In one month already more than 1500 children have participated in our Musical Playgrounds! Get to know our fantastic workshop leaders, starting with Mohamad Azmi from Dheisheh refugee camp:
“It’s an early fresh morning, I am going to Al-Khas and Nu’aman, an isolated village, and all I know about this place is that it’s being neglected by everyone and they struggle with the apartheid Israeli wall which is taking their lands and their dreams. I could notice the student’s curiosity to know who we are because it’s not usual for them to be visited by anybody except of the ministry employees who visit from time to time.
I started the workshop: “Hello, how are you doing?” And the mess started, we couldn’t even introduce ourselves to the children and one of them told us that they are the worst class in the school and no one can control them. This is pretty normal when strangers get inside the class room and maybe it is their first meeting with strangers who are not doctors to give them vaccinations or ministry employees who rule their teachers. Fortunately my colleague Yasmeen came up with a creative idea where she could make an agreement with them which was as follows: “Dear seventh grade, my colleague Mohammad and me will leave the class and close the door and then re-enter the class to see a completely new and different one for one day so we will be able to make our activity for today.” and the agreement worked perfectly with them. The planned activity started with the introduction which contains a question about music and their background and here was the SHOCK for me even while I know that they are “disadvantaged schools” but I never thought that I would meet people in my country who know nothing about music and their only access to music is the commercial music TV shows such as Arab Idol and the Voice!! And I know as a business and marketing graduate how many millions are paid and gained from such TV shows, the shows that just treat these people as consumers, nothing more. And I started thinking: what if these millions were paid to create music projects for poor kids in marginalized areas around the world?
What if 10% of the one million paid by KFC or any company to the advertisement in the show which equal let’s say 100.000 US dollars, was given for a social music project, how many projects would we make? How many kids in the poor neighborhoods around the world would be reached by real and effective music? Think about it and use your calculator, it’s simple and you’ll be happy from the results. From my point of view, I am not saying stop advertising as the companies can still make advertisements, but in a social way and believe me it would cost less and reach more while in the same time benefiting the people and build a better world. I don’t want to go too far from what happened with me in Al-Khas but I was saying that in that day in that class I was so sad when one of the kids said that he likes the guitar moving his hands as if he was playing the piano, which showed me what is it like to live in such a disadvantaged place!
At the end of the workshop I felt so famous and I really felt that I am better than the most famous pop star as I was one for these kids and I could see the brightness in their eyes telling me how much they were happy to have such a workshop, without school books and without an angry teacher’s face. And I felt so professional – even though I still have only little experience working with them – when one of the kids who tried to show that he was not enjoying while being noisy came to me after the workshops and asked me how he could make a flute that we used in the workshop and how he could play on it.”
This post was written by Mohamad Azmi, who lives in the Dheisheh refugee camp and participated in our first Music and Nonviolence Leadership training in Palestine in 2009. Since then, he has been an active trainee and workshop leader. Having a background in rap music, he has led numerous rap and music workshops, always looking to include children with challenges in their lives. This is how he has reached hundreds of children from the most isolated areas, including teenage girls from his own refugee camp, blind children, deaf children, and children living in impoverished villages and refugee camps. Mohammad is one of our workshop leaders in the Musical Playground program. The workshops in al-Khas & Nu’aman and many of the other workshops were given in cooperation with Ghirass Cultural Center.