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Posts Tagged ‘social change’

Connecting Through Music: Music Making in Europe

As we wrap up 2018, enjoy 6 different powerful stories on our programs, the day-to-day challenges we face, and how we use music to transform lives. Our fourth story comes from Anna Swinkels, Program Manager of Welcome Notes Europe.

 

by Anna Swinkels

 

I began volunteering at the Musicians Without Borders office in 2015, right around the time when the refugee ‘crisis’ was beginning to be more apparent in The Netherlands, due to the rising number of people seeking refuge in Holland.

 

With a desire to ‘do something’, I began dedicating some of my time to supporting MWB, who was also in the midst of the conversation about what specific steps they could take to make a concrete difference with refugees in The Netherlands. This conversation is what sparked Welcome Notes – an MWB program that trains musicians on MWB’s methodology to facilitate inclusive music workshops in emergency asylum seeker’s centers. As part of the initial working group for the program, it was only natural that I later became the Welcome Notes Program Manager.

 

Throughout 2016 we trained several groups of people and organized over 40 music workshops in emergency centers throughout the Netherlands. During that same year, due to the changing political landscape, the number of people entering the Netherlands decreased and emergency centers shut down. As a result, MWB changed the focus for the Welcome Notes program and began working in other European regions like Italy, Greece, and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

 

Rap was not an initial part of the Welcome Notes program. You could say it happened naturally and was inspired by the participants themselves. During one of the workshops in the Netherlands one of the participants was a rapper and during a songwriting session, he performed his rap, which created a unique special moment during the workshop. It wasn’t until later when we were invited by SOS Children’s Villages to provide a workshop for a group of UASC (Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children) in Italy that the rap workshops began to take form.

 

The group in Italy consisted of young men between the ages of 14-18 years old. In order to better connect with the young men, we decided to revolve the workshop around rhythm, percussion, and rap. It was such a big success, that afterward, we worked on including a rap component within the Welcome Notes program. Since rap had already been used in our Palestine Program, we chose to continue working with MWB Trainers Manu van Kersbergen and Guus van der Steen, and headed to Italy and then Greece to conduct 2 more rap workshops with groups of UASC.

 

With Welcome Notes turning 3 years old in 2019, we plan on expanding the program to Bosnia-Herzegovina. By collaborating with organizations that support the growing number of refugees on the ‘Balkan Route’, we hope to train musicians to run music workshops here. We also plan to organize rap workshop programs in Italy and Greece and continue our commitment to empowering young people affected by war.

 

 

Support our work in Europe today. Your donations, big and small, help us deliver programs that impact thousands of people every day. Donate today and become a friend for just €5 a month!

 

 

Connecting Through Music: Music Making in Kigali

As we wrap up 2018, enjoy 6 different powerful stories on our programs, the day-to-day challenges we face, and how we use music to transform lives. Our third story comes from Chris Nicholson, Program Manager of Rwanda Youth Music.

 

by Chris Nicholson

 

Graduation Day

 

One hand is clutching a headphone to his ear, and the other is clutching the shoulder of a colleague. They are both laughing over what song to play next. I’m shaking hands with a newly graduating Community Music Leader as I give them their certificate. Sat around a small amphitheater are 200 children and parents who have been singing, dancing, drumming and playing all morning. Our audience is applauding and cheering every music leader who comes up on to the stage to graduate. Yves and his colleague are choosing the music that accompanies us, giving rhythm to all our movements; making this a celebration.

 

A growing smell of food adds to the excitement. After the certificate ceremony, we’ll eat together. Music will continue with performances by a hip-hop dance group, and then a drumming and dancing group.

 

Espoir hands me the microphone to announce the name of the next graduate. He thinks there’s no way I’ll manage to pronounce it. He’s right. So much laughter and Yves turns up the music to boost the energy level again. Everyone’s up and dancing, and the young woman who comes on stage to collect her certificate takes her moment to join in and enjoy her recognition. She’s from a local center for former street children. It’s been a journey to get here. She can take all the time she wants.

 

In the lull that follows, Yves is out from his DJ position, joking with Espoir. They call out the name of the next graduate together, the music goes up, and they move to the front of the stage to welcome another young woman. The children watching give an extra cheer. This is a young woman from the village who everyone knows. Her charisma and musicianship make her an easy leader, and there’s a swagger as she moves across the stage now picking up on the Congolese rumba beat. The music program that Yves runs here has supported her development, and her participation in this Musicians Without Borders training will enable her to start leading more music activities for children in the community. She doesn’t stop dancing as she takes her certificate and poses for a photo.

 

From Volunteers to Trainers

Yves and Espoir keep dancing too. Over four years ago, they both began volunteering with Musicians Without Borders partner program in Rwanda. Now they are Musicians Without Borders trainers, and have just led their first full training programme. The level of the graduates is outstanding, the atmosphere amongst the trainees and with the community is supportive and positive. Their work here is beautiful and I see its impact. It’s been a journey to get here.

 

As we eat lunch, a social worker from the center for former street children tells me a few heart-breaking stories of the children who are now dancing hip-hop on stage. An all women’s drumming and dance troupe closes out the event.

 

In 2011 Musicians Without Borders was invited to partner with WE-ACTx for Hope and together we began the Rwanda Youth Music program. The aim was to embed musical approaches into community support work, in a way that suited cultural contexts and that was always informed by community members and Rwandan musicians. Today there’s time to celebrate what that has become, and the possibilities of what it can become.

 

I’m heading back to the airport this afternoon, three hours drive from here back to Kigali. Shyaka, who manages the program in Rwanda, will drive me, and we will share all our ideas and plans for the future. Tonight, the older graduates and training team have an “after party” planned. They’ve all chipped in to extend this great moment of celebration.

 

Support our work in Rwanda today. Your donations, big and small, help us deliver programs that impact thousands of people every day. Donate today and become a friend for just €5 a month!

 

 

Connecting Through Music: Music Making in Suchitoto

As we wrap up 2018, enjoy 6 different powerful stories on our programs, the day-to-day challenges we face, and how we use music to transform lives. Our second story comes from Miguel Ortega, Program Manager of Soy Música

 

by Miguel Ortega

“We are born with creativity, we just need the space to develop it. It doesn’t matter if it’s perfect, but if we feel creative, we should be able to create something without fear or complex. Soy Música is such a positive learning for me, that after being in the workshops, I try to put it into practice at all times, with my family, friends, neighbors. This helps me to be a better person. Just open our minds and make a change in our lives.” Soy Música trainee, 2018

 

Working in places like El Salvador, we find ourselves, many times, in environments and communities where music has never been introduced before. Last February, the town of Suchitoto, was one of these places. Suchitoto has lived through the worst of the El Salvadoran civil war, it is presently a town that is striving to become a national cultural point of reference.

 

Arriving for our 3rd week of training with Soy Música program, with 35 teachers and facilitators, our aim was to encourage the trainees and participants to embrace creativity, while ensuring we rid ourselves of prejudgements and attitudes; our main focus was to empower the group to work together to tell their story through song.
It was our third time at this particular school in Suchitoto. Like many schools in the area, there was no music program, for many of the children, this would be their first musical experience. We opened a door to creativity and the students were quick to catch on, enthusiastically creating lyrics, melodies, and movements that told a story.

 

In a society that is still suffering from the effects of civil war conflicts, we know the importance of not only creating a space where the children are able to unleash their creativity but space where they can feel heard. Soy Música aims to bring social change and break the cycle of violence in the whole territory of El Salvador. Beginning with the teachers, we create spaces for creation, understanding and connection, space where our trainees are empowered to go through a personal change and later bring that change to others.

 

Support our work in El Salvador today. Your donations, big and small, help us deliver programs that impact thousands of people every day. Donate today and become a friend for just €5 a month!