Spreading hope in Brussels with music: the universal language

Music, dancing and breaking barriers. Last Sunday’s SB Espoir activity brought together all these elements to the youth at the Fedasil Centre in Neder-Over-Heembeek with the help of Violet vzw, a youth orchestra group from Oud-Heverlee, Belgium.

The young musicians Violet vzw played both classical and traditional folk music for a group of almost 30 youth. While some felt a bit of distance between them, a product of language barrier, differences in culture and other stereotypes, perhaps, of each other, through the universal language of music, everyone was able to break through the distance, laugh and dance together.



When it came time to for music, almost all the youth in the center gathered and attentively watched as the young Belgian musicians—who were about the same age as the youth—created energy and happiness by dancing and playing their instruments. The youth almost immediately began clapping along to the rhythm of the songs, many that are traditional European folk music, but also some nearly-universally recognizable tunes like the French lullaby, Frère Jacques.

The volunteers initiated dancing to the more up-beat traditional songs, and the youth joined, quickly turning the audience into a dance floor!

When the music group first joined us, they were nervous about interacting with the youth: whether they would be able to communicate, if there would be awkward tension in the air because they felt that they are so different. After a tour of the center, the musicians joined the youth for a  mask-making activity. Though they were not pressured to have a conversation with the youth, all the participants had to communicate somehow to share supplies.

They also ended up sharing their ideas, creativity and although it was sometimes difficult to communicate, they didn’t feel pressure to have a conversation, but just doing the craft together made them feel accepted. One of the young musicians said that the refugee youth designed their masks one side with things about the country they’re from, and the other with Belgium. He said, “I think that’s beautiful.”



This Sunday was one of the many activities that SB Espoir does every weekend with asylum-seeking unaccompanied youth. We, along with our international group of volunteers and committed partners, strive to bring the youth closer to the Belgian community and help them seek their potential and give hope for their future.