Around the world, wars and armed violence, climate devastation and poverty have resulted in a staggering number of displaced people.
Welcome Notes is Musicians Without Borders’ response to the arrival in Europe of people seeking safety from war, poverty and climate change. We began by training musicians in the Netherlands to work with vulnerable people in asylum centers, but soon expanded to include training and pilot projects in Germany, Italy, Greece and Bosnia & Herzegovina.
From single activities bringing joy to children in refugee centers, to longer-term social inclusion projects for newcomers, the program brings the connecting power of music to the complicated issues of displacement, reception and inclusion.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
One of the last countries in Eastern Europe to allow refugees to pass, Bosnia and Herzegovina shares a border with the EU (Croatia). The country has become the ‘last stop’ on the Balkan route for today’s refugees fleeing wars and other disasters in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.
Twenty years ago, our Music Bus program brought music to vulnerable Bosnian children in ethnically divided cities, villages, and refugee settlements. Building on networks and expertise from earlier projects, Welcome Notes Bosnia and Herzegovina brings back the mobile music teams for today’s refugees.
In the Sarajevo region, musicians and facilitators lead music and art workshops for children in refugee camps. During these workshops, children have a chance to try out instruments, participate in drumming and percussion circles, experiment with singing and writing songs, and play creatively through musical and dancing games. The sessions provide a safe space for creativity and self-expression, and improve communication and connection within the group, reducing the impact of traumatic experiences of displacement.
Our teams have also brought these activities to children in the refugee camp Usivak near Sarajevo, and to Tuzla, a town in the north-eastern part of the country. The project aims to expand to more refugee camps, but because many refugees are constantly on the move—whether by choice or government policy—the project has created a mobile team that can respond flexibly as needs and opportunities arise.
Music Bus NL
Music Bus NL brings music to children, youth, and families in emergency reception centers in the Netherlands. The Netherlands sees a growing number of people arriving in the country daily, fleeing war and persecution. The country’s policy of discouragement has resulted in inadequate provisions for people on the move, and so-called ‘emergency centers’ are now often the first stop for those seeking refuge. Musicians Without Borders’ trained music leaders provide experiences of joy, relief, and connection for participating children and families as they await their next move.
In collaboration with SOS Children’s Villages in Italy and Greece, Musicians Without Borders rap trainers Manu van Kersbergen and Guus van der Steen worked with unaccompanied minors, co-creating rap songs with young people to express their hopes and dreams for the future.
Music leadership training
We train musicians in inclusive music leadership approaches especially suited to working with vulnerable (young) people experiencing displacement. In Italy, Greece, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, this has focused on work in refugee centers.
In Germany, our training programs in collaboration with Landesmusikakademie North Rhine Westphalia strengthen this center’s structural programs with local and newcomer musicians in support of social inclusion in the region.