– Reflections from Otto De Jong, one of our most senior trainers, on his recent trip to Rwanda to give Community Music Leadership training to a group of 30 young people from Burundi living as refugees in Mahama refugee camp.
When we met the new trainees on the first day, I couldn’t imagine they were refugees living in a camp although I knew it. Why? They showed to us so much enthusiasm, positivity and power. They behaved with pride and dignity. Their clothes were beautiful and mostly more clean than mine.
On the fourth day of the training, we left early in the morning to the Mahama Camp for the trainees to practice their new skills and run a practical session with children. When we arrived, only then I realised the environment in the camp where the trainees live. Small tents, dust, heat, noise and a terrible smell. But our trainees were ready to start the workshops with the children.
Maybe in the whole camp I was the only one who had a white colour, so all children looked at me and came to me, waiting for what’s going to happen. I started to improvise a song with them, but that was not a good idea. Within a few seconds the number of children grew enormously around me. It was quite claustrophobic. The workshops were planned outside the camp and Eric, our contact person in the camp advised us to go to that place silently in order to have not too many children. He was right. After this workshop session, we all came back to the training location in Kihere where we enjoyed our lunch, the trainees and we the trainers.
I felt pride; pride in the trainees because in these circumstances they keep building on social environment, they keep concerning themselves about the children, and they keep enjoying making music.
They make a difference in the Camp, they are heroes.
Love, Otto De Jong
Otto de Jong is a choir and orchestra conductor specialized in working with large groups of children. Since 1999, he has been working as a trainer for Musicians without Borders training others to work with children. His music workshops, lessons and rehearsals demonstrate and teach trainers to use the power of nonverbal communication and team building. For Otto, music is a means for children to receive attention, to learn to concentrate, to be in a safe environment in a group setting and, last but not least a source of joy. Music is a universal language.