Music therapy helps Syrian refugees

Composer and activist Nigel Osborne speaks to IAM about his work with Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

‘My ideas first came together in Kosovo,’ says Osborne. ‘I began on a human rights cam-paign to stop the violence but it got nowhere. Instead, I decided there was something we could do for children.’

Osborne’s insight led to him develop a creative arts programme for kids in conflict zones. ‘It’s revealed itself to be very powerful,’ he continues, ‘and it is a model we’ve used in other places since.’

His unique education programme works on a number of levels: ‘It brings people together, it gets them to trust again, it brings them into synchronicity with one another and has them enjoying the same experience,’ says the composer. ‘It also helps with communication: a traumatised child might not want to tell you in words what has happened to them, but they certainly will express it through music. And, on a physical level, it helps with the symptoms of trauma such as a raised heart rate and breathing problems.’

Osborne is currently working with SAWA, a charity set up to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon. They are based in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley, where right now around half a million Syrian refugees are living in tents. He has been there since May and has seen the impact of his project first hand.

Says Osborne: ‘I began working in the same way as I did with children in Palestine but it was wrong. Palestinian children have been trapped and so they want to think about the big wide world but Syrian children don’t: they just want to go home. So we base our work on Syrian culture and Syrian music. I’d describe the results as magic; if you had told me we would have made this much progress a few months ago I would not have believed it.’

You can donate to Osborne and SAWA’s work via SAWA’s website.