My name Is Samira Mahmood. I am a student at the University of Manchester, currently undertaking a master’s degree in Humanitarianism and Conflict Response. I aim to become involved with a charitable organisation focused on responding to violent conflict and rebuilding conflict affected communities. My placement, Musicians without Borders UK use music to support individuals and communities devastated by war and armed conflict. They design and deliver creative music programmes internationally, providing innovative ways to reduce the effects of war-related stress and trauma, and to connect divided communities. In the UK, we primarily work with refugees and asylum seekers affected by war trauma. My placement with Musician without Borders UK, being a tight-knit organisation, allowed me to get involved first-hand in the planning, preparation and implementation of one their charity projects; Rainbow Haven.
Musicians without Borders UK run another project with Freedom From Torture NW called Stone Flowers which is currently in its third year. It is a music workshop for refugee and asylum seeker torture survivors. Musicians without Borders UK aims at overcoming the experience of trauma and their difficulty in trust, being more open and connecting with others through the participation of music. During one of their recording sessions I wrote a news piece on this project for the organisations website. They were recording a song written by Mirielle, a refugee participant, her song ‘Je Pleure’ (lyrics) was a reflection of her experience and the loss of leaving her children back home. She spoke about how much she missed her family, how proud and happy she was able to sing and hoped that she could one day show people back home, and express to them how she has been feeling. The song reflected both her feelings and how much she wanted them to reach her loved ones. To watch her singing about something so close to her heart, and see her emotional reaction whilst recording was very moving. Those that have worked with the group shared their experience of how far these singers have come; I spoke with the creative producer of Stone Flowers; Aidan Jolly:
“This year Stone Flowers has developed out of its shell; more singing, more songs, and songs that are more sensitive and personal, for example Mirielle’s song about leaving her children. This is something they would not have approached in previous years. It is moving how people are being more open and expressive with their pain through song. It is very meaningful.”
Serge Tebu, a Stone Flowers music facilitator and refugee said:
“There are a lot of talented singers within this group, and they all enjoy working together. Throwing meaning out there in their songs, so that they can be heard and working incredibly hard for their performances helps characterise and build on this bond we have with one another.”
What I have seen so far from this project, is that Musicians without Borders UK has created a new way for survivors to voice their experiences. Musicians without Borders UK works towards building positive emotional connections between refugees, asylum seekers and others that don’t necessarily share the same language. Writing a news piece on Stone Flowers has given me a better understanding of the sensitivity surrounding refugees and their confidence to trust and participate in such courageous activities. This has been useful, towards the Rainbow Haven project that has just begun.