Monday, November 14, 2011

World Diabetes Day in Bethlehem

Today was World Diabetes Day, a good reason for the Diabetics Friends' Society in Bethlehem to organize a day of fun for children with diabetes or cancer and their families. Around 150 people attended the activities which included playing wooden games on the main square in Bethlehem and a beatbox show. While the children were playing and having fun, their parents could test their blood sugar level. We gave a music workshop with MwB/HLT trainees Yasmeen and Reham in the Peace Center, with the bravest children on stage and their mothers in the audience.

Thank you DFS for making this day possible!

Thank you Halima for taking pictures!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Circus in Town!

A beautiful collaboration took place on a sunny Sunday in October: Musicians without Borders, Holy LandTrust, Ghirass Cultural Center, and Circus 2 Iraq joined together for a visit in two small villages south of Bethlehem.

The first village was Zakariyeh: if one doesn’t know the full story, the village looks peaceful. A donkey walks around, some elder women sit together at the only square of the village, and some chickens scutter around. The village is surrounded by hills, but if you look around there is not much to see from these hills. Instead the view is contaminated by ugly new built houses, electricity poles, and fences: Zakariyeh is surrounded by settlements. In one of the settlements, the school with a swimming pool is clearly visible. How can a father explain to his son that while they barely have water to wash, the children that live next to them have a swimming pool in their school?

But we didn’t have much time to think about it, because soon all 40 children from the village came to the square to join our music workshop and circus show.

The children, age 4 to 14, made a circle and we started dancing, singing, and laughing, while the women watched us.

After the music workshop the children sat together and the circus started. I watched the children’s reaction to the silly acts of the clowns, and wasn’t sure what was funnier: watching the children’s faces or the actual circus.

After we said goodbye we went to a neighboring village: Beit Fajjar. We prepared ourselves and waited for the children from a primary school to gather at the big space in front of the school. Soon the first kids ran outside and sat on the concrete stairs. I asked the head mistress if we could start the workshop, but another 100 children ran outside. This repeated itself another couple of times until all 450 children from the school somehow found a place. Sa’ada , MwB trainee from Ghirass Center, stood in front of one half of the group, while I tried to be visible for the other 225 kids...

Before we started the workshop the children were shouting, laughing, and mostly they were just children: making lots of noise. The head mistress tried to make them silent by shouting at them through the microphone. But the noise continued and Sa’ada and I asked the head mistress if we could just start the workshop and see what happens.

We started doing body percussion, not using our voice or a microphone, but just making movements and sounds: clapping, stamping, snapping, and clapping again. In a couple of seconds, all 450 children joined us and one big wave of sound was created. We continued with some movements to music and more body percussion.

Then it was time for the circus again. All children concentrated on the movements and sounds of the clowns. I’m not sure if it was because the clowns were so contagious or because the children got used to copying us during the music workshop, but many of them continued to also copy the movements and sounds of the clowns, what made watching the children even more fun!

Thank you so much Joe, Sheila, and China from Circus 2 Iraq for all the shows you did this year in Palestine, we hope you will be back soon!

And we hope that the beautiful outreach program in the small Bethlehem villages of Ghirass Cultural Center will continue and expand!

Thank you Melanie and China for the pictures!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Music Workshop Leader Training

“My 12-year old son is hyperactive and usually doesn’t listen very well. But after this training week I tried something new with him: instead of telling him what to do (making his homework, waking up), I tried singing to him. This way I manage to grab his attention immediately and he listens to me!”

“Last weeks were very stressful for me because of some issues. But this training gave me so much positive energy and new skills that my home and psychological situation improved a lot.”
During the second week of October, two new groups participated in the Music Workshop Leader Training. We were grateful to be hosted by the Palestinian Union for Social Workers and Psychologists (PUSWP), who welcomed us in their beautiful renovated building. PUSWP invited social workers and students from the Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah areas. Two women from the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) and one from the Diabetic Friends' Society (DFS) also joined the training.

For one week, we sang, played percussion and body percussion, and discussed pedagogical and social issues. We practiced positive communication and feedback, and learned a lot from each other’s ideas and experiences.

Now a new period starts in which every participant will use the new skills: every participant chooses a place where he or she will give a music workshop. Different ideas are already discussed, including a music workshop for children with special needs, a workshop in a hospital, a training for university students, an evening of relaxation with drumming and songwriting for teenagers in an agricultural boarding school, and a workshop for deaf children. I hear you thinking, music with deaf children? Yes, deaf children can also enjoy music! They can feel the vibrations; they can do body percussion, drum and use the sticks we use during the workshops to create rhythms and music. Proof is one of our participants this year who is deaf herself (and a deaf child at a summer camp in Rwanda that participated in MwB workshops: read here). I’m sure she will be a wonderful example for the children she will be working with!
Thank you PUSWP for hosting us.

And of course a very big thank you to the fantastic trainers Sherwin and Otto!

Thank you Koen and Amer for the pictures!