This summer I went on a mission. I was nervous about this mission, but I knew I had to go.
I had been having dreams about people in water, swimming for their life, and children drowning. Dreams where families were losing their homes in ways that are too unbearable to go into detail. These dreams were about the human crisis happening in Syria and people fighting for a chance at life and many of them not making it. Lost cities, lost homes, lost family members, loss of hope, loss of safety, and even loss of dignity.
I’d wake up in tears and often in a cold sweat.
Since I was a child I was prone to nightmares, and quite horrific ones. I never understood why as I wasn’t really in an environment that I felt prompted these visions in the dream realm, nor did I ever watch tv shows or movies that were based on violence or terror. I always felt to stay away from those and yet some how it would show up in my dreams.
When I would wake up I would often just try to “shake it off”, but there was no shaking this off. I couldn’t stop thinking about those children floating in the water, or the ones covered in ashes from the fires and the bombings.
I know this isn’t as pretty story so far as mine usual are, but folks…there is no way to sugar coat this. The reality is that this wasn’t just a nightmare for me; it’s a living nightmare for hundreds of thousands of people.
Among many other world crises, it was overwhelming me and I felt I needed to get into action and help.
Fast forward to June 2017 and I’m arriving to Thessaloniki, Greece to begin on my mission with Syrian refugees.
As I put this intention of being in service out into the universe, I manifested the opportunity to do that with an amazing shelter called Elpida Home. *(see other blog on Elpida Home for more info)
I found myself aligned with another fellow musician who also wanted to embark on this mission, and she initiated a fundraiser to raise money for musical instruments to be brought to the shelter. We partnered up with an amazing, generous, and socially conscious swimwear line called Paolita Beach that donated 20% of sales for two months for the purchasing of the instruments.
We arrived in June to the camp to find out that the refugees were in the middle of Ramadan, a month long refection prayer where they fast all day, and noise (including music) is “haram” or forbidden.
Ufff…we didn’t expect that one! Considering that the foundation of our work was music we weren’t sure what we could do.
We were advised to focus on the children, and that was one of our main focuses anyway. The children don’t fast as they are too little and they are up in the morning for schooling provided within the camp and also at a Greek school.
With instruments we managed to purchase through the fundraiser we began (quiet) morning music lessons inspiring the kids to find their voice, learn instruments such as bells, keyboards, and guitar, as well as better their English.
Many of these children are undoubtedly suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but little by little the music started to bring out their shine and joy again.
The women, most of them mothers were quite reserved, especially because of their reflecting during Ramadan. It took time to earn their trust and for them to open up to us, but eventually we got there and I was able to offer them some music therapy and sound healing. The music also started to awaken past love and passion for music and they even shared with us some of their traditional songs. We learned some songs in Arabic and later sang them to them.
We were trained while at the camp about sensitivity matters regarding their security, and giving us a bit of background on their history, including all it took for them to make it to the camp, and where they would be placed after. Most of the women had either lost their husbands, or been separated from them so they were having to learn how to take on many responsibilities that had been usually belonging to their husbands, or shared within a family unit. We were informed that for the ones that would be reunited with their husbands many of them might not be too fond of their wives’ new found independence and this may cause martial issues that could lead to divorce or abuse. Most of the training info was not necessarily happy information. It would take a longtime for their new lives to be settled and for them to adjust to many changes, especially cultural ones.
More reason to bring the joy and healing through what I know, which is music as a form of medicine.
We were at the shelter daily for about 6 weeks. With time there was a sense of renewed joy bursting throughout the camp with our music classes and music therapy sessions. The kids were singing, and soon also were their mothers.
We managed to make it until the end of Ramadan, which was celebrated with a big party and feast and a talent show. It was a night of stars shining, music, delicious food, and true celebration. Elpida Home created an atmosphere of love and acceptance, creativity and joy. Many of the Syrians were quite talented at art, dance, and music.
I felt blessed to be able to share with them some of the joy and healing that music brings, and learn about their beautiful culture.
By the beginning of July, the Greek government had ordered for the shelter to close and many of the families were moved into temporary apartments throughout Thessaloniki. They were mostly happy to move into a home.
I was inspired greatly by the amazing, courageous and generous work of Elpida Home from the directors, to the teachers, and the volunteers.
Most of the journey was emotional, but I left with my heart full. I plan to return to Thessaloniki to visit the former residents of Elpida Home and continue sharing the power of music.
Paolita Beach Swimwear supporting humanitarian efforts: https://www.paolita.co.uk/