the school to buy equipment or to give to an outside charity.’
Less than three weeks later and I get to see the finished products. Olivia’s Christmas cards look utterly professional, while Niamh’s bold and beautiful coffee beaker will grace any camping table. And Callum’s calendar? Well, camel’s eye or no camel’s eye, he has definitely captured the beauty of the desert.
For more information visit www.drawingsbyme.com. A proportion of Drawings by Me profit goes to The Little Wings Foundation, a non-profit organisation which provides medical assistance to children with musculoskeletal deformities in the Middle East and Africa.
How does it work?
• Drawings by Me provides schools with a starter kit including product samples, a template parents’ letter, order form and tips and guidelines.
• The school runs an art session where the kids create their picture.
• The picture is sent home to parents with a letter and order form.
• Drawings by Me collects the drawing sheets and order forms and organises production of cards, calendars, notebooks, coffee tumblers and bookmarks (which takes around three weeks).
• Schools distribute the products and keep the profit on the sales.