Inspiring Young Refugees in Syracuse to Find their Voices
While the nation waits and debates the fate of immigrants and refugees who want to come to the United States, Musicians for World Harmony uses music to encourage young refugees who are already here to express themselves creatively and share their wishes for peace and the future.
We recently completed a project with the North Side Learning Center, which houses an array of programs and services that help the refugee and immigrant community in Syracuse. Through Music Heals, musicians involved with MWH use music and music therapy principles to “help people find their voices”. In this project, about 12 high school aged girls, all Muslim and all from Somalia, experimented with poetry, singing, rap, and instruments over a series of several evenings at the Center on Syracuse’s North Side.
Samite Mulondo, world musician and a former refugee himself, led the project with the young women. It culminated in a recording session at Electric Wilburland Studio in Newfield, NY, where four of the participants experienced performing and having their poetry and words recorded with music played by Samite and Nate Silas Richardson, an Ithaca based area musician.
In the words of one of the participants, “It just made me open my heart – today changed my whole view of singing and writing poems”. Mulondo explained “when we first started, the participants didn’t say much, said they didn’t remember a lot about coming to the US as children. But in each session, as they started to share small bits, they each began to speak up more. Usually at the end of a session, they were talking, sharing and laughing more freely.
Mark Cass, Director of the North Side Learning Center, explained that recent political developments have been tense but the Syracuse community has been supportive. The two nonprofits began planning this project over a year ago, well ahead of travel bans. Adapting to new customs and climates is daunting; families are most often admitted after long periods of displacement from situations they have fled. Cass explains that the girls involved in the project and families, while here legally, face these pressures and are worried for family that had hoped to join them. “The project has been wonderful for them, it’s been a great experience for them to be exposed to very talented and caring musicians and that this kind of technology, career ideas exist. We’re fortunate for this kind of unique program, and also for the time of volunteers like Brice Nordquist, Assistant Professor of Writing and Rhetoric of Syracuse University, who donated his time to work with the girls on their creative pieces”.
Musicians for World Harmony hopes to share the recordings once ready to share the participants’ voices and message of peace: Assalamu alaikum which means "peace be on you". We also hope to gain resources to do the project with additional young people. The project was made possible by the John Ben Snow Foundation and the JM McDonald Foundation.
Now More Than Ever: The Healing Power of Music in 2017
Music is a great force for healing – something we all need in our lives. We know many people in the US and abroad are shaken with uncertainty as 2016 draws to a close. We are more committed to ever to the importance of our work. That’s because it’s so powerful – able to build bridges between people, able to evoke memories and emotions, and as more and more research is showing, able to help people feel better.
People everywhere react psychologically to music. We have seen its effects in working with children with neurological disorders, seniors who struggle with agitation or sadness, and people everywhere coping with trauma and pain. We ask you to help us make this continued work possible. MWH has promising things ahead, including:
- More work with seniors to reduce the effects of dementia and other health problems, locally and across the country with Dr.Bill Thomas;
- A collaboration with the North Side Learning Center in Syracuse, working with middle-to-high school-aged refugees, encouraging their expressions through music and poetry;
- Serving the Urban 4-H program at Cooperative Extension and their afterschool students from the West Village neighborhood;
- A potential new project to promote intercultural understanding between students in New York, Virginia, Sweden and Rwanda;
- Exploring additional new collaborations with the students at IC and Syracuse; and
- Continuing partnerships with the Berklee College of Music and aid centers in Uganda and Kenya.
While we can attract small project grants for some of this work, they do not cover all costs. MWH relies on gifts from supporters like you to pair with these grants so we can pursue new partnerships with other nonprofits and keep our core operations running to be able to deliver these programs.
As a friend of the organization, please consider a generous donation, continuing support of our programs that bring hope, soothing, and healing to so many people. Musicians for World Harmony works on an extremely limited budget, and your gift will be well used and deeply appreciated.
Think of the last time you saw another’s eyes light up with joy, or recognition, or deep memory as a tune reaches their ears. We are fortunate in our work to see the restorative effects of music on so many peoples’ lives and souls. Thank you for your shared belief in that work and for considering this request!