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WAR DIVIDES, MUSIC CONNECTS
Using music to bridge divides, connect communities,
and heal the wounds of war and conflict.
July 19, 2013 •• Palestine Community Music
Project: Special Music Sessions!

Recently, all of us at Music Bus Goes Middle East had to bid farewell to Michael. A graduate music therapy student from the UK, Michael volunteered with Musicians without Borders for a cooperative project between Music Bus Goes Middle East & Sounds of Palestine- a social community music project based in refugee camps, supported by Katherina Werk and in cooperation with Aida Youth Center. Michael worked with sixteen different children with complex needs from Aida and Al Azzeh refugee camps in individual and group special music sessions. Magedah, a social worker and Musicians without Borders trainee from Sounds of Palestine, partnered with Michael for this distinct, one-month project.

Applying special techniques from music therapy, Michael and the participating children were able to hold expressive conversations- all through music! Instruments donated from Sounds of Palestine such as a rain stick, drums, and tambourines, served as brilliant mediums for children to convey their thoughts and emotions.

However, conversation was not immediate for all of the children. On the first day of the special music sessions, many children shyly entered the room clinging to their mothers or siblings. One child even kept his hat pulled down over his eyes for the majority of his first music session. Yet, when Michael would begin to strum his guitar and sing “Sabah Alkheir”, it could then spark the interest of the child. After a few sessions, many of the children, including those who struggle with speech, were singing along.

The young children with violent tendencies were able to channel some of their aggression by hitting a large drum or improvising on the keyboard. Using their imaginations and raw feelings, they had an opportunity to therapeutically release any difficulties that they may have formerly kept bottled up.

Seeing the children uniquely express themselves may have been the beginning of a new journey for the children to communicate. Here, Michael explains his personal journey working with the youth:

 “Fabienne and I designed a ‘special music program’ to reach children   in the camps with complex needs, such as issues with speech, hyperactivity, and aggression. Over several weeks I met the children individually, and in groups, addressing their individual needs with musical activities. Working with these children gave me the opportunity to develop my skills as a music therapist in a flexible and dynamic environment. I was challenged to find an approach that fit the uniqueness of Palestinian culture and society. This was a wonderful and valuable experience to have as a music therapy trainee. I have witnessed first-hand the inspiring efficacy of music therapy with Palestinian refugees. Music Therapy is an evidence-based health service that is non-threatening, flexible, and capable of reaching diverse client populations. Because music is a non-verbal and universal language, it eliminates language and social barriers. The motivational and non-threatening aspects of music make it an approachable intervention for children and vulnerable adults. There is a growing awareness that music therapy has enormous potential in addressing the needs of Palestinian refugees, and it is exciting to see more arts-based community development programs emerging throughout the region. My weeks in Palestine were informative, moving, and inspiring, and I gained much knowledge about how music therapy programs can be most effectively implemented within Palestinian culture and society.” 

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Musicians without Borders & Sounds of Palestine warmly thank Michael for his amazing work and dedication!

Posted by Kristin Rose