Each summer the Expressive Arts Refuge team takes its signature music program to a different group of refugees. In 2016, we led music and body music classes in Calais Jungle in the sand dune encampment of Calais, France. In 2017, we led 3-4 daily classes for children and youth at Skaramagas Camp on a concrete slab that once served as a port in Athens, Greece. In July-August, 2018, we’ll partner with LEAP to expand a music program begun in 2017 by our friend Frank Gelat from Aswat Ensemble. BAS, a non-political non-profit comprised of Palestinian leadership in ten of the twelve camps in Lebanon, will also partner with EAR through LEAP with whom they have a long-term collaboration.
We’ll work with Palestinian children and youth at Burj el Shamali settlement in southern Lebanon, using music to increase focus, listening skills, and social skills.
Each year, we provide adult refugee musicians with a platform to perform, teach children and youth, and get to know families. Most are Arabic, burdening EAR’s Tawfic Halaby with non-stop translation as well as teaching and performing. Tawfic carries out his multiple tasks with cheer and love, serving also as a cultural liaison for the California-based EAR team. After our program wraps up with a final concert, we continue to support those we leave behind via social media.
But this summer, we have an additional goal. We’ll have an opportunity to expand the skills of an ongoing music teacher to include the use of expressive arts to wake up understimulated kids and reduce their trauma.
What will we learn from those who’ve become refugees? We never know until a moment startles us into insight or warms us with expected generosity. An avid swimmer and sunbather, I also expect to learn how to swim clothed and to manage extreme heat with most of my skin covered.
Donations are always accepted through gofundme. EAR never uses donated funds for its expenses. Each volunteer is fully self-funded. We use donations for purchases that enhance our music program – musical equipment, musical instruments, the salary of an ongoing music teacher in a refugee camp, refreshments for refugee kids during their performance.