Skip to main content

‘‘I’ve known this boy for two years but I have never seen him smile until today.  He smiled and even laughed as if it was his first smile and laugh.’’ I heard this on the second day of the training held in Uganda and this was just the first week of the training! It was said by people that take care of a young boy who we are training to become a community music leader.

This is the whole point of working in Musicians Without Borders, we make people feel human, important, future-oriented, and most of all feel loved and important in the community. One of our international trainers, Keren Rosenbaum, once told me what would you do if kids make mistakes?

  1. Beat them?
  2. Sit and talk to them about what they did?
  3. Ignore them?
  4. Celebrate with them the mistakes they made?

My answer at that time was, ‘‘Sit and talk to them about what they did.” I guess most people would reply as I did. After this question she replied to me, “Great answer Allison! That’s what most parents do.” She added, ‘‘I am going to teach you an approach today and it will blow your mind.”  I said, “Try me!”

She asked me again, “We learn by?” I said, “By mistakes.” She looked at me and she smiled and said “You’re right! We learn from mistakes that we did in the past!” Then she blew my mind by saying:

“Next time a child makes a mistake try and celebrate that mistake with them. Then they will learn from that mistake. After you have celebrated their mistake sit and talk to the child, then the child will trust you, feel protected, loved, hopeful, and important in the community.”

That’s what the Musicians Without Borders team used in Uganda to make the boy, who hadn’t laughed or smiled for two years, smile and be very active in the group and even make jokes. How did we do it exactly? Long story – but you’re welcome to visit our work and learn more about our way of making people happy and feel loved: not only in words, but also in real life.

As we say, war divides, music connects. We used the power of music to connect him with his long lost smile, and now he’s living happily. I can’t wait to meet him again and make him laugh and laugh. Life is too short to live in regrets.

Amahoro (peace),

Shyaka Allison

In 2015, Allison graduated with a distinction from the University of Rwanda, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Department of Environmental Health Sciences. He has been working with Musicians Without Borders since March 2015 as a translator, and in June 2015 was appointed project assistant, taking on regional responsibilities in August 2016.