A little girl found the paint supply and ran around the camp leaving her handprints.

The Akre Syrian Refugee Camp in northern Iraq used to be a Saddam Hussein prison and intelligence center. And for a long time, it looked and felt that way. Morale among the nearly 1,300 Syrians was low. They fled for their lives from the Islamic State only to wind up in jail.

Then, in April 2014, an NGO brought paint.

The Rise Foundation, which supports the thousands of refugees in Kurdistan, started the Castle Art Project to try to liven up the dreary walls and give the children something to do. Now, every Friday, a place once known for torture becomes a canvas.

Nisreen, 13, from Qamishli, Syria, stands in the courtyard with her portrait of Alan Kurdi.

Hanan, 9, from Qamishli, Syria, takes a rest from a long day of painting the steel bars of the former prison.

The Castle Art team gathers round to discuss which sketch will become the next mural.

The children make paint canisters from plastic water bottles.

A 4-year-old girl climbs a ladder to try to help Rojda and Hanan paint the walls.

Deana, 14, takes a break to paint her friend’s face.

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