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This blog was written by Juan David Garzon, workshop leader for Welcome Notes: Music Bus NL and trainer for Musicians Without Borders. 

When children are given the opportunity to express themselves through music, they radiate joy, happiness, and hope. Music Bus NL brings music to children, youth, and families living in emergency reception centers in the Netherlands who have fled war and persecution, providing experiences of joy, relief, and connection as they await their next move. Through joyful music workshops for children, the project has now been running for approximately a year and it has been a heartwarming and transformative experience for all involved.

As workshop leaders for Musicians Without Borders, we have had the privilege of experiencing firsthand the transformational power of music. One of the most beautiful things we have noticed is that children rarely attend our workshops alone. They often come with their families, including their parents, and it has been a heartwarming experience to see them participating actively in the workshops. Many of these parents are experiencing the workshop for the first time, and it has been an amazing sight to see them take an active role and even exhibit leadership with the group.

During our workshops, we give each participant the space to be creative and take initiative. We have noticed that sometimes, mothers and fathers join in and exude an energy that is simply amazing. It is fascinating to see how, through the children, adults are able to connect with their inner child and experience the same sense of joy and wonder. For someone who is living temporarily in a state of uncertainty, opening up to the idea of playfulness requires feeling safe and being heard. The fact that adults feel comfortable enough to let their guard down and participate actively in the workshop speaks volumes about the impact of our work and the sense of safety that it generates.

Throughout the workshops, we have noticed how the children shine and radiate with joy during and after the workshop. The adults present have often commented on how the children’s eyes light up during the workshop and how much they glow with happiness. This happiness has already inspired musicians, dance teachers and engaged parents living in the centers to find ways of sharing their talents with the children and other residents and starting to form communities at the centers. And it is uplifting to know that it has been inspired by the energy and emotion lived at the Music Bus NL workshops. 

Through Music Bus NL, we are opening up the possibility for children and families of different backgrounds and languages to interact and share a pleasant moment that would otherwise be difficult to achieve. During the last part of our workshop, what we call the reintegration, where people go back to their life while we are still part of the environment, different families have approached us to speak about their experiences. One mother, who is the head of a family of four Hispanic-speaking children, shared with us that due to the fact that the majority of people in the center speak Middle Eastern languages, she has felt isolated. She only has a couple of people with whom she can converse, and she has been living in the center for several months. The music workshop has given her a chance to interact with people she would not normally have the opportunity to connect with due to the language and cultural barriers. The Children’s Music Workshop has provided a space for her to connect, even if it is just for an hour on a Saturday.

One of the most amazing things about the workshops is the energy and motivation that the volunteers and staff receive from the activity that we offer. They have expressed that these types of activities provide them with motivation and energy to continue their work and volunteering. They can see how these individuals start to shine and how the children’s positive energy is contagious. The conditions for them is something that is not talked about as much, and through our work, we are able to provide support to these volunteers and staff. It is a labor that is so important, and we have seen how much it means to them.

For our workshop leaders team, the workshops have provided us with an opportunity to take an active role in contributing to the current situation by providing a sense of connection in a context where people are living in a very complex reality, which can be at times very isolating. We feel empowered because we can offer our music and our energy to make a difference, and this is something that though at times impactful for us, it reminds us that supporting children is a fundamental way of spreading relief and connection throughout whole populations and one of the purest ways of awakening hope in moments where it is hard to find it. We have learned that it is not just children in these centers needing our support, but that children themselves are the support that the rest of the world needs.

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