Sunday, January 30, 2011

Singing in the hospital

3 weeks ago
“Play something happy!”
Qamar's sister tells me. Together with Qamar, her mother and sister, we sing a joyful song of Fairuz. (listen to Fairuz singing Kan ez-Zaman)

MwB trainees Seereen, Amira, and Fadi join me in two workshops in the al-Hussein hospital for children with cancer. Qamar, 19 years old is not a child anymore but she loves music, and we spend some time with her singing, while I play on the guitar and the cello.

2 weeks ago
“Fabienne, I have very bad news.”
“Qamar died.”

1 week ago
Together with Fadi and a group of volunteers from the Basma Society, we are going to give a workshop to the children in the hospital. The new volunteers are eager to see how we do music with the children, so they can use it as well during their weekly visits to the children with cancer.
Before we walk together to the hospital, we sit in the Basma center and we discuss which songs and movements we will do. We are all in a good mood and ready to play with the children. But when we arrive at the hospital, reality hits us in the face once again. Yasser, a four year old boy just passed away. Instead of playing music and having fun with the children, we sit with Yasser's mother and try to comfort her, as far as it's possible in such circumstances.

Today we work with four children. They remember us from the other workshops and are less shy. 

As promised, we brought every child a music instrument so they can play with us. Ameer loves the tambourine, and Tamara is very excited with her bell-shaker. At the end of the workshop she discovers that the guitar can make sound as well when you hit on it. She gives the shaker to her mother and hits the guitar carefully, playing with the beat of the song. 

Little Tamara is extremely musical, always clapping on the beat!

Rowan remembers the songs and sings and dances with us. Her mother, a kindergarten teacher, makes sure we teach her all the words, so she can sing it herself with her children.

Sameera and Ameer can not leave their beds, but that is fine; we sing every song twice, one time in front of Ameer's bed and one time in front of Sameera's bed. Rowan and Tamara walk with us from one side of the room to the other, followed by their mothers.

We should not forget the mothers. They are very strong, supporting their children day and night, while dealing with the emotions that come with a child that has cancer. When we sing the bye bye song to Sameera and her mother, her mother starts to cry. “She is only one year and seven months...”

What can we do? We give her a hug and continue to sing the song:

“Bye bye bye Sameera,
How are you today?
Insha'allah (in God's will) we will see you
always healthy
(Translated from Arabic) 

* the kids love that their photos are taken, but for privacy reasons, I changed their names

Saturday, January 22, 2011

"They still knew my name!"

It is the third time that we give a music workshop in the kindergarten in al-Ma'sara. Al-Ma'sara is a small beautiful village south of Bethlehem and probably no one would have ever heard of it, if it was not for the brave people of al-Ma'sara. Women and men, young and old, made their village a well known positive example of nonviolent popular resistance. Al-Ma'sara is surrounded by settlements that are build on land that belongs to the farmers of al-Ma'sara, traditionally growing olives and grapes and making honey. 
The agricultural village with less than 900 inhabitants has been holding weekly nonviolent demonstrations since November 2006, when construction of the wall began in the area.
But thanks to the active people of al-Ma'sara, successes have also been seen. For example, some of the land has been saved and returned to the farmers of al-Ma'sara.

Although the young children might not understand yet what is going on around their village, they do see the settlements, the wall, and experience the night raids of the Israeli army in their village. We don't know how the children perceive all this and how this will effect their future.

What we do know, is that the children are very creative and enjoy singing and dancing.
Today, we taught them a Palestinian children song about going to the market and frying an omelet, with lots of olive oil and olives. It's a rainy day, there is no electricity in the kindergarten so the room is pretty dark and cold.

With our jackets, hoods and scarfs, we imagine ourselves on the market, buying tomatoes, cucumbers and even water melons. We sing the song and show the movements: going to the market, baking bread, breaking eggs and stirring the omelet, sharing the omelet with friends and last but not least, thanking grandmother for making us the omelet. As always in the al-Ma'sara kindergarten, the lovely teachers join us in the music workshop.

Buying big water melons in the market

I can not agree more with Amira, one of the MwB trainees that gave this workshop together with Seereen:
"It was really great and also better than the one before, they are really lovely kids!"

And Seereen added:
 "I was shocked that after one month they still remembered my name! I am so happy for that. I liked the kids because of their enthusiasm for the workshop and their interaction.There was a special girl I liked a lot: when I asked her to do some movements with sticks she chose new movements without copying movements I had done before." 

Friday, January 14, 2011

300 kids!

Today MwB trainees Sa'da and Samar gave a music workshop for 300 children (age 5-13) and their mothers from the Bethlehem area.

Both women work in the Ghirass Cultural Center*, which hosted the event. Sa'da is a librarian in the center's library for children, Samar is the supervisor of the adult literacy program & the educational toys library program.
During their work in the center and the outreach program in the villages Battir, al-Khader and Zakaria, they taught the children songs from the MwB training. Today finally all the children could sing these songs together!

Making movements to the music

The children are copying the movements from Samar and Sa'da

Sa'da clapping with the kids

Sign to be silent: Hand in the air!!!

*Ghirass Cultural Center is an educational, cultural and leisure center that gives the children of Bethlehem district a safe place to learn, play, meet friends, develop and grow into young adults. It addresses the needs of the children of Bethlehem district, from birth to 16 years. The center is affiliated to Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation.
The center was established in 1994 for two main reasons:
  • The need for a safe place to learn and play became apparent during the first Intifada (uprising against the Israeli occupation) where the children were the innocent victims of the closure of schools and curfews.
  • Ghirass was also set up due to the prevailing academic philosophy at the time and the lack of cultural education in the schools. The Center recognized the importance of giving the children of Bethlehem an opportunity to learn their traditional music, dance and handicrafts and to gain knowledge of Palestinian culture, history, literature and ecology.
(This text was copied from the website of Ghirass Center)

Thank you Madeleine for making the pictures!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Kindergarten for Every Child

“Here to the left.”
“There is no left.”
“Oh. So take the right and then left.”
“That's not a road.”
“Oh. So continue straight.”
“This is the last house. You want me to continue? It's dark, it's just desert here. There are wild dogs.”
“Oh. So make a reverse until the road is wide enough to turn and then go to the left.”
“I'm not sure my car will survive this road. This is not a road anyhow.”
“Don't worry, it's a road......Oh. It's not. It's a field of olive trees.”
“Fadi? Maybe it's time to call H.'s father again and ask him where to go now?”

We, MwB trainees Fadi and Wafa' and me, are invited to the house of H. in the village Abadiyeh. Wafa' lives in Abadiyeh and knows the road. At least, she knows it by daylight. But it's dark, and there are no lights outside.

We drive back to the entrance of the village, where we ask a man on the road for help to find the house. By chance, he H.'s uncle. He joins us in the car and shows us the way. We pass the road that was not a road, we pass the olive field, and we pass the last houses of the village. In front of us is the desert, the dead sea, and Jordan. But we see only darkness. Suddenly, behind a hill, we discover some light. This is where the family of H. lives, the six year old boy that has a severe skin disease. H. has difficulties to breath, can barely walk and his hands are misshaped. But what worries us the most is that he is not going to a kindergarten. We feel that H. needs to play with other children. His parents are afraid that the other children will be nasty to H. because of his disease. 

Fadi talks with the parents and uncles of H. and explains to them the importance of a social environment. In the end, they agree that H. will try to go every day with his mother for two hours to the kindergarten. Wafa's mother works in the kindergarten and will explain to the other children that H. is a normal child, and that they don't have to be afraid of him, even if he looks different from them.

After this serious conversation, I take out the guitar and we start to sing for H. and his little sister. In no time, eight other children join. H.'s cousins who live next door joined us, and together we sing songs and play small percussion instruments. For a moment, we form a group, a group of children, mothers, fathers, and grandparents. H. is included, smiling, and shakes two shakers together with the music.

We hope to play music with H. again, but not in his house at the end of the world. We hope to play with him in the kindergarten, together with many other children!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

They just want to be children!

“The day we spent with the children was wonderful. It is important that we do not pity them or see them as poor children.”

Fadi, a MwB trainee and a volunteer as the project coordinator of Basma (“Smile”) Society, talks with me about the New Year's event that was organized by Basma Society and the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation: a day of fun for children with cancer and their families in the al-Hussein Hospital in Beit Jalla.
Four MwB trainees, Fadi, Mohamad, Amira, and Seereen gave a music workshop to these children. For a moment, the children could forget the harsh reality they live in and sing and move to the music.

Fadi continues:

“For us, the people that are not sick, it is important to know how to deal with the children that have cancer. The children want to be seen as normal children. They have the same needs as any other child, they want to play, to talk....they just want to have contact with others!
We try to make the children feel 'normal', we try to get their minds for a moment out of the hospital and out of their disease.”

For Amira, Mohamad, and Seereen, it is the first time to give a music workshop to children with cancer. Although it is not an easy thing to sing and stay positive while they knew that these children are very sick, they did a great job and they gave the children lots of joy.
After the workshop, Amira and Seereen summarized their thoughts:

Amira: “Briefly there are no words that can describe my feelings. Honestly it was the workshop that I loved the most and I want to keep working with them inshallah (in God's will).”

Seereen: “The workshop with the children with cancer was fun and something new for me. I loved the children and I felt great affection towards them. I'm very happy because I did something to make them feel happy and escape from the pain for a few moments although I didn't do a big thing. But what I saw was happiness in their eyes, and that made it great....Allah protects them”

The children and Seereen listen to Amira, who is telling the children the story of the Donkey Song!
On the Palestinian news website Panet, an item was written about the event. The short text is in Arabic, but the many pictures you can see on the website don't need any translation!

M. helped the workshop leaders, looking for nice songs that we listened to through the red speaker. He was a great DJ!