Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 7, 2019

Oxfam Giant Doll’s House

While we were staying in London with our lovely friends Anup and Poorna we went with them to an evening at Oxfam.  Anup is a volunteer with the charity. He had just returned from a trip to Rwanda.

Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan is home to 80,000 Syrian refugees, many of them who have been there for years. People are working to make new lives for themselves having crossed borders, fleeing with little more than their memories of home.

The Giant Doll’s House project is an independent international arts project started by Catja De Haas. It asked participants to make a room in a shoebox. Maybe a vision of home, memories, hope for the future or something they felt like making on the day.

The boxes are linked by ropes, ramps and ladders to create a giant doll’s house. This web of connected spaces and stories brings people’s dreams and aspirations together in a dramatic installation.

The project team spent 4 days in Jordan with residents of Za’atari refugee camp making all kinds of boxes. There is a volleyball pitch, a mini art gallery and a simple bedroom with a view. The rooms explore themes such as home, displacement, safety, community and the future. In the U.K. they worked with schools, artists and refugee groups. Each contribution has a personal, unique story behind it.

Keep in mind that the camp is a barren tent city. Here are some of the stories behind the boxes.

Sameha 45 and Suha 36.

We designed a wedding shop and we put a model wearing a white wedding dress. In Damascus, I used to run a wedding shop. I dream of rebuilding my house and restarting my fashion business.

Abdelrahman Omari  13, Mahmoud Omari 11 and Ali Omari 10.

We made a kitchen and the idea around it is to help our mothers in preparing the food. Our message to the children in U.K.: to help your mothers at home making and preparing food.

Mariam 12.

I am optimistic, I like many things in this life, sewing, making and creating fashion design and dresses. I made a fashion shop to present the clothes that we have designed. My dream is to become a fashion designer or an engineer or a journalist.

Zuhair 47.

I designed a natural scene of spring in Syria. I put a sun, clouds, river, Ducks, trees, flowers and stone. I was always excited to see the flowers and greenery coming through and as a family we would go to the country for a picnic.

I work in agriculture outside the camp and I created this because I like nature and I am from a rural area from Homs.

Nour 11 and Shahed 12

I want to become a lawyer to help and defend people who need help. We created an art exhibition because we like art and we want to have our own art exhibition in the future. I have many drawings at home and I thought could make an art gallery and add my drawings. I love art and I love drawing a lot.






  1. How talented these people are!
    How poignant the stories.
    I dream of a day when all refugees are free and safe and living the life they deserve. Jxx

    • Yes, they just want to go home and try to resume their lives.

  2. This is fabulous Debra. During my career as a teacher we completed many projects where the students collaborated to create products, events etc to enable a range of groups to experience positivity in their lives. I would love to have seen this.
    It reminds us to focus on being optimistic every day of our lives.
    I have a good friend who is working Syria after having worked in Timor, Uganda, Jordan and Kenya. These are special people who dedicate their lives to achieving a better world.

    • Thank goodness there are people who devote their lives to helping others. The rest of us can help fund them.

  3. To be a refugee is very painful. These initiatives are very positive for them. Well done!

    • Anything that can help is good.

  4. Very touching

    • It was a very humbling evening.

  5. Such powerful presentations of “Home” in this shoe box art exhibition! I sincerely hope these refugees will see their hopes and dreams realised in their lifetimes. The Morrison government could learn from these stories and open up more space for these refugees. We Australians are fortunate to have homes in our country. Great to see Anup volunteering in this project, but not surprised, knowing his empathetic interactions with people.

    • We all need to be kinder to people who need help.

  6. Thank you for sharing this with us. Refugees go through so much more than we can ever know physically and mentally. I wish people would show more compassion. These shoebox dioramas show that they are really just like all of us.

    • Yes, people have the same hopes whatever their situation. I wish the people the best, and hope they can return home one day soon.

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