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This blog was written by our director Laura Hassler.

This year, I was honored with the first Truus Wijsmuller-Meijer award for my work with Musicians Without Borders. Truus was a courageous woman from Alkmaar, who rescued more than 10,000 Jewish children from the Nazis.

The week of the award ceremony, the steadily defunded and stripped Dutch refugee authority begged unwilling cities to offer space for hundreds of refugees who, after traumatic journeys, found themselves unhoused again. 

In the Netherlands, fearmongers and scapegoaters have done their work. Even as Europe once again experiences a horrific war on its own continent, and Ukrainian refugees are welcomed with open arms, Black and Brown refugees from all those other wars–Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Libya, Iraq–are to be ‘discouraged’.

I wondered: what would Truus have done? And what can I do? Sometimes, the best you can do is just to show up. Every Friday at 12 noon, in the midst of Alkmaar’s famous cheese market, I stood next to the statue of Truus with a sign asking my city to take in refugees. And in October, the Alkmaar city council listened: they passed a motion to reopen a building that can shelter 500 displaced people.

This year, Musicians Without Borders launched Music Bus NL, responding to the escalating refugee crisis in the Netherlands. Our music leaders offer joy, relief, and connection through music workshops in Dutch emergency reception centers. We breathe creativity and joy back into environments characterized by bureaucracy and uncertainty:

This is just one example of our ongoing work this year.

New developments in 2022

  • We launched Music Bus NL, bringing music workshops to children and families in Dutch emergency reception centers. 
  • After we laid the groundwork in 2021, Welcome Notes started in Bosnia and Herzegovina, organizing music and arts activities for children in refugee camps and centers.
  • We launched Music Connects, a four-year Creative Europe project promoting inter-ethnic cooperation in the Western Balkans. 
  • We expanded our work in East Africa to the Democratic Republic of Congo: we trained a team of music leaders to run music workshops for hundreds of children in the Goma region. 

What we achieved in 2022

  • We reached 17,488 unique participants with 6,721 music making activities in our programs in El Salvador, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jordan, Palestine, the Netherlands, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • 1,444 participants were trained as music leaders, band coaches, and teachers,
  • We organized the first of the Sounding Peace sessions with the University of Melbourne, Griffith University and SOAS University. At this event, researchers presented their findings about music and social change in our programs in the Western Balkans, Palestine, and El Salvador. 
  • 22 new members signed up to the art27 network, bringing them to a total of 89 members. Art27 released 13 episodes of their podcast ReSounding, and organized 5 events for 91 participants, sharing resources, methods, and opportunities to use art and culture for social change. 

In 2022, our long term programs brought music to people and places around the world affected by war, armed conflict, and displacement.

In the last days of this year, you can help us prepare for 2023. Our fundraising campaign to support our work will remain active until the end of the year! Please help us meet our goal by donating today.

Thank you,

Laura Hassler

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