REFUGEE children showed off their artistic side as they finally began their much delayed tour of Tyneside.
The Palestinian youngsters from the Shatila camp in Lebanon had almost seen their journey cancelled due to border agency bureaucracy.
However, after frantic re-organisation they arrived two days late, in the early hours of yesterday morning.
But there was no time to relax for the 10 pupils and three teachers from Beirut as they began the first of eight activity- packed days with a morning of sketching in Whitley Bay and a trip to St James’ Park for the Olympic football.
Teacher Nouha Ali said the children were very happy and excited to finally have made it to Britain. “Now we are here we can relax and forget our stresses of the past week,” she said. “We managed to sleep for a while and then the children have enjoyed all the activities organised for them.”
On Tuesday, organisers of the trip were rushing round trying to re-arrange and compress what was meant to be a 10-day visit into little over a week, while having to pay £1,500 more to rebook the flights.
One of the most immediate problems was that the local firm who had offered to bring the group from Manchester Airport was unable to help at the new arrival time, but North Tyneside Council stepped in with a minibus and driver.
Cullercoats-based writer Peter Mortimer, who helped set up the Shatila Theatre charity, said it had all been “a bit frantic” but it was a relief that the children had finally arrived.
“It’s been a real rollercoaster as they were coming, then they weren’t, then they were, then they weren’t and now they finally here,” he said.
Today sees the children begin work at the Linskill Centre in North Shields on 10 pieces of artwork which will be displayed in Tynemouth Station.
They will also be performing a traditional Dabke dance.