In Loving Memory of Cameron Powers –
Our beloved Cameron Powers— co-founder and passionate leader of Musical Ambassadors of Peace (MAP)— passed into the infinite realms of music and dance on February 15, 2022.
His commitment to MAP was beyond “work” as he lived and radiated the very essence of our mission in his daily life. If you had the privilege to know him, to hear him perform or to dance with him, you understand what this means. Cameron believed that separation, conflict and trauma could be healed through the powers of music and dance. When we sing and dance together, our differences and pains disappear. These beliefs inspired the birth of our organization.
Cameron and Kristina Sophia, his beloved wife and co-founder of MAP, traveled to Baghdad when the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. They went as two citizens wanting to present a different face of America to the Iraqi people. They played and sang popular Arabic love songs in the streets of the city, while local people gathered and sang with them in joy and appreciation.
Cameron and Kristina carried the essence of this experience into all their travels and gave life to our organization. Over the past twenty years MAP has funded numerous music and dance programs around the world designed to heal the wounds of war. These programs have enriched countless lives in the Middle East, Africa, Mexico and here in the US.
Ari Honarvar, one of our Musical Ambassadors and Cameron’s close friend, remembers his contributions with these words, “Cameron dedicated his life to building musical bridges with different cultures and supporting refugees. He believed that we are one family without borders, something we say with refugees in their native language at the end of every dance session.”
In honor of Cameron, please join us. Let’s bring peace to our world and heal the wounds of war. Let’s bring connection across cultural differences. Let’s communicate beyond language, continuing to spread light and love as Cameron did.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations to Musical Ambassadors of Peace.
Thank you for your continued support as we carry Cameron’s legacy forward!
In honor and “love love love,”
All of us at Musical Ambassadors of Peace
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Our New Musical Ambassador in Gaza: Rahaf Shamaly – a popular local singer.
Palestinian girls aged 10-14 will be encouraged to celebrate their own culture by practicing the singing, drumming and dancing of favorite traditional songs. Large numbers of girls are signing up for these events and Musical Ambassadors of Peace needs financial support to make them happen.
Sessions in progress in Khan Younis, Gaza
Go to Gaza Project Page to See
January 2022 Activities
One of the two tribal groups shown here are known as the most hostile refugee group in Africa. They were former rebels, child soldiers and wives of fallen comrades who were engaged in a failed coup.
They had to flee their home country but have been given refuge here in some of the camps where Musical Ambassadors of Peace works in Uganda. Initially it was very hard to hold these events because of their hostility but now they have accepted to be part of us. We look forward to bringing them completely on board with their beautiful music as part of our quarterly events. The fact that another related tribe from the Congo had joined the MAP events helped make the difference. Some of the former child soldiers expressed future interest in our work and gave us their contact information.
MAP has paid some of the costs related to procuring new traditional tribal costumes which can be seen in the videos.
We were also able to hold a counseling and trauma healing session but our plan to do a MAP-sponsored general cleaning campaign in Kyaka camp was put on hold because of the new lockdown. Next year we are planning to visit Bidi Bidi (the biggest resettlement camp in the world). We will of course be continuing our work in Rwamwanja and Kyaka camps as we have proven very popular among both the refugees and the commanders.
Our new Musical Ambassador to Africa:
Abaho Gift Conrad
I speak French, English, and Arabic. Locally I speak Kinyarwanda, Runyakitara, Luganda, and Alur. These enable me to communicate effectively in a local and international setting. My instrument is the guitar but there are many other instruments played by the refugees here in these Uganda camps. These groups include Somali, Congolese, Eritrean, Burundians, Sudanese as well as others besides myself who are survivors of the Rwanda genocide such as myself. Some say that we have the largest refugee camps in the world. I am sure that working as a Musical Ambassador I will finally be truly seeing a smile on the face of a refugee. This could allow me to give them hope and feel like they are part of humanity. What these people miss is hope. I am here to give them hope that there is life after tomorrow.
Go to Uganda Project Page to See
January 2022 Activities
These young Congolese were abducted from their homes, turned into child soldiers, forced to kill and to do a lot of nasty things under the orders of Mai Mai rebels.
They were recently freed from the war zone and 32 of them were brought here in Uganda to Rwamwanja Refugee Camp on 12th, August 2021.
Musical Ambassadors of Peace organized these 2 events in which we encouraged them to remember their traditional dance and native cultural awareness. We give them support, free counselling with trauma healing and career guidance sessions. We are helping them to feel human once again. We have to keep them active and engaged so we meet them every week to monitor their progress and conduct another language training session to help enable them to interact with the community freely.
We are also waiting to welcome the 835 Afghanistan refugees who will soon be relocated here to Rwamwanja.
Thank you MAP Board for the continued support.
Congolese Refugee Shares Song
Refugee Children from Drug War Zones in Central America Arrive San Diego: Musical Ambassador Ari Honarvar begins bringing healing musical energies to the girls!
Ari Honarvar, Musical Ambassador from Iran of Musical Ambassadors of Peace, after yet another journey across the border from San Diego to Tijuana, explained: “We got to play, drum, and dance with our asylum-seeking friends waiting to be processed in Tijuana. We met asylum seekers from Nicaragua, Haiti, and Mexico with heartbreaking stories but hopefully our session helped lift their spirits. We didn’t have enough drums, so we cut up wood and used drumsticks to make music. I think it worked out well!”
Parents Magazine – November, 2019
Publishes Article by our Musical Ambassador from Iran, Ari Honarvar
“Children at the Border Need Joy, Just Like Our Kids. So I Bring Them Music”
Our Musical Ambassador from Iran, Ari Honarvar, addresses soul survival during a pandemic in her latest YES Magazine article.
When Savoring a Pleasant Moment Is a Radical Act
The Same healing protocol we utilize here at Musical Ambassadors of Peace for healing the wounds of war are what the whole world now desperately needs to heal from the pandemic
At Ontario Convention Center
Two days of networking with the largest philanthropic service oriented business organization in the world!
Christine Stevens: Musical Ambassador
Pete Jacobs: President
Last month, Dilkhwaz Ahmed, our Musical Ambassador, held healing drum circles, bringing hope and renewal to Yazidi women and children and provided a safe space to share their stories. She trained other women to continue the sessions and also purchased 10 goats and several sewing machines and fabric so the women could earn a modest living.
Our Musical Ambassador has returned in June, 2018, to work with the surviving Yazidi women in Northern Iraq.
We need to fund-raise now to pay her expenses!
Give the Gift of a Healing Drum
Each $50 donation sends a drum to these survivors!
El Cajon Refugee Project
With elegance, grace and vulnerability, each woman followed Chuyun’s example and danced, remembering what they had lost. At the end of the exercise, there was not a dry eye left in the place. One woman shared the abuse that robbed her of her childhood, some recalled losing their loved ones in the war, one woman missed a daughter she hadn’t been able to visit in years.
The circle allowed each woman to feel both vulnerable and supported. Their tears, their sadness, and grief had such raw beauty and tenderness, I was in awe. In that moment I was reminded that even if we’re broken, healing is just one heartbeat away. A supportive community’s heart beats as one, helping us heal. Being in a community allows us to help others heal. I’m forever grateful for these women and their courage to share their vulnerability. I was crying so didn’t document that part of the workshop.
San Diego State University and Musical Ambassadors of Peace joined to co-produce these Sing and Drum and Dance events for Refugee Women and Children! The final performance for those workshops took place October 19th, 2018 from 7:30 pm to 9 pm at Smith Recital Hall at SDSU.
The San Diego Union-Tribune is covering our healing work for Iraqi, Syrian and Afghani refugees in Southern California!
The Featured Video highlights musical ambassador Christine Stevens, MSW, MT-BC, founder of UpBeat Drum Circles in Encinitas, CA.
Text From San Diego Union-Tribune Article - Toggle Open or Closed with Red Icon to the Right!
About thirty refugee women sat in a circle at a church in El Cajon on a recent Monday morning, thrumming the pulse of a heartbeat on hand drums and with shakers.
Under the guidance of Ari Honarvar, they played first for a member of one of the organizations involved in the drum circle who had recently had surgery.
Then, Honarvar told them to play for women in Syria who were suffering from escalations in violence there. The thrumming became loud throbs.
In partnership with License to Freedom, a nonprofit that focuses on helping refugees and immigrants who are survivors of domestic violence, since September, Honarvar has led twice-monthly drum circles in El Cajon designed to help participants heal from trauma they’ve experienced.
“It’s basically to create a sense of belonging, which is as important as anything when you’ve been through something major,” Honarvar said.
Part of the purpose is to allow the women to have fun and to laugh, she said, but it’s also to give them a safe space to access darker emotions from their past.
“Sometimes those different emotions that end up being in the background, if we experience them, that could be more valuable than 1,000 laughs because once we experience it, we can process and let it go,” Honarvar said.
Ari Honarvar leads a group of El Cajon women in a drum circle. (Kate Morrissey/San Diego Union-Tribune)
Dilkhwaz Ahmed, founder and executive director of License to Freedom, said she hopes the drum circle program will strengthen the overall health and wellness of El Cajon’s refugee community by giving women confidence to be leaders in their community. She also sees it as a way to build cross-cultural bridges between members from different countries in the Middle East.
At the beginning of the drum circle, Honarvar took the women through breathing exercises. Throughout the session, she checked in with them, asking how different segments made them feel.
They drummed to the rhythm of the women’s names and played musical chairs. The room filled with joyous cries and laughter as the women danced in a circle inside a shrinking number of chairs and raced each other to sit down when the drumming stopped.
“How was that for you?” Honarvar asked.
“Beautiful!” one woman said.
“Happy!” another chorused. Many of the women in the room have learned that word in English.
“We forgot about a lot of terrible things,” Ahmed said, translating for one of the women who answered in Arabic.
“We remember playing as little kids, drumming on pots and pans,” she added, interpreting for another.
“For a short moment, we forget about everything, just ourselves,” Ahmed translated for a third. “We forget what’s going on outside.”
They shared songs from their home countries — Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
Honarvar asked the group how each is doing with goals they set together, including learning English.
“We are in the beginning,” one woman responded in Arabic. “We are trying so hard.”
“I am 10 percent,” another said in English.
Honarvar, who is originally from Iran and translates and performs the work of Rumi, a 13th century Persian poet, spoke to the women almost exclusively in English to help them learn.
Ahmed then translated to Arabic. One woman from Afghanistan translated that to Dari for two others from her country.
A woman at the drum circle in El Cajon plays one of the hand drums. (Kate Morrissey/San Diego Union-Tribune)
Golnar Naebezdeah and Razya Hassan Ali, two of the woman from Afghanistan, said their favorite thing about coming to the circles is how much they get to laugh.
Rasha Albudiana, 33, came to the U.S. from Syria with her five children a little over a year ago and has been attending the drum circles for about five months.
“I feel so relaxed and connected with this group here in this class. I feel so happy,” Albudiana said. “When I go home, I take this happiness with me to my kids.”
Honarvar learned to lead healing drum circles through a Colorado-based group called Musical Ambassadors of Peace, which partners with License to Freedom to put on the program. Her trainer, Christine Stevens, lives in Encinitas.
Stevens, who is a trained music therapist, explained that there’s scientific evidence that programs like the drum circles can help with mental health and overcoming trauma.
“The way we use drums for therapy is based on the fact that everyone has rhythm. Everyone has a heartbeat,” Stevens said. “Having a sense of control and a sense of support is healing.”
She said San Diego should be proud of the El Cajon drum circle project.
“I don’t know of anyone doing anything as innovative,” Stevens said.
At the end of the El Cajon drum circle, the women stood holding hands and said one word to describe what they were feeling. Happy was the most common response.
As she said goodbye to Ahmed, one woman told her, “My heart is broken, but I feel better. I have hope.”
Musical Healing for Yazidi women in Iraq
Musical Ambassadors of Peace sent 70 drums with our Musical Ambassador to Iraqi Kurdistan to provide healing energy for Yazidi women recently liberated from 2 years of enforced sexual slavery under ISIL.
A Yazidi woman who was kidnapped and sold as a slave after her family was massacred said: “Death has lost its terrors. Death is harmless compared to the hell we all had to go through.”
Arriving north of Mosul in Duhok province of Iraq, our Musical Ambassador, Dilkhwaz Ahmed, got to work with these strong survivors!
Donations can be made right here on this website or through the new GoFundMe campaign to specifically support our work with the Yazidi women.
“I had the privilege to work with amazing Yazidi women on the second anniversary of their genocide and help heal the wounds of war.” – Dilkhwaz Ahmad, Musical Ambassador of Peace
Musical Healing for Refugee Women In the USA
Musical Ambassadors of Peace has been conducting deep emotional healing with refugee women from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria using musical and drumming techniques to enable on-going in-depth PTSD relief. Ari Honarvar, our Musical Ambassador from Iran, has been conducting sessions twice a month in El Cajon, in Southern California, with groups of these refugee women. Without Ari and Musical Ambassadors of Peace they would have limited options for help with emotional healing.
Refugee Women in El Cajon to Perform at San Diego World Music Center
Musical Ambassadors of Peace and License to Freedom and Upbeat Drums have collaborated to produce these regular weekly gatherings. Now an event has been scheduled June 21, 2018 for World Refugee Day at World Music Center.
Click button to the right to see event information!
More Recent Coverage of our work with Caravan Refugees on the Mexican border in Tijuana:
As of March 21, 2018, this YES Magazine article has been shared over 1000 times on Facebook and has reached over 8000 Journalists!
YES Magazine Article Text: Click to Expand
Our Musical Ambassador from Iran, Ari Honarvar, recently published an article in YES Magazine about one of our programs for refugees.
Performing in Venezuela
Bedouin musicians in the desert
Musical Ambassador Dr. Craig Woodson working with children in Iraqi Kurdistan
Musical Ambassador Christine Stevens in Iraqi Kurdistan
Here is what the Lonely Planet Has to Say about Our Work:
May, 2009 Lonely Planet Guide to the Middle East: Musicians for Peace. Article by Anthony Ham describes work of Musical Missions of Peace in Arab World
Musicians for Peace
It’s not every American musician who can claim to have learned to play the oud (Middle Eastern lute) like an Iraqi, mastered the complexity of the maqam scale system and played love songs on a Baghdad street in the dangerous aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq. But then Cameron Powers is not your ordinary musician.
Together with his partner, singer Kristina Sophia, Powers was seriously disillusioned with his country’s response to the terrorist attack on 11 September 2001. When we caught up with them in Lattakia, Syria, in May 2008 on their fifth visit to the region, Powers and Sophia spoke of how they performed with a Palestinian musician in Boulder, Colorado two weeks after the attacks, a concert that only went ahead when the word “Palestinian” was removed from the promotional material. Experiences such as these prompted the couple to make their first trip to the Middle East in November 2002, hoping to build bridges between Western and Arab cultures through what they call “the warmth, beauty and sensuality of Arab music.”
The welcome they received from ordinary Arabs convinced them to return. In Spring 2003, impromptu performances for the Iraqi visa-issuing authorities and border officials saw Powers and Sophia granted permission to enter Iraq – “music is an instant passport” is his explanation. Unable to find any functioning concert venues in post-invasion Baghdad, they simply began performing on the streets. “The fact that we were on the streets of Baghdad singing Iraqi love songs, showed the Iraqi people that Americans could also invade with music,” Powers told us. He later wrote a book Singing in Baghdad (available from www.gldesignpub.com) about the experience. A performance before 60,000 people in Cairo followed the same year.
Struck by the warmth of the welcome they received in the Middle East, the couple realized that American audiences needed to hear an alternative vision of the Middle East as much as ordinary Arabs needed to feel their solidarity. Since then, the couple has covered more than 60,000km and performed at over 200 presentations in universities, schools and churches across the US. Nonetheless, they still find themselves confronted with the suspicions of post-9/11 America: “We encounter fear first and then openness to the music. It used to be the other way around.” To learn more about their work and travels, visit their website, www.musicalmissions.com.
Not content with the power of performance, Powers and Sophia have set up a secular NGO, Musical Missions of Peace (www.musicalmissionsofpeace.org) which is based around the premise that “People who have learned and sung each others’ popular love songs together are less likely to war with one another than those who have not. The NGO provides support to Iraqi musicians and refugees in exile in Jordan and Syria and promotes education and performance of international music in the US.
Musical Ambassador histories in South America
Hundreds of shows across the USA
Work in the Middle East
History of work in Iraq
Work in Iraqi Refugee community in El Cajon, CA, USA
Concert in Syria
Supported Iraqi refugee musician Fadi Aziz
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