Baraboo students connect with Syrian refugees through art

April 7, 2018 GMT

Even though they speak different languages, Baraboo students are using artwork to make connections with their peers around the world.

St. Joseph’s Catholic School students prepared posters, ornaments and other artistic messages Friday that will be sent thousands of miles to classrooms in Cuba, Rwanda and Turkey. The offering of hope and peace was led by local nonprofit Children Are The Hope. The organization teaches kids about different cultures in elementary schools across southern Wisconsin.

“We’re really diving into learning about cultures of the world and using art as a tool to bridge all of those gaps that exist, whether it’s geography, politics or language,” said the group’s director Korie Klink. “We’re helping these students in Wisconsin understand that they are important members of our global community.”

Klink, who lives in Reedsburg, founded Children Are The Hope in 2010 with a focus on bringing global cultures together around common environmental causes. It has since grown to a team of professionals dedicated to bringing people of different nationalities together in meaningful ways.

The organization has worked with Baraboo schools for several years. St. Joseph’s fifth graders and Al Behrman Elementary School fourth graders have heard lessons from Klink since September. During that time, she has taught students about the cultures of their peers in sister schools in Cuba, Rwanda and Turkey.

Last summer, Klink received a grant from the U.S. Embassy, which allowed a partner school in Ankara, Turkey to expand its programming to an additional school in an impoverished area of the capital city. Klink said the school has a population of Syrian refugees, and Baraboo students are sending messages of love and support.

“These are children who have fled for their lives, left everything that they knew and went to a new country where they didn’t know anyone,” Klink said. “Suddenly people are embracing you, and you have students from Baraboo sending wishes of hope through their artwork.”

St. Joseph’s fifth-grade teacher Bernadette Syarzyk said the program appears to resonate with students, and they look forward to regular visits from Klink. To learn empathy at a young age in today’s rapidly changing world is an invaluable lesson, she said.

“Even if you don’t get along with someone, you still have to try to understand them,” Starzyk said. “If we enforce positivity and teach them about different cultures and acceptance, and prevent them from being ignorant about things they don’t know about, we’re making a huge impact.”

Klink said the most important lesson she wants students to take away from the program is that they are important, and they have the power to make the world a better place.

“They may never meet students they’re partnering with in any of those countries, but they learn that they can still be friends, and they can still learn from each other,” she said. “I think that’s something we need more of in the world today.”