An American author turned to an art project run for refugee children in Thornton Heath to get inspiration for a bookmark to accompany her latest children’s book.

In the summer, local artist Vân Dang who runs the FreeArt project at Brigstock House was contacted by the author Peta Kelly’s assistant who was going publishing her second book Earth to Kids and wanted to work with a refugee group. 

They sent a copy of the book to Vân  and she read it together with the children and created a bookmark based on the story which follows the journey of animals, rainbows and the earth.

Vân  was delighted to recently receive a first draft of the book and the children’s bookmark along with a donation from Peta towards buying art materials to support future workshops.

Vân said: “We had 13 children on that workshop and they all took their mission seriously! Each of them made sure their drawing and colouring was neat and tidy to perfection. H. carefully re-wrote a chapter as she said: ’it’s a lovely poem”’ R. asked for new paper to re-draw again and again anytime he made a tiny mistake. We all had a fun morning. “

Graphic designer Vân started the workshop at Brigstock House two years ago and spends every Thursday morning working with the children. 

She said: “From making doll houses and music boxes to playing with play dough… our workshops cross all the language barriers. It is something both the children and our volunteers look forward to every week. Two weeks before the bookmark workshop we made a model of Alice in the Wonderland, which was shown at a local exhibition but participating in publishing a well-known book is very exciting. Especially when we had the chance to be the first to read the book before it’s even published. Just the thought of being part of it is an honour for us.”

Eight weeks later, the children and their families were moved out of the hostel and new families arrived but once the book is available for sale Vân plans to send each of them a copy. 

She added: “I am sure they would be so thrilled. For me, it is not just a bookmark but a milestone in the children’s lives (and mine) where their work and thoughts are appreciated.

“It’s great to see despite all the hate and depressing news we see daily, there are people who care and reach out to help other people.

 “Peta Kelly lives in America, her assistant in Finland, and her publisher is in London and we all work on this amazing project – across geographical borders.”