Welcome Notes is a workshop and training program bringing music to emergency reception centers in the Netherlands. The main aims of the program are to use the power of music to engage people living in emergency reception centers, building trust and connection among them and to train professional musicians who want to learn how to use music as a tool to support refugee children and adults.
Over the last couple of weeks we organized several activities in different emergency reception centers. In one center we managed to organize a series of workshops. This particular center houses adults as well as children, so our workshops were designed to attract people from a wide range of ages and backgrounds. Of course this poses an extra challenge for our trainers and trainee workshop leaders, so it was great that we were able to visit the center for a few weeks in a row. As mostly the same group of people joined our activities each week, we got to know some of the residents a little bit better.
The workshops themselves were quite diverse, ranging from activities with drums and sticks to paper orchestras and singing games. It was wonderful to see changes happening within the group of participants. During the workshops I could see attention grow, people were smiling and focused and felt safer within the group. There was a lot of fun and laughter, which lightened up the mood and increased the sense of connection to one another.
One of our biggest fans was a young boy who initially expressed disruptive behavior in the workshop. While his actions may have seemed quite violent, it is worth considering whether they could be seen as normal in response to the unpredictability and stress of living as a refugee in a completely new country and considering what he might have been through before arriving to The Netherlands. Once our trainers and trainees found a way to communicate and connect with him (mostly through drawing) the change in him was significant. The game ‘I paint, you sing’ took on a wonderful new meaning. He would be the first to greet us in the center and joined the activities in his own way, even helping out the workshop leader here and there, and he would be the last to wave us goodbye.
Anna Swinkels, project manager