14 May 2010
"I cannot put into words the joy I‘m feeling," declared Shaden, a 6th grader from Jordan‘s largest refugee camp, Baqa‘a. Shaden was part of a group of 200 UNRWA schoolchildren in Jordan who starred in a concert by Dutch composer Merlijn Twaalfhoven on 17 April.
The concert at the Al Munameqa theatre in Amman marked UNRWA’s 60 anniversary. Richard Cook, director of UNRWA operations in Jordan, said: "While the 60th anniversary of UNRWA is a sad occasion for Palestinians around the world, the events UNRWA will hold in the course of this summer are intended to bring joy to the community."
"It was evident to me as I sat in the audience that the children were getting as much out of performing as the audience was getting out of observing," Richard continued. "What they have shown here is the talent that exists wherever Palestinians work and live around the world."
Merlijn believes the concert showed the audience an innovative way of sharing art. He explained: "You need to break through people’s expectations. Art is a great tool to get access beyond surface."
The concert also included professional musicians from Holland and the Jordanian band Shoo Hal Ayam, while UNRWA pupils made up the string section and an all-girl choir led the singing.
Merlijn said: "Music is a language for the heart. It is important for children to develop skills for the hands, to train the mind for mathematics, language, and the heart for rhythm, music and feeling. Music is communication, that‘s what we hope to share."
Heleen van der Beek, deputy head of mission at the Dutch Embassy in Amman, was delighted by the children’s enthusiasm. "It is very nice to give children the opportunity to express themselves and show what they can do. Having a setting like this, where they are made to feel like movie stars, is fantastic,” she said. “I believe it is the best you can do, a way they can learn really important things.”
Malak, a 7th grader from Baqa‘a school, joined her friend Shaden. "We learned new things, we saw new things and we saw hope as well,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve performed in front of a crowd. I advise everyone who participates in such a big event not to panic; it is ok, you can do it."
By Fabiano Jácome