This blog was written by Kateřina Špaňárová, a Czech music student, following her six week internship at Musicians without Borders.
I remember how surprised I was, when I came to the Musicians without Borders’ head office for the first time. How can an organization with such a great impact, operating around the world and being recognized by more than 13,000 people, have such a small office? After six weeks of being involved in MwB’s work and getting to know the organization, the astonishment did not leave me.
My friend Adel and I came to the head office in Amsterdam as interns a few weeks before MwB’s Training of Trainers, primarily to help with its organization. I am a student of Music Production at the Music and Dance Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, Czech Republic and Adel is a student of International Relations at Boston University in the USA. We both found it very interesting working in the head office alongside Laura, the founder and director of MwB, Meagan, the manager of MwB’s project in Northern Ireland and Ilaria, the finance officer. The work in the office was stimulating and helped me realize how many concerns there are to be aware of when running an international organization.
Sometimes other people came to join us in the office to do some work, for example, Nanou, who helps MwB with fundraising and communications or, Sophie, who’s volunteering once a week to keep in touch with donors.
I was truly impressed by the inner structure of the organization. The organization does not have a pyramid hierarchy and almost every decision is based on an agreement that more than often leads to everyone’s satisfaction. However idealistic it sounds, I feel it actually makes very deep sense. We (Adel and I) were encouraged to speak up about what tasks we would be interested in and what new ideas could we bring to the table. Therefore, we would be fully committed to the work we do. This has been such a positive change for me, when comparing to my previous experiences as an intern.
Out of the six weeks in the Netherlands, I’ve spent five in Amsterdam and one in Egmond, where the Training of Trainers took place. At the beginning of that week, there was a three-day professional development training organized for current trainers and staff of MwB. I was really thrilled to be a part of it and meet MwB’s professional trainers, who are working in Palestine, Kosovo, Rwanda and Northern Ireland; all welcoming, open and warm-hearted people.
After three days of the professional training, the actual Training of Trainers took place. Being a trained musician myself (I am also a student of Opera), I was kindly invited by Laura to join the training as a trainee. I highly appreciated this wonderful opportunity: I see music as a tool to connect with others and I’d like to be a musician who creates a joyful and safe atmosphere for anyone, no matter their age, culture or religion. At the training, I got to know other remarkably skilled musicians, who are professionals in connecting music to social change. I learned a lot being part of it and I caught myself wondering many times how lucky I was to be engaged in this process.
Apart from work experience, I also appreciated staying in the Dutch capital of Amsterdam. MwB’s head office is based in the International Dance Theatre building by a canal in the very heart of the city. So after work I enjoyed biking, walking through the streets, visiting famous museums or drinking coffee in cozy places.
Working for MwB has been an amazing experience that has broadened my horizons. I learned much more beyond what I had expected. I have gained deep insight into its work and I have met many like-minded passionate and inspiring people. It has definitely influenced me on both professional and personal levels and I am determined to keep educating myself in non-violent activism, peace building and reconciliation through music. I hope to stay in touch.