May 9th, 2015 at 8:24 pm
Posted by Liz

This is the email I wrote from Kosovo the week of the 9/11 attacks. It’s about what it was like to be in Kosovo during that time.

Everyone in Gjakove Came Together to Show Support for the US after the 9/11 Attacks

Written the week of 9/11/01:

We are 6 hours ahead of New York. Because our electricity is sporadic–turned on for a few hours and then off so it can be turned on in other areas–the people of Kosova found out at different times what was happening in the US. I was contacted immediately after the first incident by Mary Youngblood, who called me from Atlanta and continued to call me as events unfolded. An hour later, as electricity began working in some nearby areas, a local family who had just turned on their television and learned of what was happening called me. They asked me to come their home so I could watch the BBC

which was broadcasting the events in the US. Because the broadcast was in English, they couldn’t understand most of it, but they were gathered around the television watching and learning what they could. When I arrived they were all close to tears. They put me next to the television and spoke to each other in low tones so that I could hear everything. They kept repeating, “this is so terrible”, “how could anyone do this?” “I feel so awful”, “how could this happen?”, “Liz, I am so sorry”. As with most of you, I was in a state of shock, so it was good to be with close friends.

Kosovar Soldiers Waiting to Participate in Parade Showing Support for USA

In the meantime, throughout the evening, as other Albanian families learned of what was happening, they called me on the telephone, and when I didn’t answer they came to my home to try to contact me. I didn’t find out about this until days later, because I stayed with my friends until it was late, but there were many people who were worried about me and trying to find me that night. They didn’t want me to be alone. And they wanted to be sure that I knew everything that it was possible to know at that point. They knew all too well what it is like to be afraid and worried about your country, your family and friends, not understanding what is happening or why people are doing what they are doing, and not to be able to find out if people you love are still alive. For the first time I had a glimpse of what they lived through for so many years.

 

That night, as people throughout Kosova learned of what had happened, they took to the streets. The BBC had broadcast not only what had happened in America, but the reactions of the people in countries who were rejoicing at America’s tragedy. I think that the Kosovars were almost as upset about the rejoicing in these other countries as they were about what had happened in America. So the Albanians began holding demonstrations, in every city throughout Kosova, to show their support and love for America, and their denunciation of terrorism. All week long, day and night, these demonstrations were held. During the day people walked carrying American flags. At night people walked carrying candles. Or sat, holding silent vigils. On Friday, a national day of mourning was declared. All concerts, parties (including weddings) were cancelled. Discos were closed. The radio stations played nothing but classical music. American flags were flown everywhere. And that night, a music video was broadcast, to the song “God Bless the USA”, which showed all of the demonstrations throughout Kosova. I cried as I watched all of these expressions of love by so many people, old women and young children, former soldiers, teenagers, university students and old men, people of all ages and in so many different situations, coming together in their cities, towns and villages to show support and love for the US.

In Pristine, the capital city, posters saying “We’re with you, USA” are everywhere.

These pictures are from the main demonstration in Gjakove.

And every day, people that I don’t even know come to me and tell me how sorry they are about what happened. The most common statement is “We feel your pain as if it was our own; America is our brother. We love America so much, because America saved us.”

Kindergarten Teachers Brought Their Classes to March in the Parades Showing Their Support for the US

As for me, my emotions remain close to the surface, and I am constantly battling tears when people come to me to express their love and sorrow over what has happened. It is difficult to be so far from home right now, and yet I cannot imagine being in a place where I would be more surrounded by love. And concern. But I feel the need to express myself to other Americans.

So now, if I may, I offer some final words to you in the style of what I teach the children here, children who have witnessed such horrible acts of violence perpetrated against themselves, their families, their towns, and their country:

We must do what is right, but we must do it because it is right, not because of hatred. Once we allow ourselves to hate it is very difficult to stop. Living in a country devastated by a war which was made possible only by men learning to hate each other, I have come to see that the final devastation is not economic; it is not physical; the final devastation is in the hearts of the people, which, beginning with fear, grew cold in hatred, and now have no ability to trust.

We must not let this happen to us. We must not allow our fear to grow into hatred. Because in so doing we destroy ourselves. And each other. And our future.

The battle over anger is an individual one.

 

With love,

Liz Shropshire

BYUH Intern Kasha’s Kosovo Blog!! August 2014

August 12th, 2014 at 9:35 am
Posted by Shaman Morris
With Roma Students at Brekoc

With Roma Students at Brekoc

Kosovo. A country that a year ago from today I embarrassingly admit I had no idea existed. Now in just one month Kosovo has become a place I will never forget.

With children living in the apartment complex where we are staying

With children living in the apartment complex where we are staying

When getting off our plane in Pristina, we were just three Americans and one Canadian ready for an adventure. When explaining to the friendly strangers in the airport that we were here for an internship their response was, “Why Kosovo?” Our reply was simple, “Why the heck not!” We have been working with the Shropshire Music Foundation all last semester prepping and preparing for the opportunity to travel to this beautiful country and work hands on with the kids. So far our experience has been far more than we could have expected.

shaun with kids cropped

Sean helping students with rhythm

Every morning we wake up bright and early and get ready to be inspired by the children of Gjakova. Whether it’s working with our hyper school kids, our sweet ones who were raised in the refugee camps or our wild Roma kids, we never fail to leave them without huge smiles on our faces and a strong desire to hurry back. One of the most frustrating parts has been not being able to speak Albanian however; we have found different ways to communicate through laughter, smiles and of course music. Every day we teach them how to read music as well as play the pennywhistle or harmonica, and let me tell you, these kids are great. It has been inspiring to see how dedicated and excited these kids get when playing or singing the music. We have also been focusing on teaching the kids kindness. Being brought up in a country so recently wounded by war has made these kids a little rougher than most. Liz Shropshire took notice in this and doesn’t just have us teach the kids how to play an instrument and sing, but we also teach them the importance of being kind and loving towards one another.

Saturday Activity with the Youth Volunteers--Photo Scavenger Hunt where we got bonus points for making a human pyramid in the center of town

Saturday Activity with the Youth Volunteers–Photo Scavenger Hunt where we got bonus points for making a human pyramid in the center of town

Another beneficial aspect of this internship has been getting to know and working with the local volunteers here. These kids vary in ages from 13-24 and each have such a dedication and love for this organization. Some were participants in it when they were younger and others have just recognized a good cause and hopped on board. They sacrifice their time, money and love for absolutely nothing in return and yet never seem to complain and continue to help with their whole hearts. They are all so patient with the kids and have really taught me how to love unconditionally. Kosovo has become a place I will never forget but only because of these volunteers who have become the people I will never forget and will truly deeply miss.

With two of the special Roma girls in our classes

With two of the special Roma girls in our classes

Our time here is coming to a close much too soon but I can speak for all of the volunteers here and say that this country has helped us grow in ways we never expected. Kosovo is a place that has been through a terrible bloody war that left it slightly broken but the people here are strong and little by little are healing themselves. There is so much heart and passion here in this little country and I feel more than blessed to have been able to live in such a wonderful place.

 

Ashanti with one of the beautiful Roma girls

Ashanti with one of the beautiful Roma girls

Ugandan Volunteer Blog by Okello Innocent

June 10th, 2014 at 3:18 pm
Posted by Shaman Morris

I have been with the Shropshire Music Foundation for many years and I have experienced a lot.

Innocent at Pabo, 2014

Innocent at Pabo, 2014

I like the program because it has helped me in so many ways.  It has helped me to know challenges that my fellow students faced and it has helped me to achieve some of my goals, like teaching children peace through music.

Innocent with children at Bakita School

Innocent with children at Bakita School

 

It’s a very good program for children and youth.  I remember one day when we went to Pabo and the street kids [children who don’t get to attend school] were crying.  We called to them and they came to our music classes and then they were happy and smiling.  They have loved us since then and every time we go there, they want to come to our classes.  I think we changed their lives.  There are so many street kids who hear us singing and we always invite them to be in our classes and once they come they never stop.

 

Innocent Gathering Street Kids and School Kids for Music Class at Pabo

Innocent Gathering Street Kids and School Kids for Music Class at Pabo

 

There is a guy who used to live in the streets because of an argument he had with his family.  We invited him to join our program at Awere High School.  He learned so much about peace and love through our songs like Peace Like a River and other peace songs that he decided to go back home and never went on the streets again. I saw him not long ago and he now has a job and his life has changed.

 

Innocent (left) with children at Pabo

Innocent (left) in Singing Class with Children at Pabo

This program is good for kids and teenagers because it helps them to forget what has happened to them in the past. I suggest that many join SMF because is a good foundation for the children and youth. When they come to join us they will see that it will bring peace, because with the kids you can bring peace and without peace life is hard.

Innocent Leading Children in Song Activity at Bakhita School

Innocent Leading Children in Song Activity at Bakhita School

Innocent Teaching Pennywhistle at Pabo

Innocent Teaching Pennywhistle at Pabo

Note from Liz: Innocent would love to attend Teachers’ College but can’t afford the tuition, which is very low (about $100 per year).  If anyone would like to help him, please contact me at liz@shrophirefoundation.org

Innocent Teaching Pennywhistle to Student at Teacher's College.  Ironically, Innocent would love to attend this school and become a certified teacher but can't afford to.

Innocent Teaching Pennywhistle to Student at Teacher’s College. Ironically, Innocent would love to attend this school and become a certified teacher but can’t afford to.

 

Blog By Ugandan Volunteer Ocan Collins

May 24th, 2014 at 8:25 pm
Posted by Shrop

I am one of the pioneers of the Shropshire Music Foundation in Uganda. I started in 2006 and up to this day I am still part of the program. It is because of this program that I gained the love for studies and was able to study more. Even though I went for my further studies after High School, and am now busy trying to make a living, I have never stopped volunteering for the Shropshire Music Foundation, because I know how much I have been getting it from the program and want to give it to others. All the volunteers that are with the program now were my students, and now we are moving around and teaching together. It is great to see this happening and to see how much they have accomplished. I love this program so much and I love my musical instruments. As long as the Shropshire Music

Foundation is here in Uganda, I will be part of this program. We are working very hard with Burim to move from one place to another to bring peace to these kids of northern Uganda and to bring happiness to them.

Ugandan Volunteer Blog by Ocan Collins

May 24th, 2014 at 4:10 am
Posted by Shaman Morris
Collins Playing Ukulele, 2011

Collins Playing Ukulele, 2011

I am one of the pioneers of the Shropshire Music Foundation  in Uganda.  I started in 2006 and up to this day I am still part of the program.

Collins One of the First Volunteers, 2006

Collins, One of the First Volunteers, Learning How to Teach–2006

It is because of this program that I gained the love for studies and was able to study more.

Collins Teaching Other Volunteers, 2007

Collins Teaching Other Volunteers, 2007

Even though I went for my further studies after High School, and am busy trying to make a living, I have never stopped volunteering for the Shropshire Music Foundation,  because I know how much I have been getting it from the program and wanted to give it to others.

Collins and Irene Teaching Singing At Pabo IDP Camp, 2009

Collins and Irene Teaching Singing At Pabo IDP Camp, 2009

All the volunteers that are with the program now were my students, and now we are moving around and teaching together.  It is great to see this happening and to see how much they have accomplished.

Collins and Cambell Teaching at Pabo, 2011

Collins and Cambell Teaching at Pabo, 2011

I love this program so much and I love my musical instruments.  As long as the Shropshire Music Foundation is here in Uganda, I will be part of this program.

Collins Teaching at Pabo, 2014

Collins Teaching at Pabo, 2014

We are working very hard with Burim to move from one place to another to bring peace to these kids of northern Uganda and to bring happiness to them.

Collins and Innocent, 2014

Collins and Innocent, 2014

 

#BringBackOurGirls

May 10th, 2014 at 3:32 pm
Posted by Shaman Morris

For many years, during the 23-year-long war with the Lord’s Resistance Army, Ugandan boys and girls were kidnapped and forced to become child soldiers.  Most of these children didn’t survive.  Those who did were left with unimaginable scars–both inside and out.  Girls kidnapped as children came home as teenagers with multiple children born of rape.  Boys kidnapped as children came home with shame for what they had been forced to do, and were quickly outcast from society.  ALL came home with minds and hearts full of horror. These children are among the teenagers and young adults we work with in Uganda.  The children born from rape are a large portion of the children these teenagers and young adults teach, and love, and help.

SMF Ugandan Youth Volunteers and Children

SMF Ugandan Youth Volunteers and Children

Our Ugandan teenagers and children know personally what the missing Nigerian girls are going through.  Please, let’s get them back.  As quickly as possible.

 

With love,

Liz

Burim Uganda Blog: Our Amazing Ugandan Youth Volunteers!

May 8th, 2014 at 5:55 pm
Posted by Shaman Morris
Burim With Our Ugandan Youth Volunteers, 2011

Burim With Our Ugandan Youth Volunteers, 2011

Now that the school break has started, I have more time to spend with our Uganda Volunteers. Before the break I was meeting with the volunteers daily for group and individual training, and I thought I knew them well.

Burim with Youth Volunteers Collins (L) and Innocent (R ) at Pabo, 2014

Burim with Youth Volunteers Collins (L) and Innocent (R ) at Pabo, 2014

Now that I have more time to spend with them, and meeting more often with them for their Individual training, we have been able to accomplish so much more. It’s amazing to see how much they have improved in their teaching skills and music skills–but what’s most important is how much they have come to love their community and how hard they work to help bring a better future for them.

Youth Volunteer Isaac Teaching at Gulu Central Primary School

Youth Volunteer Isaac Teaching at Gulu Central Primary School, 2012

 

I believe in the power of our Music program and I have always believed. But they have made me even stronger. Seeing them change and seeing them wanting to change others has made me stronger than ever, and made me believe in what we do even more. I thought they were the ones benefiting from me, but I’ve realized I am benefiting from them too–their desire to help, their hope for a better future for the kids we teach, and the love they show the children and youth that we teach– it’s an amazing thing. I asked in a group what is the most important thing when we teach the kids, and they answered that we have to show love when we teach, and we have to respect our students and make them feel loved during the lessons.

Youth Volunteer Collins Teaching at Pabo Primary School

Youth Volunteer Collins Teaching at Pabo Primary School, 2014

I can see their self esteem is higher than ever before, even though they have gone through a lot. We’ve had opportunities to talk about our private lives more than usual lately, and I can relate to their stories because of what I experienced in Kosovo, but it’s amazing to see their courage and strength to go on with their lives. Many of our volunteers lost parents and loved ones both in the war and after the war, and many of them have no money to go to school. Some of them have even been kicked out of their school and home by their own parents or guardians, and sometimes all they have is their Musical instruments and their songs to give them that comfort of peace. I’m so glad that I am here now and they can come and talk to me about it.

Youth Volunteer Magada Teaching at Pabo High School

Youth Volunteer Magada Teaching at Pabo High School, 2011

One of the volunteers called me and asked if he could borrow a guitar to play for a day. He wanted to lock himself inside and just play music for some hours because he was going through a very hard time that day and did not want to do anything stupid or turn to alcohol and drugs like many do, But he wanted to play music and he believed that it was going to help him.

Collins Teaching at Pabo, 2011

Collins Teaching Street Children at Pabo, 2011

It’s amazing to see these teenagers grow up over the years and how great they are becoming. They definitely are leaders and I don’t know anyone who loves their own community and feels their pain more than our volunteers do. I love them so much and I love working with them and seeing them grow. I appreciate and thank so much all who helped to keep this program going.

Youth Volunteer Innocent at Pabo

Youth Volunteer Innocent at Pabo

Note from Liz: if anyone reading this would like to help our volunteers with money for school, please contact me directly at liz@shropshirefoundation.org. Thanks.

Burim Uganda Blog “We Have Changed The Reputation of Their School for Good!”

April 30th, 2014 at 1:51 am
Posted by Shrop
Bakhita School Music Class with SMF!!

Bakhita School Music Class with SMF!!

Our Uganda Program is going very well–I have been able to keep teaching in all four of our locations.  One of the locations where we teach is St. Bakhita Nursery and Primary School. I go there on Mondays  and Wednesdays.

 

Singing Class at Bakhita School

We Have Some Characters in Our Singing Class at Bakhita School!

I teach 5 different classes on Mondays with 338 kids total, and then 4 different classes on Wednesday with 99 kids total–so we are teaching 437 kids at this school right now! We love the school for many reasons, including:

1– they do many great things in here,

2–they have many children who live at the school because they don’t have parents. Most of these children were born to mothers who were used as sex slaves by the rebel army, and some of the children were just left by the child mothers.

3– there are both Christian and Muslim children in the school

SMF Youth Volunteer Innocent Teaching at Bakhita School

SMF Youth Volunteer Innocent Teaching at Bakhita School

 

Today the head teacher said that the kids can’t wait for our music classes — they sing the songs every day and that they even spend their daily 30 minute break singing our songs.  He also said that we have changed the reputation of their school for good, and they are very happy to have our program as part of their school program. The school term is ending soon and they don’t want us to stop the program there, so they asked me if the children could come to school for a music program even during their holidays. I told them YES, absolutely!

SMF Volunteer Innocent Teaching Street Kids and School Kids Together at Pabo/Labala

SMF Volunteer Innocent Teaching Street Kids and School Kids Together at Pabo/Labala

 

Another location that appreciates us a lot is the Pabo-Labala Primary school. Pabo was the biggest IDP camp in northern Uganda, with 80.000 -120.000 displaced people living there.  Now a lot of the families have moved to their original villages but there are still a lot of people living there, and we are the only group that visits them for activities.  We started our programs at Pabo during our first trip to Uganda, and In the years since then we have taught child mothers, street kids, school kids, and teenagers–and many in each group were former child soldiers.  We still continue teaching the school kids and the street kids there. The school helps by letting us use the school building for teaching both the school kids and the street kids together– they want us to bring them together and its the only time that the street kids get to go to school.  We now have more kids then ever before because every kid want to be involved in the music program.  They love our classes and they run as soon as they see us coming. Cambel and Joel are two local community leaders who help our program and run it when I am not there.  They make sure that our music classes are held on a regular bases.  We asked the school for permission to continue our classes over the holidays and they said YES!  The kids were so happy to know that we will be there teaching the music classes during the holidays, and we were even happier to have the opportunity to teach them more.

SMF Vounteers Isaac and Innocent, Together with Pabo Teacher, Help Burim Teach Street Kids and School Kids Together at Pabo/Labala School

SMF Vounteers Isaac and Innocent, Together with Pabo Teacher, Help Burim Teach Street Kids and School Kids Together at Pabo/Labala School

 

SMF Volunteer Isaac Helps Student Write Their Music Notes at Pabo/Labala

SMF Volunteer Isaac Helps Student Write Their Music Notes at Pabo/Labala

Burim with SMF Volunteers Innocent (left) and Isaac (far right) and Pabo/Labala School Teacher

Burim with SMF Volunteers Innocent (left) and Isaac (far right) and Pabo/Labala School Teacher

 

 

Burim Uganda Blog “I Believe in the Power of These Songs”

April 14th, 2014 at 1:48 pm
Posted by Shrop
Burim teaching at Bakhita School (this is where we were asked to teach the children born to child soldiers)

Burim teaching at Bakhita School (this is where we were

asked to teach the children born to child soldiers)

It’s been good to be back in Gulu, Uganda. The weather has been good, the food is good and people are welcoming me everywhere I go. Usually when I first get here I have to start many things over and that takes a lot of time, and then by the time I get the schedule going it’s time to leave.

This time has been different, though. I was able to immediately start when I arrived. Things are working out very well for us. I am teaching almost 1,000 children in 4 different locations and am training 17 student teachers who are attending teachers’ college. I teach them both music and SMF teaching skills. And then I have training with our SMF Youth Volunteers every day,

Burim and SMF Youth Volunteer Colins with the Student Teachers they are training

Burim and SMF Youth Volunteer Colins with the Student Teachers they are training

 

The SMF Youth Volunteers have been a big help in teaching the kids. We write lesson plans together, we prepare together, we teach the class together, and this way it’s a lot more fun for the kids and for me. I am working hard to get them ready so when I leave they will continue classes in the locations that are close enough that they can travel to.

 

Youth Volunteer Colins Teaching With Burim at Pabo

Youth Volunteers Colins and Innocent Teaching With Burim at Pabo

Transportation is a big problem for us–when I am not in Gulu, it is extremely difficult for the volunteers to go and teach at Pabo (about 80 minutes drive from Gulu) or the Bakhita school (about 20 minutes drive from Gulu). The children in the Pabo area have suffered some of the worst after-effects of the war, and the Bakhita school is where the children who were born to child soldiers are attending, so these children are very important to us and we want to give them our program year-round. But I have been meeting with the music teachers in both of these locations and training them privately, and I will be leaving enough materials for them to continue until we will be able to come back. These music teachers are working very hard to accomplish more while I am here so they will be ready to teach using our instruments.

Music Class at Pabo

It’s really been great for me to see all of these people getting involved in helping their community get organized and amazing to see how much they appreciate music in their culture. Many of them have been telling me that nothing has healed their trauma as much as Music, and that’s why they still continue to use Music for healing and make music a big part of their life. A head teacher at Pabo told me that what we bring to those kids is a big smile in their face and also a lot of songs to keep them busy so they don’t have to think about their poverty or their parents struggling. Me being from Kosovo, I can totally relate to all of this because we had to go through the same things. I believe in the power of these songs because they have worked for me and they have worked for thousands of children in Kosovo, and they are working here in Uganda too. I am very happy to be part of this.

Music Class at Bakhita

Music Class at Bakhita

Singing Class at Pabo

Singing Class at Pabo

 

 

 

 

First Post from Burim in Uganda!!!

March 22nd, 2014 at 2:41 pm
Posted by Shrop

Burim arrived in Uganda on Tuesday.  Flying to Uganda means an overnight flight with a few stops and plane changes, and arriving in the middle of the night.  He arrived in Entebbe on Tuesday at 4am.  Burim then traveled to Kampala (the capital of Uganda) and spent the day there getting supplies and taking care of things like banking.

 

He arrived in Gulu on Wednesday and after working out the details on a place to stay for the duration of his time in Uganda (we didn’t want to stay at the same place as before because we were robbed), Burim started setting up meetings with schools and the youth volunteers.

 

This is the blog Burim wrote about his meetings:

First I went to Gulu Public Primary [elementary] school.  Their music teacher had already registered 60 children for our program.  I will go there twice a week to do music education (writing and reading music) because that’s what they are lacking, and also singing and playing instruments as well. Also I am going to train the teacher, so when I am gone he will teach the kids at least one day a week using our instruments.

 

Then I went to St. Bakhita school–this is the school that asked us to come and work with their children who were born to child soldiers.  This school is outside of Gulu, and when I went there they welcomed me with lunch and drinks and they were very happy that I am back in Uganda and back to their school as well. The meeting went very well, they have a new person who is in charge of the administration and academics, But the founder was also there to make sure we do things right. This school now has 3 programs:

1.       Nursery school

2.       Primary school

3.       Teachers college

We decided that for the nursery school we will do fun songs and play games and use hand motions and play different things to entertain them, and just have fun and help them feel good during that time, but not to teach them notes or anything because they are young and can’t write or read yet.

 

Primary school (where the children who were born to child soldiers attend) is going to have our full music program with everything we do–writing and reading music, playing instruments, and singing.

 

At the teachers college, I will train them in Music and when I leave Uganda these student teachers will continue teaching our music program in both the primary school and the nursery.  For now I will meet with these student teachers on Saturdays, but during the school break I am going to meet with them at least 3 days a week to help them get ready to teach our music program.  They already know teaching skills and writing lesson plans, so it will be easy for them to get ready to teach music.

 

I met with the Youth Volunteers and they are so excited to start our training and teaching together again.  We have some Youth Volunteers who have graduated from High School and are working, and they still want to volunteer during their free time.  It was so nice to be with them again- I have really missed them.  Next week I’ll be visiting our programs in Labala and Pabo–I can’t wait!