Research Impact


Hands On Art Workshops for students in Kakuma Refugee Camp

Professor Lisa Milroy’s Hands On Art Workshops (HOAW) has been delivered to students in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya with support from Vodafone Foundation and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

Group of African school children showing their paintings outside their school

12 April 2022

Kakuma Refugee Camp (established 1992) is currently home to 196,000 refugees of 21 nationalities, including 75,000 students attending 42 primary and seven secondary schools. Prior to Professor Milroy’s Hands On Art Workshops (HOAW), KRC students did not encounter visual art programmes through the school curriculum. Now established as a year-round programme, HOAW encompasses: art clubs in a primary and secondary school, with current development in four more schools; UNHCR-sponsored employment of a Hands On Coach to deliver art workshops in a learning centre via the Hands On Gateway Bursary, providing a one-year salary for a secondary school graduate, with access to the Slade Short Courses online programmes in drawing and painting through the Hands On-Slade Short Courses Bursary; the Hands On Art Workshops Scholarship, providing full secondary school tuition for a primary school graduate associated with the HOAW programme. 

Sponsorship from Colart and a partnership with Vodafone Foundation 

In 2018, Professor Milroy addressed the lack of provision of art materials to support programme delivery in KRC schools, securing corporate sponsorship from Colart, a large international supplier of art materials. The Colart donation in KRC is administered by Windle International Kenya. A selection of paintings and drawings created by HOAW students in KRC was presented in an exhibition curated by Professor Milroy, “Hands On” from 6-15th February 2020 at Elephant West, Colart’s public cultural centre in West London. The event also acknowledged the partnership between HOAW and Vodafone Foundation, UNHCR, Colart, Windle International Kenya and the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL.  

To mark the United Nations’ International Day of Education on 24th January 2020, Vodafone Foundation collaborated with HOAW and the National Gallery to create the world’s first ‘live-streamed school trip for refugees’, in which students in KRC visited the National Gallery using VR headsets and tablets. Professor Milroy devised and hosted the tour, exploring a selection of 9 paintings on the theme of ‘time’. In 2021, Yinka Shonibare CBE (RA), Co-ordinator of the RA Summer Exhibition 2021 invited Golda Aruten Okech, Hands On Coach in KRC to contribute an artwork to the Summer Exhibition. HOAW produced an edition of digital prints based on a painting by Okech for inclusion in the exhibition. HOAW contributes to Stone Soup’s online ‘Refugee Project’ with artwork from students in KRC. Stone Soup is a non-profit USA-based literary magazine for children. 

Delivering the programme during the COVID-19 pandemic 

During the COVID-19 pandemic Professor Milroy has liaised with UNHCR colleagues and a headmistress in Kakuma Refugee Camp to provide workshops for students on a regular basis via mobile phone messaging and Skype sessions.  

In 2020, artist Stephanie Nebbia, Global Manager for The Fine Art Collective, Colart joined HOAW as Deputy Director. 

HOAW has assisted UNHCR in attaining key strategic goals. As the former UNHCR Senior Protection Coordinator attests: ‘The Hands On project aligns with UNHCR strategy to provide refugees with opportunity for artistic and talent development, as well as create connection, sense of community and overcome trauma and distress. Students and teachers have expressed their joy to be provided with a platform to break learning monotony and engage in the beauty of artistic expression’. 

Research synopsis

Hands On Art Workshops: establishing a visual art education programme for primary and secondary school students in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya 

Summary: Starting in 2015, Professor Lisa Professor Milroy’s Hands On Art Workshops (HOAW) has been delivered to primary and secondary school students in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya (KRC) with support from Vodafone Foundation and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Since Professor Milroy’s initial engagement in KRC, students have benefitted from HOAW’s programme of practical art workshops accessed through video conference and mobile phone messaging, and from three mission visits from Professor Milroy to KRC across four schools and a Community Centre. 



  • Image credit: Students from Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya from Hands on Art workshop, delivered through mobile phone exchange April - May 2020