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Europe

Welcome Notes

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

In collaboration with Caritas BiH in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we bring creative workshops to refugee camps and centers. The project organizes inclusive group activities around music and arts for children, youth, and families.

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 BiH brings back the music teams for today’s refugees.

Musicians and facilitators lead music workshops for children, youth and adults in reception centers. During the workshops, participants have a chance to try out instruments, participate in drumming and percussion circles, experiment with singing, dancing and writing songs. The sessions provide a safe space for creativity and self-expression, and improve communication and connection within the group, bringing important experiences of joy, relief, and connection for participating children, youth and adults.

Because many refugees are constantly on the move—whether by choice or government policy—the project has created three music teams that can respond flexibly as needs and opportunities arise, and cover different regions. The teams are active delivering workshops in the Temporary Reception Centers in Usivak and Blazuj and a Safe House in the Sarajevo Canton, in Temporary Reception Center Borici in Bihac, in the Una Sana Canton, and in the Safe House Puz, in the Tuzla Canton.

The project is also offering training courses, specifically designed for Bosnian musicians, artists, and social workers, who (want to) work with children and youth in refugee settings, and for Bosnian school teachers who work with refugee or migrant children. With these training we aim to strengthen capacities in the different professional sectors and for participants to join the pool of experts who make up the Music teams.

Welcome Notes NL

Welcome Notes 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, youth and families or other adults as they await their next move.

In 2024, this project is made possible thanks to the generous support from Haëlla Stichting, Iona Stichting, Janivo Stichting, and AMJV Fonds.

Rap projects

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.

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.

Miguel Ortega Luque

Project Manager Welcome Notes

Almerisa Delic

Trainer for Bosnia and Herzegovina team

Tony Pesikan

Trainer for Bosnia and Herzegovina team

Manu van Kersbergen

Rap trainer

Guus van der Steen

Rap trainer

Ruko Reid

Music leadership trainer

Amanda Koser-Gillespie

Music leadership trainer

Darren Abrahams

Music leadership trainer

Juan David Garzon

Music leadership trainer

Marion Haak-Schulenburg

Music leadership trainer

Jonathan Szegedi

Welcome Notes Netherlands Consultant

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New partnership for Welcome Notes in Bosnia Herzegovina

We are happy to announce that our project Welcome Notes in Bosnia Herzegovina is continuing…
May 8, 2024

Welcome Notes NL: Stories from our workshops in asylum seeker centers

Our Welcome Notes Netherlands program exists to provide essential support to people living in refugee…
February 7, 2024

Music Bus NL: Interview with Lilian van der Vaart

Our Music Bus NL projects works with different partners in refugee reception centers in the…
July 24, 2023

“We discovered Blažuj”: Bringing music to an all-male reception center in Bosnia

When it comes to the refugee crisis, it is not so rare that women and…
May 31, 2023

The Transformative Power of Music: How Children in Emergency Reception Centers Are Bringing Joy and Connection to Their Communities

During our workshops, we give each participant the space to be creative and take initiative.…
April 27, 2023

Trainer Interview: Tony Pesikan

This month we spoke to Tony Pesikan, a percussionist and music trainer working in Bosnia…
March 27, 2023

Bringing music to Dutch emergency reception centers: Music Bus NL

Crises can be overwhelming. When war, systemic violence and societal collapse affect masses of people,…
December 22, 2022

Music Bus NL: Interview with Zosja El Rhazi

In July, we interviewed, Zosja El Rhazi, a professional singer, conservatory teacher and music workshop…
October 5, 2022

Music Bus NL: Interview with Eleni Christofi

This week, Musicians Without Borders interviewed Eleni Christofi, a music therapy student and guitarist originally…
July 22, 2022

How we are working in Bosnia & Herzegovina

This blog was written by Suzana Đorđević, Project manager of Welcome Notes Bosnia and Herzegovina…
July 21, 2022

Rap workshops in Athens refugee camps

Welcome Notes program manager Anna Swinkels wrote about her experiences during one of our workshops…
December 13, 2019

Welcome Notes NL workshop leaders

  • Ahmad Al Naffoury
  • Odai Alhayek
  • Steven de Geus
  • Otto de Jong
  • Christie de Wit
  • Luis Ruben Diaz
  • Rian Evers
  • Juan David Garzon
  • Emma Karels
  • Jawa Manla
  • Kay Ramati
  • Ryuko Reid
  • Babette Jane Samson-de Haan
  • Milou Veling-Gomez

Established in
2016

Active in
Netherlands
Germany
Greece
Italy
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Scotland

Key partners
Landesmusikakademie NRW
Superar Bosnia and Herzegovina
War Childhood Museum

Key numbers

376

music leaders trained

2484

young displaced people reached