During the summer of 2022, nine students in New York Tech’s School of Health Professions traveled to Athens, Greece, where they participated in the medical outreach program For Refugees in Need. Organized by Senior Specialist Laura Stulbaum, the overseas trip enabled students to provide first aid kits, assist with basic medical care, and participate in art therapy workshops with the refugee population displaced in Athens—in partnership with the nonprofit organization Love Without Borders: For Refugees in Need.
Several months later, more than 40 works of art created by refugee children and adults during the summer workshops were in the spotlight on February 10, during an exhibition held at the Grenville Baker Boys and Girls Club in Locust Valley. A collaboration between the School of Health Professions, Love Without Borders: For Refugees in Need, and the Boys and Girls Club, the special event displayed the art, available for purchase to benefit the artists and other refugees. By the end of the night, 27 of the creations found new homes with their buyers, raising more than $5,000 for the refugees in Greece.
As attendees admired the refugees’ artwork during the Friday night event, 25 teens from the Boys and Girls Club participated in Stulbaum’s STEAMM-based (science, technology, engineering, art, math, and mindfulness) workshop, where they learned about the refugee crisis and the lives of those currently displaced in Athens. The immersive sensory experience included science, cooking, reflection, aromatherapy, and mindfulness.
“I am extremely proud of the refugee artists, as they have accomplished more than one can imagine,” says Stulbaum, who created the STEAMM Initiative more than 10 years ago to provide children with a positive, engaging learning environment. Stulbaum partnered with Love Without Borders founder Kayra Martinez, who attended the art show, to bring the outreach program to refugee camps in Greece.
A selection of the refugee’s artwork on display at the Grenville Boys and Girls Club in Locust Valley, N.Y.
Nursing student Mark Odato, who participated in last summer’s trip, says the art therapy workshops were extremely effective for the refugees, as they “not only gave them a chance to take their mind off the troubles of day-to-day life but, more importantly, they provided an outlet for them to tell their stories. These amazing pieces of art speak for themselves. Behind each and every painting is a story of courage, perseverance, and determination.”
Azza Gener, a life sciences/physician assistant studies student who also went on last summer’s outreach trip, adds she is honored and proud to showcase the refugees’ art on Long Island, so far away from where it was created. She is especially moved by the work of a young girl she had the opportunity to speak with.
“I remember talking and painting with this young girl. She was telling me how her drawings were only in black and white. I asked why, and she said it was because she can only draw with a pencil. She didn’t have access to crayons and paints. It showed me how we take small things for granted,” Gener says. “I wish the refugees could be with us for this moment [at the Boys and Girls Club], as I’m sure they would be so thrilled to see their art on display.”
New York Tech alumna Karen Kim (B.S. ’20) has participated in the outreach trips to Athens, which she says defined her choice to become a nurse and continue her education as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.
“I want to work more closely with the refugees,” Kim says. “They became a part of my life, and it feels like it is my purpose to be there for them and provide help.”
The next cohort of health professions students will travel with Stulbaum and Kim to perform outreach in Athens in July.