Jan Lisiecki, thePolish-Canadian pianist on his first visit to Lebanon, was determined to see conditions for himself and bring some relief.
The day after the concert I had the opportunity to visit the Bekaa Valley, and the sites where UNICEF is giving aid to young refugees from Syria. This is located about 2 hours drive from Beirut, and only 10 km from the Syrian border.UNICEF is working together with Beyond Borders to establish informal schools where children can be together, learning, and making music, and can overcome any sorrow or pain, at least in the time they are in school.We visited two separate schools, each slightly different in format and structure.The teachers told us of the struggles they faced at the beginning; how students could not shake the influence of the violence they had seen and experienced.Just as we arrived, a music class was in progress in one of the tents.Initially, the children were very shy, uncertain of the relationship between them and the newcomers. They sang with pleasure but clearly felt uncomfortable. What truly broke the barrier was when I played on the MIDI keyboard they had in the classroom. Even though the music was different and new, something most of them had never heard before, it created a bond. They replied with more songs of their own, and more and more children and teachers streamed into the tent, each student bringing along a personal stool….The lyrics were written by the children themselves, and told stories of what they are dreaming of, how they will never give up hope, that they miss their country, and want to go back no matter what. To continue the conversation, I played a little more. Some of the children started clapping and dancing to Western classical music. It was an unparalleled experience.After the visit to the second school, we were invited into a family’s home. Upon stepping in, there was a small hallway, at the end of which we took of our shoes and stepped into the room. In this compact space, the family of 12, including two infants, spent their time together, ate, and slept. We sat on the floor and were told of their struggles and heard their hopes. Many of the refugees had to enter Lebanon illegally; as such they cannot work properly and are often mistreated by their employers.