Sunday, December 26, 2010

You Are Late!!!

We are late.
In the last two weeks we were a bit too early, but today we are late.
I'm not sure why. We don't have a good reason to be late. We just left too late.
It has been three weeks now that Karolien and I play music with the Bo'az boys, a group of boys, age 9-30, with special needs.
To be honest, I think it doesn't really matter that we are late because most of the participants of the music workshop don't know how to read the clock. They won't realize that we are five minutes too late.
How wrong I was!
S. is surprised to see us entering the living room.
I thought you would not come today!”
You see, I think, even S. who is the best talker of the group, did not expect us to come.
And again I'm wrong.
Why did you think we would not come? We come every Wednesday!” I try.
Because you are late!”
“Late? We are not late! Well, maybe just a couple of minutes...”
“No you are late, look at the clock!”
I look at the clock and S. is right, of course. We are five full minutes too late. Maybe even six.
I apologize and realize that S. has just taught me a lesson. I feel ashamed that I thought this group would not mind us being late, just because some of them don't talk, sit in a wheelchair or are autistic.


The first time, M. didn't seem to make any contact with me during the music workshop. He rocked his body back and forth, slowly.
The second week, I tried to follow the advise of a music therapist: “when you play the guitar, try to play in the same tempo as his body movements”. When I sang the welcome song, in which every participant of the workshop is addressed with his name, I changed the tempo when it was M.'s turn. I play the welcome song slower to match the rocking movements of M. The other participants seem to enjoy the slow version of the song, but M. doesn't seem to care much. The same happened in the third workshop.

This time, during the fourth workshop, I want to adjust to M.'s movements again, but suddenly I realize it is not needed. M. starts to move already in the same tempo as the guitar while I am singing the song to the others. Maybe this is just by chance, but maybe....M. found a way to communicate with us by rocking his body in the same tempo so we know that he is with us.


I feel frustrated that I can not make any contact with A. He is very calm during the workshops and doesn't seem to react on anything. I suspect he is blind and severely autistic. The only reaction I ever got from A. was when I played the cello. He smiled.
During the fourth music workshop, Y., a supervisor is joining us. I'm happy with this because he is very active and the whole atmosphere is very positive. Y. sings the songs with us and offers support to the boys when needed. When I announce that next week I can not come to give a music workshop, Y. reacts by telling the groups that he will practice the songs with them until I come again. This makes me so happy, because it means that these boys, who obviously love music, will sing with their own supervisor during the week.
After the workshop, I ask him about the boys. He tells me where they come from (Hebron, Gaza, Jenin) and I decide to ask him about A.
“A. can not see, right?”
“Yes, he can only see some shadows. But he is as good as blind. 
And deaf.”
Deaf??? The boy I'm trying to get contact with for four workshops now is blind and deaf. Aha.
That's why he never reacted to his name or to the music.
But the cello? He did smile, Karolien saw it as well.
Again I ask for advice from a music therapist. He explains to me that deaf people can not hear anything through their ears, but they can feel sound in other ways, especially the lower sounds like the sound of a cello.
The supervisor tells me he communicates with A. by touching his hands, and A. likes to smell things.
Next time I will give him a balloon, so he can feel the music, the guitar, through the vibrations of the balloon.


We listen to some music, and every time there are three clear beats, we clap with our hands. Well...S. , Karolien and I clap with our hands. The others don't. I look around, hoping that more will join the clapping. Nothing happens.
Suddenly I see B.'s foot tapping the 3 beats. Happy with his input, I tell the group that not only we can clap the three beats, but we can also tap them with our feet. When B. sees me tapping the three beats with my feet as well, he starts smiling.
But nobody else joins us, no clapping and no tapping.
I. a boy with very high muscle tension, suddenly hits his ears a couple of times. Although this was by far not the movement I expected or preferred, I decide to go for it and copy his movement as well. I. starts laughing and during the rest of the music, he chaps his ears. 

The whole group seems to be more relaxed and I notice how almost all the participants make their own movements on the music.


Next time, MwB trainer Marijke will join me in the workshop, and hopefully afterward I can be joined by one of the MwB trainees.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reflections on Violence

I'm waiting in my car at the checkpoint to exit Bethlehem and enter Jerusalem. Perfect time to write a report for the MwB blog.

Today Ahmad al'Azzeh gave a nonviolence training for eight trainees.
The women receive this training from Holy Land Trust next to the musical training from MwB. I hear you thinking are these women so violent they really need this training?
The answer is no, these women are not violent at all. But they live in a society under occupation and have to deal with violence on a daily basis. Besides that, lots of the nonviolence techniques can be very useful during the music workshops the trainers give to children, like a positive body posture, nonviolent communication, and leadership.

During the workshop, no answers were given by Ahmad; the women had to find answers together by discussing, sharing experiences and listening to each other. They learned to be open for each other's interpretation and to accept the different views on violence-related issues.
New for the group was the division of three different kinds of violence: personal, structural and cultural. 

Personal violence is any direct violence between people, like a husband who hits his wife.
Structural violence is embedded in social structures, for example gender discrimination. This form of violence was difficult to grasp in the beginning, but after some discussion, one of the trainees came up with the following: Structural violence is invisible but you can feel it. The group shared experiences at the checkpoints as an example. Sometimes nothing violent happens at the checkpoint, but you might still feel violated, you can still feel hurt, angry, frustrated or sad. Nothing visible happened, but the fact that you have to pass this checkpoint in your own country, that soldiers with guns have the possibility to abuse their power, that you have to wait for an hour, or that the soldiers check your bag, can make passing the checkpoint a violent experience.

I realize again that while I'm waiting in my car until it's my turn to show my passport and let the soldiers check the stuff in my car (and every time again I see them wondering, what is she doing with a parachute, wooden sticks and a guitar???) that I'm lucky I can pass this checkpoint and enter Jerusalem. Because all the people I met today in Bethlehem, the trainees, the trainer, the falafel seller, any random person in the street, are not allowed to just enter Jerusalem like I do. I suddenly realize that this is structural violence as well. It is not visible, nobody can see how I feel while standing in line in front of the checkpoint and feeling frustrated because I can pass and many of my friends can not. It won't leave a blue mark on my skin, it won't break my leg, but it can still hurt in a way.

Up to the third form of violence: cultural violence. Cultural violence can be used to justify structural or personal violence. If it is normal in a culture for a husband to hit his wife when she comes home too late, the woman can interpret the beating different from a woman who lives in a society were hitting is forbidden and not accepted at any level.

I'm sure I'm not explaining it clearly and I probably still don't understand the complete idea. That's what happens when you have to follow a NV workshop in Arabic....Anyhow, both women groups will receive five more workshops in nonviolence so I will still get many chances to learn and understand better!

During the evaluation of the workshop some of the participants mentioned they usually don't like to attend lectures so they were very happy this workshop was so interactive. They liked that everyone was free to give her own opinion and that they were challenged to really listen to each other instead of immediately reacting. The evaluation was very positive, except for one remark: can we please have a heater next time??? We are freezing!

Yes, winter has arrived in Palestine as well.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Storm in Silwan!

MwB workshop leader Fabienne gives weekly music workshops in Madaa Cultural Center Wadi Hilweh, Silwan, East-Jerusalem. These workshops are part of the music project “Silwan Ta'azef” (Silwan Plays Music), funded by the Dutch organization Kinderpostzegels, Prelude, and private donations.
The pictures in this post were taken in 2009 during music workshops in Silwan and do not represent the children of this story.

It's storming outside. Finally the first real winter day in the year came two months too late.

I'm sitting inside the room with 7 boys, age 5-8, leading a music workshop in Silwan.
But another storm is raging outside. The second group, 10 teenagers, came half an hour too early, like they do every week, and they try to catch my attention while I'm trying to divide mine between the 7 kids inside the room.
First they ask if they can attend the workshop with the little ones. “No.”
Then they try it by banging on the door.
Then they try the windows.
One climbs on the roof and falls down (“Fabienne! Fabienne! M. fell from the roof!”)
10 more minutes.
5 more minutes.
The little ones seem distracted once in a while by all the shouting, banging and knocking from outside, but in general, they are well-involved in the singing and dancing.
We finish, the little boys run outside, back in the storm, and the storm of teenagers runs inside.

Body percussion (pictures taken during music workshop 2009)

I don't have the energy for this group of wild kids, but suddenly I remember the sentence I read last week from my professor. He gave us a list of 101 things to do with youth at risk. Because I was in a hurry, I only read one line: enter every lesson with a positive attitude.

And that's what I decide to do. Although they made me crazy with their behavior outside of the room, I decide to give them a new chance and act as if nothing happened outside, as if I was not annoyed and as if I have all the energy in the world to handle these teenagers.
And it worked. We start with some body percussion and sing two songs.
We work on the English text of one of the songs and relax while singing the Arabic song.
A. seems to be abstracted today and actually he looks two years older than last week. I realize he is the oldest in the group and might feel the activities are too childish for him.
After we finish the Arabic song, M. asks for the “Macaroon” song. I thought he made a joke, because this is the song I do with the little ones. I tell them this, but the group insists on singing the silly song about macaroni.

Singing (picture taken during music workshop 2009)
We start singing, learn the words and make movements with the song.
A. is doing the movements with so much conviction that it makes me feel as if we were in a theater workshop. He sings as if this is the most important thing in his life and for a moment he forgets to play his role of being the coolest, oldest guy in the group.
It is beautiful to see how these teenagers can be children for a moment, but it also makes me sad, because I realize how sparse these moment are in their lives.

Life in Silwan is extremely difficult these days, especially for the children. The fear of house demolitions, arrests by Israeli police, night raids by Israeli army and violence is always present.

Some of the songs I sing with the teenagers in Silwan are about life under occupation, and they love to sing these songs.

But apparently a song about macaroni can be a big hit too!

Playing musical games (pictures taken in 2009)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Morning of Dancing and Singing!

Two special events took place today: a music workshop for children with cancer and their mothers, and a music workshop for diabetic children and their families. Because of the Islamic New Year, the children didn't go to school and could join the workshops in the morning.

The report about the workshop for children with cancer will follow later; for now you can read about the other workshop that was attended by more than 200 people:
Diabetics Friend's Society Bethlehem organized a fun and educational day for diabetic children and their families, in el-Funiq Center, Dheisheh refugee camp.
Zainab, Yasmeen and Anaya, trainees that receive music training from MwB and non-violence training from Holy Land Trust gave the workshop together with project leader Fabienne.

Gregor, a flute teacher in Ramallah joined the songs with his flute; Nina, a volunteer at HLT took pictures to document the workshop.

During the workshop, children were invited on stage to sing and dance, while their parents watched, and sang and moved along with them.

During the 'bye dance' every participant got the chance to 
greet his or her neighbor through movements on relaxing music.

Yasmeen told the children the story of “Chashaboo” (Woody), a child made out of wood (that happens when your father is a carpenter...)

After which the children danced the "Chashaboo Dance"

Chashaboo Dance

Although we planned to sing the song while the children were sitting with their parents, they got so excited that they all ran to the stage. They sang with beautiful loud voices and imitated the movements that go with the song, shown by Zainab

I would like to thank all the volunteers of today: Zainab, Yasmeen, Anaya, Gregor and Nina, but most of all, I would like to thank all the children for dancing and singing in such a nice way! They are the ones that give us the motivation and inspiration to continue our work.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Another Music Workshop in al-Ma'sara

On Monday the 29th of November, six military jeeps entered al-Ma'sara village. The Israeli authorities delivered demolition orders to a mosque and the owners of two homes in al-Ma'sara.
Two days later, MwB in cooperation with HLT gave another music workshop to the children in al-Ma'sara, offering them a moment of relaxation and a safe space to express themselves.

The workshop leaders were welcomed by the wonderful staff of the kindergarten and around 30 children were already waiting for the music.
MwB trainer Fabienne gave the workshop with Seereen from Dheisheh Refugee Camp and Amira from al-Azzah Refugee Camp. Both women are receiving music training from MwB and non-violence training from HLT. The benefits of the non-violence training were clearly visible during the music workshop in al-Ma'sara. Seereen and Ameera used positive body-language and non-verbal communication, and managed to create a safe environment in which all the children could participate and express their creativity.

Some impressions of the workshop leaders:

Fabienne: ”I was positively surprised to find out that the children remembered the song we sang during the workshop two weeks ago. Not only did they remember the song and the movements, they sang with much more confidence than last time. Later their teacher told me that she had repeated the song many times during the last two weeks. I was very happy to hear this, realizing that the music workshops have much more impact on the children if their daily teachers continue with the material we offer them.”

Amira: “About the workshop today, it was nice and I really liked it, especially the kids they were so cute! And if you ask me if I want to repeat it again the answer will be 'of course!' because I really love to work with such children.”

Seereen: “It was a great time spent at al-Ma'sara's kindergarten. It was a really good chance to know and discover a village in my country that I had never heard about before. I'm really interested to participate in the workshops from MwB and HLT and to give more workshops to the children.”

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Workshop for youth with special needs

We were welcomed by nine boys with special needs from the group Bo'az in Beit Jalla. Most of them are teenagers, the youngest boy is only nine years old and the oldest in his early thirties. Every member of the group has his own special needs and receives support from the wonderful staff of Jemima (, the organization that provides them with everything they need.
Karolien, a Belgian volunteer in al-Azzah Refugee Camp, joined me and was a great help during the workshop.
We opened with a welcoming song in which every participant was greeted with his name. Although some of the boys did not show any reaction when hearing their name, they all reacted to the sound of the guitar. Some started smiling, others rocked their body with the music.

After the song we played a musical game with a balloon. Issa was a bit afraid from the sounds, but Mohammad loved the balloon and made a nice decoration out of it so we could hang it in the room.
Then we sang an Arabic song about macaroni, here is the translation:

I'm a very poor man,
I don't even have a little house,
and I had to sell my pants,
so I could buy some macaroni to eat!

In Arabic it rhymes....
Issa was not afraid anymore and he asked to repeat the song many times. We will sing it again the following weeks and since the song has eight more verses we won't get bored!

We played another musical game in which the boys had to clap with the music. It was difficult for Anwar to clap, but after half a minute he found a solution: he stamped with his foot on the ground. This was a perfect idea so we started to clap and stamp with the music. 
Later, everyone got a music instrument to play with the music. Sameh loved the African shaker and later he accompanied me with the shaker when we sang and played the 'Bye Bye' song on the guitar.

I was very impressed by the involvement of the boys. They all had their own way of expressing themselves and showed creativity. 
For the coming period, Musicians without Borders in cooperation with Holy Land Trust will continue to give the Bo'az boys weekly music workshops.

Monday, November 15, 2010

World Diabetes Day in al-Masara

On November 14 was the World Diabetes Day. This year, the theme was diabetic children. Every day another 200 children around the world are affected by the disease. In Palestine, 10% of the population suffer from diabetes.

Two of the new MwB trainees, Zainab and Yasmeen, are volunteering for the Diabetes Friend's Society Bethlehem. In the morning, we traveled to al-Masara where the DFS provided free testing of blood pressure and blood sugar, followed up by a doctor in case of need.

Al-Masara is a beautiful village inhabited by about 850 Palestinians. Many villagers are farmers, cultivating their lands, growing olives, grapes and making honey. This might sound idyllic if it weren't for the Israeli separation wall which has cut farmers from their beloved lands, and threatens to grab more land in the near future. Many of the children in al-Masara live under the poverty line and experience stress from the regular army incursions at night.

While the doctors and nurses were taking care of the mothers, their children got a music workshop in the local kindergarten. Physical action is one of the basics tools to prevent stress and diabetes, so we danced and moved a lot in the workshop.

It was the first time for Zainab and Yasmeen to give a music workshop and they did a great job.
After we finished, the village asked us to return every month to continue the singing and dancing with al-Masara's children. We hope to return soon!
G. is a little boy of four years old. Two years ago, he stopped talking.
One night, he Israeli army raided his home at night, accompanied by big dogs. While witnessing this violent event, G. got in shock and expressed his fear of the dogs by stopping to talk. G. was in the music workshop today but did not sing with us yet.
Maybe next month he will be ready. And if not next month, we will try again the month after!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

trainingsweek in Silwan and Bethlehem

During the last week of October Otto de Jong and Sherwin Kirindongo, two trainers from Musicians without Borders, gave seven workshops to Palestinian trainees in becoming music workshop leaders.

Two training days took place in Silwan, East-Jerusalem. Silwan suffers from ongoing settler violence and army incursions, resulting in violent clashes between the Palestinian residents and the Israeli forces and settlers.
Ten young people from Silwan and Beit Safafa participated in the workshop. Most of them are active in the Madaa Silwan Creative Center ( where they work with children in various fields, like dabke (traditional Palestinian dance) and theater.
The training was focused on a nonviolent and positive approach to working with children, using music as a tool for non-verbal communication and expression of creativity.

The other workshops were held in al-Awdah Center in al-Azzeh Camp, Bethlehem. Divided in two groups, 16 women participated. Most of them live in the refugee camps and small villages around Bethlehem, like Dheisheh Camp, Batir, Shawahrah, Nu'aman and Husan.

The participants experienced the positive effects of music through drumming, body percussion and singing, and learned how to use music in their work with children.

The trainees were also trained in giving and receiving feedback, an important skill for a (music) workshop leader. At the beginning of the week it was still difficult for some participants to give feedback in a positive, constructive and empowering way, but at the end of the week all managed and felt comfortable giving and receiving each others' feedback. 

During the coming months, the two women groups will receive more training in music from MwB and non-violence from HLT. At the same time, the participants will lead music workshops for children in their own communities under supervision of MwB. The children that will participate in these music workshops include children from refugee camps, children with learning difficulties, children with cancer, and children with diabetes.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Day of fun for children from Dheisheh!

On Monday the 12th of July, Anas, Ahmad, Diya, Hisham, Mohammad and Yousef took 40 children from Dheisheh Refugee Camp to a parc in Beit Jallah where they had a day of fun, including music and rap workshops!

More pictures from music workshops in Ghirass Cultural Center

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ghirass Cultural Center

During the one-month summer camp of Ghirass Cultural Center in Bethlehem (, 13 trainees gave in total 42 music workshops to more than 150 children. The children, age 6-12, are divided into six groups. The oldest groups sing songs, dance, rap and play Arabic percussion. The younger groups sing, dance, play musical games and rhythms with sticks. Every day the workshops end with an activity for all the children together: on the stage every group shows the others what they have learned during the day, for example a dance or a song. This is also the moment when all the children can sing together: children from Bethlehem, Beit Jallah, Dheisheh camp and children with learning difficulties, the young ones and the older children, they all experience the beauty of singing together!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Video of the trainees in action

Workshops for the Elderly

Project leader Fabienne van Eck gave two music workshops to elderly women in Taybe and Bethlehem. They sang traditional Arabic songs, enjoyed playing musical games and practiced voice exercises. At the end of the workshop in Taybe, the 25 women played the tambourine and started to dance and sing traditional wedding songs. We hope to be able to continue working with these groups after the summer.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Jordan Meningitis Foundation

This is the thank you letter for Naji, Maher and Yousef for the music workshop they gave in December 2009 to children that survived Meningitis.
Although some of the children can not talk anymore and have problems expressing themselves, they all react very strongly on the music. The Jordan Meningitis Foundation is doing amazing work for these children and their families and we hope to visit them more often in the future!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Love&Peace for Childhood: SOS Children's Village Bethlehem

The SOS Children's Village Bethlehem provides family-based, long-term care of children who can no longer grow up with their biological families. In the Village they currently have 90 children and another 40 boys and girls living in the SOS youth houses. The village was established in 1966 (see also When the SOS children start to live independently after having finished university or a vocational training they are called SOS graduates. SOS Bethlehem's graduates have founded an association in order to keep a close link of the former SOS children to the ones that are still in the village. Furthermore this association is supposed to strengthen the SOS graduates in the society.
The recently-elected board of trustees of the Children's Village Graduates Association CVGA organized a Love & Peace for Childhood Day in Bethlehem on Sunday 13th June 2010.

"Love & Peace for Childhood is a day when we will attract the attention and concern to abandoned children, we believe that there are millions of children who do not get education, shelter, health… so on. If we succeed on that day, this day will be an anniversary that will be launch to the world from Bethlehem by Children’s Villages Graduates Association. This is why CVGA asked for you and other people for the entire world. Therefore we together have to do our best and pay hard work for that day."

Maher, Hisham and Anas gave a short music workshop during this event, in which 50 children actively participated and many others were watching.

Music workshop for Basma Society, Bethlehem

On Saturday the 12th of June, the Basma Society organized a birthday party, where Fadi and Maher gave a music workshop for the children and their mothers.
Basma Society provides moral and financial support and guidance to all age groups of cancer patients and their families. They organize recreational activities in which the children and their families get a chance to smile (Basma in Arabic means "smile").
For more information about the beautiful work of this organization, please write to the following address:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

workshop for children in Beit Sahour

On Monday the 31st of May Fadi gave a music workshop to children that graduated that day from the kindergarten:

Workshop with children from the Basma foundation

Maher and Fadi gave a music workshop with the organization Basma. Fadi wrote the following text about this day:

"We love children and we love to work with them. That's why we did a workshop with children in Bethlehem that have cancer. The workshop was very successful and we managed to break the border between the children and us, the workshop leaders. we asked the children what kind of activities they liked and we played these games together. I hope the children felt the same as we did, because for us it was a very special and beautiful experience."

فادي و ماهرمن مخيم عايدة عملوا مع مؤسسة بسمة

فادي كتب عن هاذا اليوم:

"نحن نحب الأطفال كثيرا و نحب العمل معهم. لقد قمنا بعقدنا ورشة عمل مع اطفال مرضى السرطان في مدينة بيت لحم, كان تقييم الورشة ناجا جدا من قبل المشاركين , فقد استطعنا أن نكسر الجليد وبددنا الحاجز بيننا وبين الاطفال المشاركين. عبَّروا لنا عن العابهم المفضَّلة ولعبناها معهم كما شاركونا في جميع التمارين والألعاب الهادفة بحماس وشوق.

كان شعورا جميلا فاق العادي, أتمنى أن يحظى الجميع بمثلة."