Two years after his first visit to the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), world-renowned guitarist John McLaughlin has returned, partnering with the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and Al Mada Association for Arts Based Community Development to raise funds for their programmes for music therapy and health initiatives “in support of the Palestinian people, particularly refugee children.”
His performance at the Ramallah Cultural Palace thrilled the audience. Dedicating the show to Palestinian children, Mr. McLaughlin hoped it would bring smiles to their faces, saying: I hope that music will inspire the spirit of harmony among people.”
Deputy Director of UNRWA Operations in West Bank David Hutton reiterated the Agency’s appreciation for McLauglin’s support, saying: “The measure of star power is an artist’s energy invested in seeking to have a positive influence.”
Mr. Hutton highlighted the challenges facing Palestine refugees. He said: “UNRWA cannot fulfil all their needs due to a shortage of funds. We are here to speak about making as much of a difference as possible in the lives of people, and particularly children.” He added: “The UNRWA community mental health programme is one of the most successfully implemented initiatives. John’s continued support of an effort that brings notable benefits to Palestine refugees is a good example of a star whose example should be followed.”
On a three-day tour of the West Bank, Mr. McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension Band toured the Palestine refugee camps of Ein el-Sultan, near Jericho, and Am’ari, where they visited the UNRWA Women’s Programme Centre. Mr. McLaughlin attended a project specifically supported by his concert: a music-therapy session, an initiative implemented by UNRWA and Al Mada, where women are trained to play musical instruments.
Director of Al Mada Reem Abdul Hadi described the music-therapy programme as innovative, saying: “This is a new approach we use. It is challenging, but also gives an opportunity for women and children to manage their stresses and traumas in new and unique way.”