New collaboration

We are excited to kick off our new collaboration with Interfaith-RISE, a refugee resettlement agency based in central New Jersey, USA. During our pilot program, youth from diverse backgrounds and nationalities such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Congo were free to explore ideas, objects and portraiture that related to the concept of their home and identity. They also created short videos.

Certificate Day

Students were all smiles when they received their completion certificates for the last round of workshops.  Each one of them also received a copy of the book they had created in addition to the group multimedia animation video.  We are very proud of them!

Narrating Stories

Continuing their exploration of personal memories from home and stories about their new life in New York City, students used a variety of methods to start narrating their individual pieces that will eventually become part of their group multimedia presentation.  They chose and printed photographs they made over the past few weeks, cut out images from magazines and newspapers and began recording their voices to add to their narrative.  As students put these pieces together, it was exciting to see them shed their inhibitions and share their stories with their peers.  Bravo!


In this session, students were excited to use iPads and start creating short length stop-motion animations about their memories from home.  They were asked to think of what they remembered from their home country that defined who they were.  What was the recipe of their food at home?  What was the favorite piece of music that they remember and what was it about? What was the favorite place to go back home?  What else reminded them of home?

The students also did a group discussion of the photos they had taken over the past week.  There were many personal pictures of family members, old photographs, local neighborhood shots and food pictures.   The students were excited to go out and shoot more.  We can't wait to see what they bring back and start building on their photo books.


During this workshop, students shared the pictures they had taken during the last two weeks.  They seemed especially interested in making portraits of their family members and friends, as well as showing their neighborhood in New York, and the home that they live in today.  

Following the photo presentation, Camilo Cárdenas from the Children Museum of the Arts explained to the students how to use pictures to create stop-motion animation.

The students were then asked to answer a questionnaire about their memories from their home country in preparation of the next workshop. 


After a two week delay due to an electrical fire in the school, our Spring workshops have finally started!  

We are excited to have new students who come from West Africa and the Caribbean.  The class started with our founder Ashok Sinha explaining what Cartwheel Initiative was all about, and then each student introduced himself/herself and explained the reasons why he/she had signed up for the program. We then showed what last year's students had accomplished  to help this new group better understand our expectations regarding their own work.

New cameras were given out to the students and we then showed them how to use them.  They left class with an assignment for the next workshop - a list of the 10 specific pictures they’ll have to take to start telling their personal story.

Thanks to Cartwheel team members Olivier Bailliard and Deborah Feingold and Susan Sherman from International High School for making sure students received one-on-one attention.

We are off to a good start.


As the final two weeks of the I Have a Voice partnership with The Cartwheel Initiative came to a close, the students documented their new surroundings in New York City with digital photography. The group went on a photo walk in the neighborhood of their school and captured what intrigued them through the camera lens.

Some chose to photograph buildings and their detailed architecture, others focused on people they encountered and nature amidst the city blocks.  The students then used Adobe Voice, a mobile app on the iPad and added voice captions to some of the photographs describing why they were inspired to capture them.  Each student had a creative story to tell!

I Have a Voice will culminate Friday, Nov. 20 during CMA’s Young Artist Kollective Art Slam from 6:00 to 9:30 p.m. where CMA will celebrate Universal Children’s Day, a day established by the United Nations celebrating international togetherness and awareness among children. At 7:30 p.m., we will screen a collaborative film put together by the students during the program.


During week four of CMA’s I Have A Voice collaboration with The Cartwheel Initiative, students were asked to step in front of the mic and tell their story of moving to the US. Each participant started by describing his or her home country, family, and school and his or her experience growing up in their home country.

When asked about what it was like to move to the US, students told incredible stories of determination and hope. While most were anxious and a bit afraid to move away from home—in many cases leaving their families behind—they all believed that moving to the US meant they would have better educational and career opportunities. In so many ways, their image of this country is one of freedom and opportunity and they have all stepped into our community with the determination to work hard and make their ideas a reality.

While each student went into the recording session, the rest of the class continued to work on animating dotted lines showing their journeys to the US. For it being just the third week of animating, it is impressive to see how quickly everyone has become familiar with the concept and technique of animation, and how they are taking more initiative in their projects. We will next jump into a photography workshop over the next two weeks!

Animating Journeys From Home to the US in Week Three of “I Have a Voice”

In the third week of “I Have A Voice” we focused our attention on the students’ journeys from their home countries to the U.S. Building on the animation skills learned in week two, students worked on animating dotted lines exiting their home countries and entering New York City. Each student received a print-out of their home country and roughly 15 sticky dots to create the trajectory. With this simple exercise, students were able to tell an important part of their experience as international students—the process of leaving their homes.

After animating the journeys, we gathered as a group in the hallway in front of a beautiful world map to animate all of their traveling lines converging toward New York City! This was an engaging group activity and everyone participated simultaneously. Each student was given 24 sticky dots and had to plot their journey, one dot at a time!


The students in CMA’s partnership with The Cartwheel Initiative have traveled to the U.S. from countries all across the world, including Senegal, Ivory Coast, Eritrea, El Salvador, Haiti and Syria. After spending some time talking about their personal memories of home, the students were ready to jump into a hands-on animation workshop to kick off week two of the “I Have A Voice” program.

Each student made a drawing of something that reminded them of their home and then brought it to life through animation! The images were full of color and included meaningful drawings of flags, bedrooms, houses and more. The students worked in small groups and helped each other as they photographed their drawings and played them back at 15 frames per second.

This was the first time that a majority of the students have worked with animation, however they are an intuitive group and picked up on the techniques quickly!

Stay tuned to see some of the films they are creating!


The Cartwheel Initiative, an organization that delivers free, hands-on art workshops to young people who are displaced from their families and homes due to violence, met with CMA this week for the first session of our 2015 fall partnership, “I Have A Voice.” Students from the International High School in Union Square got to know each other and discussed the plans for our six-week collaboration, during which each student will express his or her journey from their home countries to the United States through photography and stop motion animation. We talked about the meaning of ‘home’ and the many images that represent it.

Everyone was engaged and ready to go! We are incredibly excited to work with such an inspiring group of students. Next week we will jump into hands on animation and begin to tell our students’ incredible stories. Stay tuned for more…!


The Cartwheel Initiative met with Children’s Museum of the Arts this week for the first session of our 2015 fall partnership, “I Have A Voice.” Students from the International High School in Union Square got to know each other and discussed the plans for our six-week collaboration, during which each student will express his or her journey from their home countries to the United States through photography and stop motion animation. We talked about the meaning of ‘home’ and the many images that represent it.

Everyone was engaged and ready to go! We are incredibly excited to work with such an inspiring group of students. Next week we will jump into hands on animation and begin to tell our students’ incredible stories. Stay tuned!


Photo Left to Right: Susan Sherman (IHS), Mariam Kone, Massama Diakite, Nouhou Kone, Katy Ballo, Ricardi Sainvil, Lissette Garcia, Daniel Walsh (principal – IHS), Zeguela Kone, Penpa Llamo, William Ramirez, Ashok Sinha (Cartwheel Initiative)

On May 29th, students from our New York program participated in Annual Talent Day at The International High School (Union Square).  In addition to receiving certificates and a stunning poster created by New York based IF Studio, their latest work was screened in front of the entire school!

Below are some more photos (by Olivier Bailliard):

New work at International High School

This past Fall we partnered once again with International High School (IHS)The Children’s Museum of the Arts and Josephine Herrick Project, and continued the “I Have a Voice – NYC” multimedia project to work with a group of 13-17 year olds who escaped war, violence or disaster in their home countries and are now living in New York.  The students, representing 8 different nationalities, are in desperate need of self-expression and a sense of belonging in their new community.
During the program, they used photography, animation, as well as the written and spoken word to verbalize and visualize their personal stories of both the home they left behind and their current community in New York.  You can see the 3+ min video here:

Aside from visual pieces, they also recorded their responses in written form.  Here is what one of them had to say to the question “What would make the world a better place?”


Text by Julia Himmel / Josephine Herrick Project
Photos by Ashok Sinha / Cartwheel Initiative and Julia Himmel

This week, Ashok Sinha and our guest lecturer, renowned photographer and Board member Deborah Feingold talked portraiture.

Deborah began the session by explaining the essence of a portrait and what different types of light do to a face and how that affects the mood of a photograph. She then explained to the students how important light is when taking any photograph, especially portraits. Some of the students then volunteered to have their photos taken in different examples of light while the other students took portraits of them one at a time. During this activity, the students kept mentioning how they could see the different types of light were affecting the subjects’ faces and, in turn, the photographs they were taking of them.

The last activity of the day was a photo studio booth setup in which the students’ resulting portraits were to be used in the collaborative stop motion workshop next week. Ashok photographed each student in a number of predefined poses. The students were working together to choose poses and instructing each other how to stand in the right positions and they really seemed to enjoy this activity. I think the students will be even more pleased with the activity when we cut out these portraits of them into small figures and make stop motion videos of them next week!

This ongoing program at the International High School is possible due to a collaboration between The Cartwheel Initiative, Josephine Herrick Project and The Children’s Museum of the Arts in New York.


Following on the success of our Spring workshop, we were excited to be back at The International High School in New York on October 1st.  Our course will continue as an after-school program for the next 8 weeks.  We cannot wait to see what our students will create!

As our lesson plan focuses on reinforcing the concepts of home and identity, we asked our students to write a short essay.  Here is what one of them wrote


By Kristin Dyak

Photographs by Vik Gupta/Josephine Herrick Project

On March 22, 2014, Cartwheel Initiative held its first creative media workshop in New York organized in collaboration with Children’s Museum of the Arts (CMA) and Josephine Herrick Project.  In this sequel to the “I Have a Voice” workshops in Sri Lanka, a small group of international students displaced from their home countries (and currently in the US) who attend The International High School at Union Square (IHS) had the opportunity to express their voice through art during the hands-on workshop held at CMA. These incredible teenagers have overcome extreme transitions, but with mementos and memories they carry with them from their home country, they have strong aspirations and goals for a new life in America.

The young artists were asked “what do you want to do or be in America?”  From there they created paper puppets, recorded their own voice as narration and had first-hand experience animating their American dream by using iStopMotion software. Both IHS and CMA provided teachers to create a comfortable environment in addition to helping the students think visually about how they want their voice to be heard. These kids are very passionate and hold high ambitions for the future, including college, sports, banking, business and art.  One teacher asked Ibrahim, a 16 year old boy from Guinea and aspiring businessman, “What does the view look like from your future office window?” Ibrahim’s animated video was of him in an office with an even view of a New York water tower, high on top of a skyscraper.

In addition to focusing on their goals, the students talked about memories they brought with them from their home countries.  A photo of family and friends was the most common item in tow to America.  Penpa, a seventeen year old girl from Nepal, said the thin red string that hung around her neck is the most important thing she brought with her because it symbolizes her religion and strong faith.  A few of the kids spoke about leaving their loved ones behind in order to create a new life in New York, where they have encountered dangerous situations and long for familiar faces, yet are hopeful for the future. They also did portraits of each other.

The shy nature of the students is understandable considering most of these students come from places where they are simply seen and rarely heard.  In spite of the challenges of learning a new language, being in an overwhelming city and leaving home behind, each student has a story to tell, and this artistic workshop allowed their voices to be heard.  JHP facilitated the workshop with IHS and provided photographs to Cartwheel documenting the event.  Stay tuned for more videos, interviews and short films made by the students … they will be posted soon!


We are extremely happy to announce our new partnership with The Children’s Museum of the Arts (CMA) in New York!  Together we will be bringing arts education to developing countries and needy communities within the United States as well as building virtual communities for kids based on the arts.

To download the Press Release, please click here.

“We’re thrilled to be a part of this important endeavor,” said Barbara Hunt McLanahan, Executive Director of CMA. “The Cartwheel Initiative’s mission to empower children through art is closely in line with CMA’s overall mission.”


The content below is from our in-country project partner, Foundation of Goodness as posted on their website:

While on assignment in Sri Lanka in 2010, Ashok Sinha visited the north of the island, just one year after the war ended. Struck by how silent the kids he found there were, he wanted to find a way to give them a voice and this idea sparked the foundation of the Cartwheel Initiative. Cartwheel’s first visit to Sri Lanka was in 2011, and now, in 2013 they have returned for yet another workshop.

Cartwheel is a team of professional artists who help young people build bridges within their communities and across ethnic and social divisions by recognizing that arts education can be especially empowering to children who have experienced traumatic events in their lives. Guided by art therapy principles, they focus on youth aged 13-18 who live in these areas and offer artistic activities with the goal of improving their creative expression.

Through coordinated workshops in animation, photography and music, they attempt to inspire youth to find their voices and tell stories about their communities. By hosting community exhibitions at the end of the workshop to showcase their art, children are recognized for their efforts, improving their self-confidence as well as enhancing their attachment to their community. This positive influence on self-identity, conflict resolution, and collaboration translates into improved life experience.

This time, their plan was to make two short films entirely written, produced and directed by kids and for this task, they chose the theme ‘I have a voice’ to encourage the children to look forward and beyond, rather than back and to discover a sense of individuality. Their final goal was to start a creative dialog between the children in the North who lived through the war and the children in the South who are survivors from the tsunami. By dividing the kids in to groups who were to produce each other’s dream, they strove to start a creative dialog between children in the North and the South.

The 2013 Cartwheel team to Sri Lanka was made up of Ashok Sinha, the founder of the Cartwheel Initiative who is a New York based photographer who has traveled to more than 40 countries for his photographic projects, Joe Vena who directs and develops the Children’s Museum of Arts Media Lab and teaches at a number of school partnership workshops and animation camps and composer/ director Billy Fox who is the founder of the Kitsune Ensemble and internationally lauded for his work.

The workshop combined 11 kids from the North (Pandiyankulam, Mallavi and Kilinochchi) and 16 students from the South (Rathgama, Kahawa, Udumulla, Akurala and Seenigama). The 27 students were mixed together and divided in to three groups; The animation team headed by Joe, the photography team headed by Ashok and the music team headed by Billy.

The most important part of the workshop though, was helping the children to discover their individuality, gain confidence and find their voice. Through the workshops, they taught the students the value of being an individual and of being different. Joe was always a whirlwind activity, flitting between his animation students and never still for even one second as he guided them through the details of animation, cartooning and stop motion as they worked on bringing two simple storylines (thought up by the wild imagination of the children) to life while Billy inspired his team to compose an original score for the short films that they would produce and Ashok had set his group of minions loose to explore the grounds and capture entire stories within the frames they shot.

Over the course of the 8 day workshop, the children went from strangers to the best of friends. Separated by war, the children in the South thought of the North as a different country and the children from the North came to understand firsthand what the experiences of the tsunami had been like for the kids from the South. Through their discussions the children learnt about shared experiences of growing up, loss, poverty and hardship, discovering that although they lived in two different corners of the island, they were far more alike than they originally imagined. A notable incident was the opportunity the kids were given to put their heads together and come up with two storylines to animate and at the end of the brainstorming session they had two beautiful stories put together irrespective of the fact that they spoke two different languages, in fact, this small detailed almost seemed to have been overlooked as they found ways to connect and communicate without words.

Children who hardly spoke and were afraid to introduce themselves had learnt self-confidence and through team building exercises they had learnt how to make friends and establish a connection with others. Perhaps one of the key reasons for this was that at the very beginning of the workshop, the Cartwheel team encouraged the children to speak up and express themselves, “Every question is a good question, and nothing is too stupid or too trivial” they advised, “And every answer is correct, there is no such thing as a wrong answer”.

Ashok and a team of FoG staff had the good fortune to follow up on how the kids were doing after the workshop during a recent visit to the North. From speaking to their parents and friends, we discovered that every child had been touched, and changed for the better by their experience.

When the children initially arrived in Seenigama and were invited to introduce themselves, the first person to come forward with no hesitation at all was Dilaksan who worked on the animation project with Joe. One of five siblings, Dilaksan had always lived in his brother’s shadow. His older brother was the outgoing one, the friendly one, the one that all the teachers loved while Dilaksan was always in trouble for not participating in class activities. “He was not a happy child,” reflected his father (who still suffers from a shrapnel injury to the head after the war), “and the boy who came back from Seenigama was not the quiet and withdrawn one who left home. Now, Dilaksan is happy and bubbly.”

The least privileged of the children to attend the workshop, Jinthusan was the most talented child to emerge from the workshop, and Ashok would always call him ‘mini me’. Jinthusan grew so confident with his photography skills that by the end of the workshop, he would try to criticize Ashok’s captures.

Jeyanath Thaluksan lost his right hand and leg to an artillery shell and his father who lost his leg during the early stages of the war and lost his life during the last stages. Thayuksan is a survivor though, and he has never let his handicap hold back his life. Thayuksan plays cricket with his friends, jumped in to the pool at the MCC Centre and put his whole heart in to Billy’s music workshop, never once letting the smile slip from his face.

This last glimpse of the kids, back home after the workshop proved incredibly valuable for we were able to ascertain that Ashok had managed to achieve exactly what he sought to do- to give the children a voice, and turned them in to confident and happy individuals. Many of them had discovered new talents that they never knew they possessed and perhaps some have even found their calling and something new to dream about.

We extend our most heartfelt thanks and gratitude to the Cartwheel Initiative, not just for having partnered with us in this great endeavor, but also for what they continue to do so passionately and selflessly for the sake of children the world over. We wish them all the best in all future endeavors and hope to see them return to us someday.

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