Support 450 Disadvantaged Palestinian Children

 
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Jul 31, 2012

Postcard: Project Site Visit

Fantastic Auditorium for performances
Fantastic Auditorium for performances

After a moment of embarrassment while searching for the building where Beit Almusica had its facilities, only to realize they had a two-story banner with their organization’s name on it directly facing us, Manmeet and I made it to the Beit Almusica offices. The Community Projects Manager, Melanie Atrash, greeted us warmly as we arrived at their very impressive facilities.

We took a seat with her and the founder of Beit Almusica, Amer Nakhleh and had some very strong and very delicious Arabic coffee as we discussed their role in the community of providing music classes to the Palestinian youth in their community of Shefa’Amer, Israel.

We learned in our meeting that Israel has three different types of schools, Israeli schools, Palestinian schools, and schools that are open to both. Communities that are primarily Palestinian, such as Shefa’Amer, have only Palestinian schools which are funded considerably less than other types of schools in the area. This means that classes such as music suffer the most and are largely unavailable to students in these schools.

Beit Almusica provides these students with a way to continue their music education and to perform. They are even able to take the national exam to receive a music degree through the program at Beit Almusica. The organization focuses on keeping the culture of Palestinian music alive as well, playing and teaching music from Palestinian composers.

After coffee and a chat, Melanie took us on a tour of their two-story music facility. The first stop, the auditorium! In the vast auditorium, lined with photographs of Palestinian music icons, was a piano student playing piano with her teacher.  Miral was being taught jazz piano by a former Beit Almusica student, Loay. She even played a piece for us that she composed herself! You can watch the video we took here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akMZEEd6RBk&feature=youtu.be

The next stop on the tour was a peak into their many individual classrooms where students receive lessons. One of these classrooms was being converted into a recording studio! Finally, we saw an apartment which is used for volunteers and even visiting musicians who are playing in their auditorium. Before we made our trip back to Haifa, Melanie even taught Manmeet a scale or two on the piano!

Loay teaching Miral at Beit Almusica
Loay teaching Miral at Beit Almusica
The Back of the Auditorium
The Back of the Auditorium
Manmeet getting some piano lessons
Manmeet getting some piano lessons

Links:

Jul 15, 2012

"Music is Magic"

Update 13: July 2012

Well, our current academic year has now come to an end. It has been an amazing year full of experiences, excitements, sad stories and happy ones.

April and May were rather quiet months for work – together with the schools we had holidays for about three weeks in spring, after that we came back to teaching, and continued till the end of June.

In late May we started to put together the four different school ensembles featuring the different instruments the children had studied since December. Arranging those groups and their training sessions was quite a challenge for itself, since we sort of clashed with the final exams at schools and a general feeling of “We need holidays already!”. But it worked well in the end, also because of the efforts put forward by our teachers Saied Silbak, Akram Abdelfattah and Reem Hamed.

Social empowerment sessions at schools continued, and the children have developed a really close relation of trust and sympathy to our two trainers. Also the teachers at all four schools took part in a social empowerment workshop, and many of them reported on the changes they witnessed happening with their students along the year.

One of the schools actually took the school ensemble three days before our final concert to perform in front of the school for the students of the final year. And without their music teacher. We were a bit hesitating, but the kids did great - and it did give them a boost of self confidence.

On the 29.06.2012 we closed our current academic year with a fun enrichment activity for the children and handing out certifications.

But before that we had our big event: the end-of-the-year concert at the Beit Almusica hall in front of almost 150 family members, representatives of the schools and municipalities and the Welfare Foundation that generously supported our project along the way.

For most of the children it was the first time ever to perform on stage and in front of public – and they did great. Everyone came in his/ her finest dress for the occasion. It was amazing to see how cool kids were. One girl said: ”I am not excited. I know I can do this. If I can do it alone with my teacher I can do this here as well.” When the project started teaching 8 months ago she was quite anxious about having private lessons without class mates…

For some impressions from the concert, please follow this link: AACT final concert 2012.

For us now it is another month and a half of closing up the year, evaluating all data – be it our own musical evaluations, the attendance rates and the teachers’ feedback as well as the second round of the social evaluation.

We know different stories from children who moved through changes throughout the year and for whom music provided meaning and support. One of our students, a 12 year old boy, asked if it was possible to take his instrument home for the holidays to continue practice. He was always the one responsible for the younger students of his group, carrying instruments if needed and keeping things in order. During the year his father was imprisoned for drug dealing while his mother has been diagnosed with a severe illness. For him, the days and lessons at Beit Almusica provided some happy time, away from everything else, with a teacher that paid attention to him both as student and as a person.

There are many more stories like that, and we will share some of them with you in our next update, together with the results of our evaluation.

Meanwhile, we are working on getting support for the next academic year – and you can certainly make a difference.

Regardless of whether you choose to continue supporting the AACT project with time, money, or good will, we are determined to continue this important work in 2012/2013 and beyond and to be great partners with you and responsible and effective stewards of your hope, time and resources.

Please tell five of your friends about this project, post it on your face book and tell your family and friends about it. Even the smallest support from you can make a huge difference in the lives of these children.

Thank you!  

Apr 16, 2012

"Tune the Music"

It is hard to believe that we are already well past half our current project year. Every week comes with its own surprises and challenges, and hardly any week goes by without another special story or event – sometimes happy and sometimes sad. Two students broke their arms, and now receive alternative music lessons. Another student lost her father to a fatal  illness. One school principal called “just to say” how much the music has already changed the school and the children participating – moving them from a status of marginalized and unpopular to being something special because of their hard work in music.

Music teaching started December 2011, and lessons continue. We did have some changes in participants: there were some children who decided they do not want to continue with music, others were taken out by their families, and others changed their instruments. For those 8 children who left the project alltogether new children were taken on in February 2012, and we are still with 100 kids! The next evaluation takes place in April, if there are any children who dropped out those who stay will receive longer lessons.

Actually we now have 101 children - in a way. One of our AACT students, a fifth grader, used to arrive to his music lessons accompanied by two of his brothers, every week. He is one of the “star students” in the project: always prepared, on time, making great progress and committed. It turned out that his older brother had received some music training once via social services, but budgets were cut, and he had to stop. Unfortunately we had no possibility to take him on under the AACT project. After a music evaluation and a short discussion we decided to collect some money from the Beit Almusica staff and financed a three months starter course in flute for this older brother. He started in February, and results so far seem promising. This is but another story that shows how much music is needed and wanted, but all too often not affordable. 

All AACT participants took part in 5 social empowerment workshops at schools between November and March in which the trainers from our partner organization Duroob worked with them on communication skills, identity, self confidence and tolerance. The trainers reported on motivated and participating kids that shared their experiences and feelings. Through the music and the social empowerment some issues emerged, and two cases of alleged domestic violence had to be reported to the authorities. The schools’ management and counselors fully cooperate with the project and assist us in resolving challenges with the families and students.

In March 2012 we had a real highlight: Beit Almusica hosted a delegation* from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama for a week. During that week all of the AACT music teachers took part in Creative Learning training sessions with one of the Guildhall experts, Mr. Paul Griffiths.

Despite some skepticism in the beginning teachers were more that happy with the results of the (muuuuuch too short) training, as one teacher can be quoted:

 “I had a conversation almost with every teacher who was in the workshop, and they were totally changed, they loved the experience, they loved the method, and even started thinking about getting together and working in the same way, some teachers told me that they have new method of teaching now due to this training, so I think it was just beautiful, adding a lot to our conscious, and planting a lot of different aspects in our subconscious as to how music should be made, is there only one way? Well if you`d been to the workshop you`d probably say no.”

Also in that week we took to all four AACT project schools - two in Shefa'amr, one in Tamra and one in Eibellin - for a one and a half hour music workshop with the project kids in their respective schools. Now that turned out to be quite an event in each school! In two schools we had public performances for all the other students of that school – around 1300 students and teachers all together. But also here it is best to hear from one of our Beit Almusica teachers who was there:

“The kids loved the workshops, in both schools that I`ve attended to the kids were having the time of their life, it was very clear that most of them had never met foreigners, had never participated in such workshops, and had never experienced music from such a close distance. I think the biggest proof is that when I arrived at Beit Almusica two days later, the students of the AACT project were still singing the melody that we learned and created the day before, and came to me asking to do the same workshop again, on the spot right there right now, they were so enthusiastic and happy it was a wonderful and touching sight! I think these workshops have created a new perception for these kids towards music, which will eventually open new possibilities in their near and far future.”

The exchange was closed with a joint concert called “Tune the Music” between Beit Almusica students and teachers and the musicians from Guildhall. It was a great experience for all of us, and the feedback from the schools – students, teachers and management – to the workshops was but one : Thanks to everyone who made this possible! It was great. WE WANT MORE!

We are now entering the last three months of teaching in the project for this year, and started preparations for social and musical evaluations during the summer. Group teaching for the advanced students will start in the beginning of May – and we are looking forward to the end of the year concert in late June.

And of course we also started working on the preparations to continue this wonderful project in the next academic year. For this we will need your assistance:

Regardless of whether you choose to continue supporting the AACT project with time, money, or good will, we are determined to continue this important work in 2011/2012 and beyond and to be great partners with you and responsible and effective stewards of your hope, time and resources.

Thank you!  

* The partnership between the Guildhall School of Music and Drama exists since 2009. The current exchange is part of an EU sponsored project for building cultural infrastructures.

For more information, please refer to our website: www.beit-almusica.org.

Jan 16, 2012

Moving forward with full speed

After several weeks of internal preparations we finally got to actually start our project work with the consent of the schools and the Ministry of Education representatives.

 School were asked to prepare lists of 40 students from grades 3-5 fitting into the previously set criteria of children at risk. During four auditioning days conducted by two teams of Beit Almusica teachers and graduates, over 180 children were auditioned. From these 100 participants were accepted for the AACT project: 25 from each of the four schools. Due to the lists provided by the schools, and the results of the auditions, the AACT project features a majority of girls.

In consideration of the wishes of the children and following the recommendations of the music teachers, the students were disseminated onto the different instruments: oud, durbaka, qanoun, violin, cello, clarinet, and flute. Each student group from each school features all instruments available.

Professional teachers for all instruments were recruited, and received guidance and explanation as for the nature of the project and its aims and the specific challenges faced by these children.

Even before the actual teaching started, all AACT children and four teachers from each school were invited to visit one of the concerts of the “oud Days Festival” of Beit Almusica held in November/ December 2011.

For many of the children it was the first time ever to hear and see live music, and they went home with many new impressions. One of the principals reported that the kids continued to sing and clap hands all the way home.

And then, on the 05.12.2011 the music lessons finally started. It had been quite a challenge to itegrate the 100 AACT students into the regular schedule of the conservatory already featuring over 400 students, but the professional team at Beit Almusica did a great job! At that time, also the social empowerment meetings for the AACT kids started at the schools, conducted and organized by our project partner Duroob.

Of course, not everything is easy, and there are many challenges. Sometimes children start and do not want to continue, or parents take them out. Some need support in transportation, and with some we cannot communicate directly, only via the school. For many situations we do find solutions, for some we do not. It is a complex project within a complex reality.

First feedbacks from our music teachers were overwhelmingly positive. One was saying that she teaches at many different places where parents pay a lot of money to have their kids learn music, but the AACT kids are amazingly motivated, concentrated and looking forward to learn and make music. It is like water to the desert.

This was also the impression of Ms. Preetha Naranayan from the Guildhall School of Music who conducted a workshop for creative learning for a group of students from the project on the 23.12.2011. Students and teachers were great participants, and we certainly hope to do this again! Lots of thanks to Preetha and Guildhall for doing this workshop with us!

And with this we went into the holidays, and just came back on the 9th of January 2012.

Regardless of whether you choose to continue supporting the AACT project with time, money, or good will, we are determined to continue this important work in 2011/2012 and to be great partners with you and responsible and effective stewards of your hope, time and resources.

Thank you!  

Oct 17, 2011

BONUS DAY: Wednesday, October 19

Working Together for a Happier Childhood: BONUS DAY: Wednesday, October 19 2011

 “When I play music, I am flying in another world”

Dear Friends,

We are excited to inform you about a special opportunity: on Wednesday October 19, GlobalGiving  (a non-profit that connects donors with grassroots projects around the world to make a high impact) will match all donations at 30% made on this day. 

We would like to encourage you to donate to our AACT Project (Affirmative Action for Children Today), which contributes towards promoting a positive personal, social and cultural development of Palestinian children living in Israel through music.

Through the Affirmative Action for Children Today (AACT) we support children growing up in circumstances of social and economic disadvantage to reach their full potential through musical education. Musical education benefits children in developing basic skills such as concentration, counting, listening, and cooperation while also promoting understanding of language, improving the ability to recall information, and creating an environment more conductive to learning. Providing children with constructive alternatives for reaching their full human potential contributes towards bringing about positive change for their families and communities. Since the project was launched two years ago we have been able to support 60 children and their families. Now the project goes into its second round, this time for 100 children from three different communities and their families.

For donations please follow this link: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/support-disadvantaged-palestinian-children/  

We are finally back to school and already full into the renewed and improved AACT project. After a short summer vacation we started full speed with the preparation work for the project. The initial meetings with the principals of the final four schools to participate were highly promising. They all talked about the immense importance of such project for their school and the kind of impact they imagine this can have on students beyond the project scope. The principal in Ibillin, Ms. Taghreed Sheikh Ahmad, spoke about one of her students who had been part of the first AACT pilot and continued to study on a scholarship provided by Beit Almusica. He used to be a shy and introverted kid facing hard times being accepted by peers. At the end of the academic year 2010/2011 he stood up in front of over 500 students and teachers in the school yard and played the clarinet, receiving great applause. As she said, this was one of the most moving moments in her career as educator.

If you want to support us offering this opportunity to other children as well, please follow this link: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/support-disadvantaged-palestinian-children/

All agreed that music as an art was still widely underestimated in the Palestinian community in Israel. We were actually positively surprised by the welcoming and enthusiastic reaction of the school management stating just how much they were missing this kind of activity. All four schools are state run schools situated on the lowest three clusters of socio economic evaluation in Israel with mixed populations of Muslim, Christian and Druze. The number of Palestinian children in situations of risk and distress in Israel is growing at a much faster pace than new programs and social services offered to them. With your generous support, we will be able to offer Palestinian children at risk a happier childhood and a perspective for the future.

For donations please follow this link: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/support-disadvantaged-palestinian-children/

One of the main problems that Palestinian children in Israel face is the alarming socio-economic situation they have to endure. The state of Palestinian children is serious: around 60% are poor and 73% are at poverty risk according to figures published by the Central Bureau of Statistics. In addition to a substandard school system that lies 20 years behind its Jewish counterpart, Palestinian children in Israel lack meaningful after-school activities conductive to their well-being. This has obvious implications on the social and economic development of the Palestinian population, who has the lowest socio-economic status of all ethnic groups and the highest unemployment rates.

Regardless of whether you choose to continue supporting the AACT project with time, money, or good will, we are determined to continue this important work in 2011/2012 and to be great partners with you and responsible and effective stewards of your hope, time and resources.

Thank you!

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Project Leader

Melanie Atrash

Community Projects Manager
Shefa-Amer 20200, Israel

Where is this project located?

Map of Support 450 Disadvantaged Palestinian Children