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Street children, refugees and Adventist youth integrate in community choir project

The ADRA Serbia Community Center filled with songs of love and friendship, family and joy.

Street children, refugees and Adventist youth integrate in community choir project

[Photo courtesy of the Trans-European Division]

A mix of three children’s choirs involving street children, refugees, and Adventist children from local churches filled a Belgrade community hall with music and emotion while building important connections between diverse communities.

Songs such as ‘Mouse got the flu’ and ‘Empire of friendship’, filled the air in the ADRA Serbia Community Center just five kilometers outside central Belgrade, Serbia on Thursday afternoon, 9 November. The concert was organized by the Raspevano svratište (Singalong Shelter) children's choir singing for and with their friends. It is made up of children who live and work on the streets of Belgrade.

The concert also featured two other children’s choirs, the ADRA Community Choir made up of children from the nearby refugee camp, and the Rainbow choir with children from local Adventist churches. Parents, friends and students from surrounding local schools were among the 70 visitors in the audience.

This was an opportunity for two sensitive groups of children to meet, socialize, sing and play, thus raising their motivation for learning. Being an emotional event, it not only built bridges, which then could draw the children’s families and communities into the same process, but it would also benefit the Adventist children to learn how to reach out beyond their community to the varied social groups within the cheerful atmosphere of the ADRA Center.

The hall echoed around with songs about love and friendship, family and joy. Child refugees from Afghanistan and Iran, singing in their best Serbian, stole the show. The climax was reached when all three choirs joined forces to sing ‘Let Love Shine Everywhere’.

"It was very nice at the concert, I was happy to participate," commented Rashid, a 12-year old Afghani boy. He sang the solo part as the choir performed ‘Just let there be no War’, a famous Yugoslav antiwar pop song from the mid-80s. "While I was singing, I really strongly wished no war would ever happen anywhere, and that love may be shining in all places," Rashid said.

Mahnaz, an 11-year-old Afghani girl added, “Thank you ADRA for a wonderful evening. My strongest impression was when our friends from the school class came and sang together with us, ‘Let Love Shine Everywhere’."

Vahidu agreed. "Thank you, I am so happy". Anush, Afghani boy from Iran, shared that the concert stirred great feelings -- and that the cookies were very good, too.

Social workers and youth from the GRiG, Centre for Social Prevention Activities association, were in the audience too. GRiG provides social therapy and learning programs, developing skills for integration into the local youth community for children with difficulties. They expressed that the event was a wonderful opportunity for integrating, socializing and creating music together on so many levels.

Raspevano svratište is project organized by Maja Ćurčić, a music teacher from the Art Aparat Association. Their goal is empowerment for children living or working on the streets, and who use children’s shelter services. The event was also part of a buddy program campaign implemented by ADRA Serbia as part of their project, ‘Effective Integration of the Children of Migrants and Asylum Seekers in Formal education’, supported by Divac Foundation/EU.

The Serbian National radio and TV network (RTS) carried a report on the concert, as did B92, the largest news portal in Serbia.