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.”