Speech by Dominique Hansen, 12.11.2019

© Éric Chenal

Good evening dear guests,

I am very honoured to be with you tonight for this Friendship event. As Fondation EME, we had the pleasure to collaborate with Friendship Luxembourg to put together a “train the trainers” program for teachers, educators and paralegals to help resolve interhuman problems in Bangladesh through music. These workshops were led by Robert Bodja. As Marc has previously stated, we were originally asked to work in the Rohingya camps, since we gained experience working with refugees throughout the past years. Unfortunately, due to the critical current situation we were advised not to operate in the camps therefore we shifted the project northward in the Friendship training centre and the Chars.

The Fondation EME in two words for those who do not know our organization: In a society in search of dignity and inclusion, the Fondation EME enables everyone to live better together, thanks to the universal language of music.

For ten years now, we have been working to bring well-being, inclusion and dignity to people who are fragile or in distress, while respecting their diversity. We operate across the whole country and have partnerships with 180 host structures to organize about 600 events per year for sick, elderly or disabled people, prisoners, autistic teenagers, fragile youngsters in psychiatric care, refugees and many more…

Thanks to the commitment of about 80 talented, dedicated and engaged professional musicians, dancers and actors, we are able to put together original pedagogic projects. Despite a small remuneration, artists foremost participate in the EME adventure because it’s rewarding for them and a win-win situation for the whole society!

We are not state-funded, with the logistic support of the Philharmonie Luxembourg and other corporate partnerships, we are able to finance all our projects entirely through sponsorships and private donations.

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All projects are designed to move people, encourage them to express themselves, gain self-confidence, deal better with other cultures and take care of their own destiny.

This is why, when the migrant crisis hit Luxembourg in 2015, the Fondation EME decided to take an active part in the fight against violations of human dignity by organising concerts in different refugee home’s, to distract them and make them feel welcome in Luxembourg.

For instance, during the summer 2015, we offered djembé sessions in Weilerbach to over 100 children and youngsters from Syria, Irak, Afghanistan, Albania, all newcomers to Luxembourg. Through these music workshops, we tried to entertain them, reduce stress but also allow them to get to know each other and enjoy playing music together.

During this project, we saw again the effects of music and decided to move on and add more music projects for refugees in our program. We also felt that we needed to take a step further in our projects. Having in mind to promote integration through music, we initiated an intercultural project to bring people from different ages and backgrounds together. In Kanti Kune for example, we managed to get together different singers: refugees as well as Highschool students, corporate choirs, Rotary Clubs, even Maîtrise de la Cathédrale de Metz,… A big final show with about 200 singers on stage took place at Rotondes in Bonnevoie. It was fantastic!

Or another one, in spring 2016, we were approached by a Canadian citizen, a regular concertgoer to the Philharmonie living now in Luxembourg who was frustrated because she saw, on a daily basis, that refugees and locals took the same bus, lived in the same street but never talked to each other. So, together, we developed a project where, each Saturday, during 3 months more than twenty migrants, led by Robert Bodja, played Djembe together with villagers from Rippig and Altwies. They often gathered for a drink after the workshop and a big concert for the whole village community took place at the end. Through music, we were able to reinforce the community feeling and to bring people together.

Afterwards, many other projects combining music with theatre and dance allowed people to discover their different life stories, sweep away prejudices and build new relationships.

Many final shows take place at Philharmonie. Organizing such events there adds another level of inclusion. This emblematic music hall in Luxembourg, opening its doors to refugees makes them feel proud, more welcome, Ee Steck Letzebuerg.

Then, three years ago, we were contacted by the Lycée Technique du Centre – Annexe Kirchberg, a highschool with a high concentration of newcomers. The situation in this school was not easy: located in ugly and sad containers, full of youngsters who have to stay there for the whole day before returning to their refugee homes where they share a room with their whole family. The school lacked teachers and music and arts, in general, were barely on the program.

To remedy, we invited them to the Lunchconcerts at the nearby Philharmonie. Today about 60 students visit these concerts on a monthly basis. We also regularly send professional musicians for all kinds of concerts in their classrooms.

Beyond that, we wanted to encourage them to regularly play an instrument to express themselves freely through the rhythm.

Ever since, they performed 7 times in the Philharmonie, also for the EME Family Day in the context of 10 years anniversary of Fondation EME in presence of the grand-ducal family.

As mentioned previously, we estimate that after the 1st period where we tried to entertain people, we then brought them together with locals in common music workshops, we now help them to include through music and make them feel like ordinary citizens.

That’s why we are about to launch a program to encourage regular concertgoers to chaperon refugees: pick them up in their homes and spent a nice evening, discuss and share a common passion. The Fondation EME offers the tickets for the unprivileged.

EME International

Until this year, we were only active here in Luxembourg, with the 10th anniversary we got also active abroad. In the context of the OPL tour in Central Europe in June 2019, 3 musicians stayed, after their big concert in the fancy Herodeon Theater in front of Acropolis in Athens, to give concerts and masterclasses for violin students behind the fence in the Greek refugee camps.

We since concluded a partnership with EL Sistema Greece. Twice a year, the Fondation EME sends musicians into the camps to work with talented youngsters and we provide them with instruments.

Likewise, in the context of the OPL South America Tour in September 2019, the Fondation EME performed in Barrio 31 in Buenos Aires, a disadvantaged neighbourhood with approximately 40,000 very poor citizens, among them many migrants from all over South America.

Finally, as mentioned earlier on the invitation of Friendship Luxembourg, the percussionist Robert Bodja spent a week in Bangladesh for a “Train the trainer” program in the North. The music workshops were coupled with Open floor dance sessions held by Catherine Elvinger and Abbes Treff. A very intense but rewarding experience for all participants as shown in the upcoming film.

To conclude, the power of music, this universal language, is tremendous and we would like to continue our work always within our means, since we depend on private funding!

Please enjoy the film about our experience in Bangladesh and I would be happy to answer any questions later on at the reception.

Thank you to Friendship for this unique opportunity and thank you to Robert, Catherine and Abbes for their fantastic job on the field. Thank YOU for coming!

12/11/2019
Dominique Hansen
Directrice de la Fondation