A brief intro by Danielle Smith, Sandblast founder
Last year, Andrada and Florin, two people who have become like family to me, took a huge leap of faith and volunteered their time to go to the Sahara to run a music workshop, for the Saharawi refugee children, in our Desert Voicebox project. It was an experience of firsts for them. It was the first time they set afoot the African continent, it was the first time they travelled to a desert region and it was definitely the first time they ever tried camel meat. I am truly happy I was able to share this journey with them and the many enjoyable moments we had living together in tent, for ten days, in the middle of the desert.
The music workshop was also a first for our project. Its resounding success proved to be a turning point, highlighting how these kinds of encounters enrich and expand the horizons of everyone involved. During their time there, Andrada and Florin taught the children a Romanian folk song, which they loved and, in turn, the children taught them the beautiful Saharawi song 'Asahara ma tinbaa' (The Sahara is not for same). Once again, music revealed its power to cross all frontiers and showed us the road to building bridges of enduring friendship and respect.
Below is Andrada's account of her experience, in her own words. Please read and enjoy and view the slideshow of their time in the camps.
My name is Andrada Maria Pascu and I am a Romanian piano and singing tutor, based in London for 11 years. I have been working with all levels, teaching from total beginners to University students.
In February 2019, my husband and I were invited by Sandblast to join forces and run a -7 day workshop in the Saharawi refugee camps, based in Algeria. We are both musicians and run AB Music Academy, in London, which we founded in 2012. Considering this invitation both a challenge and an adventure, we rapidly agreed, not knowing that it would be an experience that would have a life impact on us.
Arriving in the Saharawi camp of Boujdour, near Tindouf, we met the wonderful family, which would host us for the entire period of our stay. The lessons we learnt from them were that we can share from the smallest part and there is no me, or you, there is just us. The unbelievable sense of community was shocking, in the beginning, as we never thought something like that would exist: It didn't take us a long time to feel we were part of it and we that we could build something together.
Despite having worked with pupils from all kinds of backgrounds, teaching the children from the camps was a lesson for us as well. Usually, their timetable included 45 minutes of music 3 times per week, but because we were staying only 7 days, their lessons were arranged to run as an intensive music course of 2hrs every day. When asked if they would like to do an extra day on their day off, they all jumped and shouted yes. Considering that we are talking about children from 9-11, an age where they easily get bored and want to go out to play, these children didn’t even like to have their well deserved 5 minutes break.
We couldn’t help making a comparison with the Western society, where it is so hard to keep the students engaged and entertained and where parents often consider a 1h lesson too long for them. The children from the camps worked hard, like little sponges, and absorbed all the information, even though it was delivered in the foreign language and not in Hassaniya, their spoken Arabic.
In those 7 days, we taught music using the Stave House method, which we were introduced to and trained in before going to Africa. It is very enjoyable and easy to deliver no matter what the language and the skill level and it gives music teachers the opportunity to develop their creativity and imagination. Our mission was to consolidate Level 2 Stave House and to do activities with the children to ensure they grasped how to put into practice what they were learning theoretically.
It was heartbreaking to see these children with lots of aspirations and dreams and realising that after they finish school, most of them would have no future. This is why we decided to continue helping and supporting in whatever way we can with our knowledge, and by spreading the word about their existence and their situation.
Our trip to Sahara made us appreciate more what we have: our families, our freedom, and every little small detail which we take for granted - like water- which for us has no value, but they appreciate each drop.
Starting from then, we have been trying to be more responsible with what surrounds us, with our planet and our lives and do not let small details pass us by. We are happy and grateful to have had the chance to learn this lesson and to be able to bring joy and happiness to the children through what we know best: music!
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