Our Welcome Notes Netherlands program exists to provide essential support to people living in refugee centers across the country. In these centers, our trainers help co-create spaces where people can feel safe, where they can tap into their creativity, share music, and connect during a few hours of peace. For children, youth, and families whose lives are dominated by fear and uncertainty, this can be an incredibly life-affirming experience. Our teams have fostered connection and collaboration. They have helped refugees to relax, dance, sing, and laugh together.
We are happy to share these stories from workshop leaders working in centers across the Netherlands, demonstrating moments of real happiness shared between our team and the people they work with.
There have been many beautiful moments during the workshops. Due to the nature of the centers we expect a mix of cultures but we often plan to do a workshop with only children, and occasionally when we arrive a mix of ages are present. Despite changing the plan last minute, it has been very rewarding as we have to be open and ready to improvise and take any idea that comes from the team or the participants. The residents from the centers that attended were always engaged, open and curious as to what we are doing with our musical instruments and we have seen enthusiasm in singing together, to drum and to share not only the songs we bring but share their own music from their own cultures.
One such workshop, we passed round the task of conducting the group as we all drummed and I could see delight on their faces while they took turns to make the whole hall go silent by the closing of their hands and bring the music to a rocking loud beat by slowly raising their arms.
This work is important because we need to show as many people living in these centers as possible that they are welcome and we value their presence. Music is an easier way to communicate this because we can do this non verbally and we can get close to each other through singing without needing to find immediate interests to discuss.
-Ryuko Reid – musician and workshop leader
In the emergency reception center in Petten I saw a young Iranian woman, she had only just arrived in the Netherlands. She spoke good English and had already had a lot of contact with other asylum seekers. She participated in the music workshop and said afterwards that it gave her a lot of hope. Because she had seen that there were people in the Netherlands who cared about them.
A group of Sudanese men came to play music in the refugee center in Purmerend. They turned out to belong to a well-known Sudanese band. We have kept in touch and still play music together sometimes. They say it is very important to them.
In Oegstgeest, we arrived too early in the day: all the children were still in their rooms. We just sat in the garden and made some music. It didn’t take long before a few adults joined in. The group kept getting bigger and bigger. We played Bob Marley together, which they all knew, and then some songs from the different countries they came from.
And of course after every workshop I ask myself: what did they gain from this? What can music do for them? Are we doing it the right way? Would they perhaps have preferred to receive money to prepare their own food? My conclusion is that in each workshop, music appeals to a part of people that–no matter what–can still enjoy, be absorbed in the moment, learn, create. And that’s why we do it!
-Christie de Wit – music teacher and workshop leader