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.