We are thankful for having the volunteer Heather Garlick with us for three weeks, helping with the urgently needed fund raising and documenting. Thank you Heather!
The children of the Bugs of the Future kindergarten are having a party! It is the last day before they finish school for the Eid celebrations and the Sounds of Palestine (SoP) team have been asked along to get festivities underway. The event coincides with my first day helping out the MwB and SoP projects – right in at the deep end…
We arrive at the school in Aida camp, Bethlehem to be confronted with the sense of organised chaos which typifies large groups of small children the world over. The kids are proudly and perfectly turned out in a rather stylish pastel pink and brown colour combination. The girls have a range of pink accessories, from stripey tights to flowery hairbands, complimenting their uniforms. As we stand talking to the kindergarten teachers I glance up to see a sea of brown and green eyes gazing at me with anticipation from the nearest classroom. It seems everyone looks forward to a visit from Sounds of Palestine!
We are in the school for a little over an hour and a half and teach three very excitable classes. The kids are remarkably well behaved and completely enthralled by the guitar and the singing. We sing songs in Arabic, many of which have associated activity and movement. Since my knowledge of Arabic is limited to a badly pronounced hello I am at a loss to know what is going on. However, it is not difficult to see that lots of funny faces and arm waving is required which is extremely entertaining for all involved.
But the music classes at Bugs of the Future are not just for fun. For her visits twice a week Fabienne, one of the music teachers, creates detailed lesson plans, designed to help the children grasp concepts such as short and long as well as to aide interaction. More than that, the music helps to relieve stress in a classroom where many of the children have gone through emotional trauma a grown adult could not handle. Indeed, pink uniform aside, this is not a picture which should be seen through rose tinted lenses. Many of the children in this classroom have seen parents or family members injured or imprisoned. Inevitably, these issues are brought to the playground. In our first session one little girl enters the classroom in tears, not the wails of a disgruntled toddler but the whimpers of a person suffering intense emotional distress. In amongst the cheeky and mischievous kids there are children who are quiet and withdrawn, too scared to take part in the lesson.
Music helps in these situations and the Sounds of Palestine project has seen impressive results. On the way home Fabienne tells me of one child who stopped bedwetting during the nights after the music lessons. A girl had never spoken a word in kindergarten and surprised the teachers when she suddenly said the first line of the welcome song Fabienne sings every week with the children. To assist this process we are also joined by Magedah, a social worker, who was trained within the MwB/HLT Workshop Leadership Training. She is able to watch the children closely to note erratic behaviour and even take individual children out of the class for special support. However, as with many things in Palestine, the Sounds of Palestine project is over-subscribed and under-funded. There is simply no money in Palestine. The Musicians without Borders project is able to train groups of Palestinians to run community groups just like these but there is not enough funding for the community groups themselves which would extend the reach of the healing quality of the music.
But today was primarily about fun, and fun was most certainly had. What did I learn on my first day with Musicians without Borders? These may be children facing huge problems both in the present and in the future but they’re also just children, bright eyed, bushy tailed, naughty, funny, silly children. They deserve all the opportunities that life can provide, opportunities Sounds of Palestine, Musicians without Borders and Holy Land Trust are striving to deliver.
All pictures are taken by Heather Garlick.
Sounds of Palestine could not have taken place without the support of Katherina Werk, Romisch-Katholische Landeskirche des Kantons Luzern and Romisch-Katholische Kirche des Kantons Basel-Stadt.