Today Ghirass Cultural Center invited us to give a workshop for more than 60 children from Bethlehem and its surrounding villages and refugee camps.
I’m always happy to work with this center, which has beautiful activities including an intensive outreach program to motivate parents and children to read, as well as art workshops and dabke (traditional Palestinian dance) classes. In cooperation with Ghirass and the Ministry of Education, we gave a music leadership training to 15 kindergarten teachers and five staff members from Ghirass in September. After completing the training, I visited different schools and kindergartens in the villages that participate in the outreach program from Ghirass.
While half of the wonderful team from Ghirass gave reading workshops in one classroom, I gave music workshops in the other classroom, joined by the other half of the team. Hundreds of children from Battir, Wadi Fukin, Husan and Marah Ma’la sang about olives, played in the ‘paper orchestra’ and enjoyed making the sound of rain.
But there is a great challenge…
The one great challenge that I face every time I work with Ghirass Cultural Center is Samer, one of our trainees. Samer is the supervisor of Ghirass’ Educational Toys Library (and a teacher at the Adult Literacy Program). Any new activity that Samer learns during our training, she will immediately apply in the next few days in her workshops. This means that all the children involved in Ghirass’ activities, including the outreach villages, will know my songs, dances and games. Therefore, every time Ghirass calls me for workshops, I know I cannot be lazy and I will have to come up with new activities, activities that Samer and the kids don’t know yet!
Although this poses a great challenge for me it is also wonderful to know that Samer is so dedicated to the programs and to teaching the children new activities. So what were the new activities of today’s workshop? We sang the traditional song Ah Ya Zein, accompanied by body percussion and the mesmerizing sound of the Shruti Box (donated by Stefan Cartright) which was played by one of the girls. Afterwards, we “visited” the amusement park, singing and dancing in the carousel, the haunted house and of course the roller coaster.
Not only do I experience Samer’s work in Ghirass programs but also in other cities where I work. For example, I was so surprised when I had written a new song one week earlier and then I heard a 6-year old girl from Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem singing it perfectly! I was ready to teach the children the new song, when Nura, the girl next to me sang the song while I had just introduced the movements. How come she knew the song? I hadn’t sung it yet in Aida camp and I wrote it myself, so it was impossible that she knew it from before. But then I remembered that I had sung it the week before in one of the villages from Ghirass’ outreach program. And yes, Samer had been in that specific workshop. “Nura, did you go to Ghirass Cultural Center this week? Did you have a workshop with Miss Samer?” You can guess the answer. I won’t forget the proud smile on Nura’s face, singing loudly and confidently.
Written by Fabienne – Musicians without Borders trainer and project manager in Palestine.