One Can Only Hope

Looking back at the last week of our journey, I am surprised by how much we have completed. The week began with a two day stint of workshops at the YWCA in Ramallah, followed by three days of workshops in the refugee camps of Bethlehem.  After one day of vacation we traveled to the Edward Said Music Conservatory in Beirzeit where Danny and Lauren are currently working with the Palestine Strings. Although we have been busy, we have been learning quite a bit about ourselves and the people we are working with.

The 3rd and the 4th of July saw us at the YWCA located in the city of Ramallah. That Tuesday we had met with the organizers of a children’s summer camp currently taking place at the YWCA. After talking with them we decided that working with these children at the summer camp was something that fit into our project parameters and that it would be easy to incorporate ourselves into the summer camp. Thus we returned to the summer camp on the 3rd and 4th and presented music workshops to the children. We worked with four groups of children, ranging from 5 years of age to 12 years of age. Although every group of children was different, each responded in a positive way to the music, taking the opportunity to try their hand at conducting, playing the violin, and composing their own music. At the end of our two days at the summer camp, one of the camp leaders made a comment to me to the effect of: “We really appreciate you guys bringing music to our children. It gives them something else to focus on and a chance to hear something that they would otherwise not have the opportunity to hear.”

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Next we traveled to Bethlehem where we planned on working with children in the refugee camps there. We spent one day at Shoruq, an NGO dedicated to providing Palestinians with a way to express their views and experiences through utilizing multimedia and ensuring Palestinian refugees’ participation in the local economy and development of their own communities. At this particular workshop the participants were all ages, ranging from 5 years old to 23 years old. Despite the age differences all took part in the activities, producing a creative and positive atmosphere during the workshop. At one point during the workshop, we had the youth split up into groups to compose their own rhythms with drumsticks. It was enjoyable to see how creative they were and how much fun they had creating their own music.

079These youth embraced the music, making insightful comments about the music they heard and showing their uplifted spirits. Looking back at these workshops and thinking of the children we worked with, we are more than glad that we traveled here to work with the Palestinian children to present music as an example of expression to them. Through our interactions, we have established relationships and showed that community can transcend culture, geography, and race. There were times when it would be easy to observe the effect of the music on particular children. Yet at other times, it was not always easy to see how our workshops would affect these children’s lives. Yet one has to hope and trust that somehow these children we have worked with will be affected positively through the music and our interactions with them. More to come soon about the other workshops; stay tuned!



First Workshop!

There is much anticipation that precedes a new experience about which there are many unknowns. Thoughts of doubt and nervousness creep in, and you start to wonder how what you have to offer will be received. Last night Danny and I planned and re-planned our first workshops which were to take place today. We knew that we would be working with teens from the Jerusalem area who are attending a summer camp. When we arrived at the school (in the old city) which hosted the summer camp for these youth, we were met with around twenty girls.


After a brief introduction we played Handel-Halvorsen’s Passacaglia for the girls, and they listened very attentively. The performance was met with a very enthusiastic response and when everyone had quieted down, we had a chance to talk. What did they like about the music they heard?  What did it remind them of? What emotions did the music communicate to them? We explained that the piece that they heard was in the form of a theme and variations, meaning that the main theme, stated at the beginning of the piece, was repeated throughout, each time in a different style.


We went on to help the girls come up with their own personal “themes” in the form of rhythms which they tapped out on the ground with a set of drumsticks. We went around the circle and had each girl tap her own theme, followed by the group repeating together the rhythm that had just been played. This personal expression from each girl gave a perfect opportunity for us to get at something deeper. We explained that each one of us was uniquely made with talents and abilities that are special to each of us. The girls became more subdued, and thought about what they liked to do and what they saw themselves as being good at. We then went around the circle again and each girl shared.

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We hope that today was an affirmation to these girls, many of whom find themselves in difficult situations, that they matter and that they have something special to offer that is unique to each of them. They were a joy to work with and they even gave Danny a belated birthday present: