Shehada was 15-years-old when he first stepped into the Al Kamandjâti music school, next to his house in the old city of Ramallah.
He started with violin lessons but very soon Al Kamandjati’s founder Ramzi Aburedwan noticed Shehada’s aptitude to fix things.
So instead of just learning how to play the violin, Shehada was offered an opportunity to learn to fix violins. A few years later, Al Kamandjâti sent Shehada to the UK to study instrument-making. Following his education and training, Shehada returned to Ramallah, where he started his workshop to repair, maintain and make string instruments.
Shehada is one of the tens of thousands of Palestinian children who have lived for decades under a difficult and violent occupation, combined with a host of socio-economic problems including poverty, unemployment, physical and psychological illness, and isolation.
Ramzi Aburedwan, a Palestinian violinist and conductor, founded Al Kamandjâti association in 2002 with the aim to help Palestinian children, like Shehada, build resilience, keep them away from the violence of the occupation and shield them from its devastating consequences – all through the power of music. At the same time, the organization is also filling a cultural gap by providing arts and cultural education.
Ever since its establishment, the association has helped hundreds of children access a space of creativity, learning, cultural exchange, healthy self-expression and skills development through music.
The association works in refugee camps, villages and cities to reach out to underprivileged children. For most of these children, music is not part of their daily life but when music enters their lives, few let go of it. Music is their gateway into a new world, a world devoid of the violence and conflict they have witnessed since their very early years.
Today, AK counts among its students several young men and women who started learning music since the first day of the opening of the association in Palestine. At that time, they were children, young children, and most of them had never seen a real instrument in their lives. Today some of them are music teachers, professional musicians, part of music ensembles and even instrument-makers; others are only practicing music as amateurs, years after, or have even left it. But what they can tell you is that music changed their lives and that AK feels like a second family.
We, at Al Kamandjâti, have seen the power of music in shaping the lives of children and its contribution in their personal development, self-esteem and pride.
On a social level, the different experiences they live through music are invaluable: the opportunity to travel, perform and meet people from diverse cultures, exchange personal experiences and learn from one another is contributing to creating new generation of young people who believe in tolerance, pluralism, respect and diversity, and strive to build a better future.